Joe Biden didn’t score an endorsement from Taylor Swift on Super Bowl Sunday, as some had predicted. But her boyfriend Travis Kelce is using the president’s renewable energy tax credits to finance the film “My Dead Friend Zoe.”
The SXSW-bound indie, which stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Natalie Morales, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman, marks Kelce’s first foray into movies, with the Kansas City Chiefs tight end serving as an executive producer. The investors in the low-budget dark comedy, which include Kelce, are the first to take advantage of 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act to finance a film. (“My Dead Friend Zoe” cost less than $10 million.)
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The Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed in August 2022, marks “the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis, advancing environmental justice, securing America’s position as a world leader in domestic clean energy manufacturing and putting the United States on a pathway to achieving the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate goals, including a net-zero economy by 2050,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s web site. “My Dead Friend Zoe” used money generated by green energy entrepreneur Mike Field’s sale of surplus tax credits. (Field is also a producer on the film.)
“Hollywood is risky, right? On a scale of one to 10, Hollywood, it is a 9.5. Especially in terms of independent film,” says “My Dead Friend Zoe” producer Ray Maiello, who runs California-based Radiant Media Studios with Field and is the former head of business affairs at Netflix. “These federal tax credits take the risk down to like a five.”
Kelce, Maiello and Field are using the same strategy to finance a second film, the Jean-Michel Basquiat documentary “King Pleasure.” The Boardwalk Pictures film is being helmed by Quinn Wilson, the former creative director for Lizzo, and is being made with the cooperation of the late artist’s estate. Kelce, Maiello and Field could spark a trend in Hollywood of employing the Inflation Reduction Act as a way to raise funds and bolster the flagging indie film sector. These types of deals have become common outside of Hollywood and now represent a market worth between $7 billion and $9 billion.
“[Field] and I wanted to branch out and we’ve been talking about [expanding] for years. And then Biden really incentivized it,” Maiello adds. “Biden saw that people can’t plan what their tax liabilities are going to be. People don’t want to take risks. And so he really opened it up with these federal tax credits and we’re combining that with Hollywood. That’s the idea.”
Directed by Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, “My Dead Friend Zoe” follows a female Afghanistan veteran who comes head-to-head with her Vietnam vet grandfather at the family’s ancestral lake house. The film, which will make its world premiere at SXSW on March 9, was produced by Legion M and is being sold by CAA.
Though Kelce has already indicated that he will be returning for the 2024-25 NFL season to join the Chiefs effort to possibly three-peat as Super Bowl champions, he is making inroads now into Hollywood, in a similar vein as Tom Brady, who recently played himself in the hit comedy “80 for Brady” and has been producing as well. Kelce is repped by CAA.
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