Incentivized locals heat locations show

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"I finally got to print one of these!" said Amy Lemisch of the California Film Commission, waving a handout detailing the state's new incentives.

For years, Lemisch watched other states and countries pass out pamphlets and one-sheets at the AFCI Locations Trade Show as regions from around the world jumped on the incentive bandwagon, and all Lemisch could do was watch productions run away. This year, California and its many regional commissions were, in Lemisch's words, "very, very busy" and had a strong presence at the show, whose 24th edition was held in Santa Monica from Thursday-Saturday.

The trade show proved that incentives continue to be big business, with the newly created Cayman Islands Film Commission taking the occasion to announce a 30% rebate, while Texas unveiled a scheme that offers as much as 17.5%, up from its previous 5%.

Canada as usual took a unified approach, though that didn't necessarily lessen the rivalries among provinces. Ontario was touting not only a 25% tax credit now made permanent but also a new 20% credit for digital media, which includes greenscreen work and special effects. The latter takes aim at British Columbia's 15% digital credit, which in the past few years has seen studios flock to Vancouver for effects work.

"Once, you wanted the film, and it came with this little component of postproduction. But now, the digital side of the business is itself becoming a sustainable component," said Peter Finestone, a film commissioner from Toronto, where Showtime's "The Tudors," shot in Ireland, does its post work.

Meanwhile, Alberta was touting its program, which raised a spending cap of $1.5 million per project to $3 million. Saskatchewan, which instituted an aggressive program in 2004, made its first appearance at the trade show in five years, to "reconnect and get people to make a second or third film with us."

The importance of being seen was an idea echoed by many, including Hungary. "We have to show we are a strong European player," said Gabor Varadi of Budapest's Eurofilm Studio.

"If you don't come, you'll be out of the circuit. Look at Romania: They were a large player a few years ago, and now they aren't even here."

Superbooths were a trend, with South Africa and a Colombian production services company (with the tag line, "We won't shoot you, you will shoot us") among those taking up booth space after booth space, not always to the happiness of some of the smaller commissions who were feeling the squeeze.

Jordan had people in awe, with a prize-winning arrangement that saw an entire alley made to look like an Amman marketplace, replete with fruits, vegetables and pastries.

An electric current coursed through the concourse Friday, when word of the deal between SAG and AMPTP popped up on Blackberries. Kayla Thames Berge of the Oregon Film & Video Office said she already noticed this year's show had a uptick of serious inquiries, most likely because of recession-caused number-crunching, but the new deal would hopefully mean even more business.

"It's the big buzz here," she said. "Movies waiting in the wings will start getting made."
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