Lights, camera … Austin! Incentive program makes it easier for those wanting to film movies in Austin and Minnesota

Published 5:08 am Saturday, November 16, 2019

It may not be Hollywood, but Austin is doing its part to at least open up the doors to those looking to make movies.

Since 2016, Discover Austin has offered a film rebate, an incentive for movie-makers looking to make feature films, documentaries, music videos, TV pilots, TV commercials, short films and national TV series or programs.

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“Whatever their vision is for the film, they need a location to make that movie,” said Discover Austin Executive Director Nancy Schnable. “Austin has some really neat locations and once you get out of the Twin Cities, cost goes down a bit more.”

Before Austin, a statewide program was started called MN Production Film Rebate, which was what Austin worked off of. The Production Film Rebate reimburses up to 25 percent of eligible Minnesota production expenditures.

The problem, as far as other communities in Minnesota were concerned, is those coming to the state might only target one area.

“That’s fantastic, but then people only thought about the metro,” Schnable said. “What they did was start with regional incentives, which is where Austin comes into it.”

Currently, Austin is one of three regional areas with incentive programs. The other two include The MN Iron Range Film & TV Production Incentive and the Shamrock Film Incentive.

To earn Austin’s rebate of up to $10,000, a production has to spend at least $5,000. It also hinges on the production making its headquarters in Austin, although that doesn’t require the shooting to remain only in Austin, only that qualified costs remain within the city.

Should somebody choose to shoot a movie in Austin, then Austin’s rebate would be on top of the statewide rebate.

Since its inception, Austin has had four previous inquiries into possibly filming here and is currently working on a fifth inquiry that is looking very promising.

“There’s one that’s on the horizon,” Schnable said. “They’ve got dates and they’ve got rates and have come down for a couple site tours.”

Those previous inquiries have been for a range of movie ideas. While none are on big budget radar, they do offer a significant opportunity.

“We’ve had inquiries from mysteries to the Hallmark-type romance things,” Schable said. “They aren’t high dollar movies but still they are things that can bring people to Austin.”

And it’s hoped that those who decide to film in Austin can make use of all of what the city has to offer.

“Not only does it bring Austin’s willingness to bring movies to our community, but awareness to our community (in general) and all the things we have to offer,” Schnable said.

Austin’s Film Rebate has currently been extended to 2022.

Behind the scenes

Who is eligible: Features, documentaries, music videos, TV pilots, TV commercials, short films, National TV series or programs

Rebate Program

  • 10 percent rebate of qualified production cost
  • Requires a qualified minimum spent of $5,000 which must come from lodging in Austin, Minnesota
  • Reimbursement capped at $10,000 per project
  • All qualified cost must be incurred in the city of Austin, Minnesota
  • Program will not be available for scripts that could be deemed to have negative impact on our community’s existing industries


  • Historical Main Street
  • 500 plus acre nature center and 28 city parks
  • 40 plus acres of fairgrounds
  • Rural and agricultural scenes
  • Atmospheric theater built in 1929
  • 4,500 square foot historic home built in 1871

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