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Published May 30 2013

TV version of ‘Fargo’ won’t be shot in Fargo

FARGO – A TV version of the movie “Fargo” will be making its debut next spring, but it’s not going to be made in Fargo – in part, local officials say, because of the lack of incentives that can be offered here for film and TV production.

On Wednesday morning, the Hollywood Reporter reported that FX Network’s 10-episode miniseries will be shot in Canada, “likely Alberta or Manitoba.”

John Solberg, senior vice president of public relations for FX, confirmed that primary production of the series will be done in Canada but added that specific filming locations have not yet been determined.

“Nothing’s been finalized in terms of physical locations,” he said.

Charley Johnson, president/CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that he was disappointed by the news but not completely surprised.

“I was afraid they might want to shoot it in Canada,” he said.

Indeed, Hollywood often turns to Canada as a filming location. In recent years, the country and its provinces have introduced various tax incentives to attract foreign film and television productions.

According to the website www.canadafilmcapital.com, foreign production companies can access combined federal and provincial tax credits ranging from 37 to 70 percent of labor costs, as well as 25 to 30 percent of expenditures, depending on the province.

The incentives do seem to attract the business of show business. In 2012, the value of 232 feature films and TV shows made in Canada by foreign companies totaled $1.68 billion, according to the Canadian Media Production Association.

U.S. companies were responsible for 183 of those projects, the report said.

North Dakota, which does not have an active film commission, does not offer tax credits to attract film or TV companies, according to Sara Otte Coleman, the state tourism director.

The last time North Dakota’s film commission received funding was back in the 1990s, Otte Coleman said, and even then it was on a minimal level.

“It’s one of those games that you can’t get into without the ‘go big or go home’ mindset,” Otte Coleman said. “We’re talking millions of millions of dollars in order to compete with locations like Canada, and a few other places in the U.S. that have gone after it pretty aggressively.”

Because of those factors, North Dakota received a zero-star rating (out of five) by the website www.filmproductioncapital.com, a tax credit brokerage company that rates states by incentives they provide to production companies.

Minnesota, meanwhile, received a one-star rating.

The website noted the state’s active Film and TV Board and a program that can provide a reimbursement of 15 to 20 percent of Minnesota production costs.

By contrast, a five-star state like Georgia offers a 20 percent transferable tax credit of all in-state costs for productions of $500,000 or more. An additional 10 percent credit is available to projects that use the Georgia promotional logo in their credits, according to the website.

Despite North Dakota’s disadvantage, Johnson said he still plans on engaging with the “Fargo” production company to see if there’s some way to involve the city with the series that bears its name.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll talk to them and see what happens.”


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535