The ever-increasing supply of tax credits for film and TV production has shaken up the geography of the entertainment business, luring shoots out of – and now back to – California.
But they’ve also rearranged the Hollywood power structure, taking clout out of the hands of directors and stars and instead giving it to accountants as credits and incentives increasingly dictate which projects get made and where they are shot.
With incentives available not just in various states but in countries from Iceland to South Korea, having an accounting expert who understands the latest global incentives available is key to any production shopping for the best bargains, said Joseph Chianese, executive vice president of Burbank film finance consultancy EP Financial Solutions, which tracks the international incentives market.
“The accountants are much more involved than ever before,” he said. “When incentives are being offered, each project is preparing four to six budgets, factoring in the savings and benefits of shooting in various places. Producers use this information to decide where they can go to get the most for their money.”
Those decisions have for years pushed film and TV production out of California and into other states such as Louisiana; North Carolina; and New Mexico, which lured hit Albuquerque-set series “Breaking Bad” with its tax incentives.
But now, a few productions are moving the other way, thanks to recently beefed-up tax incentives in the Golden State. Earlier this month, the California Film Commission announced a handful of series, including “American Horror Story,” “Secrets and Lies” and “Veep” had gone credit shopping and plan to relocate their productions to Los Angeles from Louisiana, North Carolina and Maryland, respectively.
Film producer Jason Clark has made 35 films and is no stranger to weighing all the costs and benefits of shooting in various locations. His upcoming comedy “Ted 2” was largely shot in Boston and took advantage of Massachusetts tax credits. He said tax credits and other incentives are hugely important for producers trying to make a picture pencil out.
“The producer must maximize for every dollar used to produce the project and therefore tax credits and rebates are a fundamental part of determining the shooting locale of nearly every film and television show made today,” he said.
There are other factors, too, such as where a story is set, appropriate weather and the availability of cast, crew and equipment, but cost is always at or near the top of the priority list.
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