Lights, camera, accounting

Written on Jun 20, 2019

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

Alex-Semerano-06The end credits of a movie are usually when people leave the theater or turn off the TV. But one CPA stays to watch the scrolling list, waiting to see his or his firm’s name appear on screen.

“It’s fun to watch the end credits now,” said Alex Semerano, CPA, partner at Pease & Associates, CPAs.

Semerano is listed on IMDB.com for his work as “tax and incentives accountant,” on more than 15 movies thanks to the firm’s film niche. Some of those movies include “The Man and the Gun,” starring Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek, “The Public” with Alex Baldwin and Taylor Schilling and “The Kings of Summer.”

Semerano said he first became interested in the motion picture niche when the film tax credit passed in 2009. The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit allows eligible productions to receive 30% on production, including cast and crew wages, and is now up to $40 million annually. Since Pease already had a long-time producer as a client, Semerano was able to make connections with those in the industry.

Starting around 2011, Pease has offered certification of tax eligible production expenses, Final Production and Economic Impact Report preparation and more to those in the film industry. Semerano said he developed relationships with production and post-production accountants, who as independent contractors would move on to another job after a movie had wrapped and would refer Pease for a new movie.

“And then we started getting calls from producers out in Los Angeles who were coming to Ohio to film,” he said.

So far, Semerano noted that the film tax credit has been a fun niche for the firm and brought a lot of “good independent films” to Ohio. One of the most enjoyable parts of the process for him has been getting to know the producers.

“To see their passion in producing an independent film is pretty amazing,” he said. “The creativity is there. It’s impressive to see how someone can be so creative to produce something at a high level of quality with a limited amount of funding.”

 The industry is a close-knit group, Semerano said, which “forces you to do a great job. Because if anything ever were to happen, you’re out. It forces you to be on your toes all the time. But once you’re in that group you’re getting referrals.”

But the film tax credit’s future is in question as the House and Senate are at odds on what to do in the state budget. The House version of the budget proposes to eliminate the tax break, while the Senate has proposed to expand it to include Broadway shows.

The key to making the film industry sustainable in Ohio, Semerano said, will be developing the necessary infrastructure. That will appeal to entertainment that lasts longer than movies, like TV series, giving the cast more permanent jobs. He said Cleveland State University’s film school is a step in the right direction when it comes to support for the industry in Ohio.

“It's a great industry, but things have to fall into place,” he said. “We've gotten to the point of needing infrastructure to really take it to the next level and increasing the tax credit.”

2 comments

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  1. Rick Paris | Jun 21, 2019
    Congradulation Alex,looking good
  2. Rick Paris | Jun 21, 2019
    congradulation Alex

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