“Producers will sometimes rewrite the setting to maximize filming in a location with an advantageous tax incentive,” he said.
California is now a bigger player in this credits-shopping game, thanks to bipartisan legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed in September to triple the size of the state’s annual film and television production incentive, from $100 million to $300 million, in a bid to retain and attract production jobs.
Amy Lemisch, executive director of the state’s Film Commission, admits credits here are still more modest than in other areas of the country and around the globe, but being at the center of the film business, California has other kinds of incentives.
“Producers have every piece of equipment at their fingertips here, there’s favorable weather for filming and really talented local crews who you are not having to fly and house,” said Lemisch, whose team made some of those arguments to appeal to producers of “Veep” and other shows relocating to Los Angeles.
The 11 TV shows picked to share in the $82.8 million in California credits allocated to new and relocating television projects will be spending a total of $544 million in direct in-state spending, including $216 million in wages, based on data provided with their tax credit applications. July 13 to 25 is the application period for movies to get a slice of the now-larger pie of California credits.
But as California seeks to bring productions back from other states and overseas, the competition remains fierce, said Steve Weizenecker, a partner in the Atlanta office of Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg.
“Various states are now looking at how to compete with California’s recent incentive increase, but the law is new so the competing states have not had time to evolve their programs – yet,” he said.
Those states still see plenty of opportunity to poach productions shopping for tax credits as California’s new incentive package, while much larger, is capped at $300 million.
“This will leave many productions without any incentive,” Weizenecker said. “As there is more production that still needs a home, we can expect that a number of states will now send representatives to California looking to get the productions that did not get awarded any funds.”
And now that California has upped the ante, other states are likely to amend their incentive packages as the film credit landscape continues to evolve.
Chianese of EP, a subsidiary of Burbank film payroll and production management firm Entertainment Partners, works closely with film commissions and legislators in various states to help form incentive programs.
He said while the offerings tend to be different, they all must have one thing in common: “They have to make sure what they are offering is attractive to the industry but also makes sense fiscally. For the states, the incentives are basically a jobs bill and for the producers they are a way to save costs.”
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