“We will exhaust all $100 million in tax breaks on June 1st,” says Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission.
The California gold rush started 162 years ago but on June 1, there will be another kind of gold rush in the golden state. That morning, movie and TV producers can drop off applications for a share of $100 million in annual state tax credits for productions that meet certain requirements and shoot in the state during the year.
What’s the rush? “We will exhaust all $100 million in tax breaks on June 1st,” Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission said Friday morning at a commission meeting and breakfast for producers in Los Angeles.
In other words, the entire amount allocated by the state legislature for the year will be spoken for the first day that applications are accepted . Actually, more productions will seek tax breaks than is available for the year on that one day.
The commission, with help from the California Highway Patrol, will randomly choose among the entries submitted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to assign them a priority number and notify those chosen the next day.
Those that do not make the cut go on a waiting list. If and when qualified productions drop out or are cancelled, they become next in line for possible approval.
That has been the way it has gone since July 2009, when the state first funded a program of tax incentives for productions designed to compete with tax breaks offered by more than 40 other states, as well as Canada and countries all over the globe.
About 150 people attended the California Film Commission event which included film commissioners from 22 of 50 locales around the state, along with Los Angeles, who met, mingled and made brief “speed dating” presentations to producers of movies, TV and commercials who were on hand.
Lemisch noted that since the program kicked off, the state has spent $300 million on film incentives. Last year that helped keep 116 productions in California. Those productions direct spend in state was $2.2 billion, which includes $728 million in compensation for California-based crewmembers.
Lemisch said that resulted in employment for 25,000 “below the line” crew, 6,000 performers and 170,000 background extras.
The California program offers 20% tax breaks for features and cable TV series, and 25% for qualifying independent movies and TV series that return from other locations outside the state. Of the annual $100 million, $10 million is specifically set aside for independent productions, but they must have budgets of at least $1 million to qualify, and can earn incentives up to $10 million of their budget. Features must have budgets of $1 million to $75 million that can qualify.
While California was one of the last states to offer tax breaks, and its program is not as generous as states such as Louisiana (with over 40% in tax breaks), it does offer other unique advantages, according to Lisa Bruce, co-executive producer of last year’s movie No Strings Attached, and a veteran line producer.
Bruce says because California has a larger pool of experienced crews, more stages, special effects companies, labs and other facilities than any other state, there are significant savings due to problems caused by inexperienced crews and waste. She also noted working in California often eliminates travel, lodging and other location expenses, and most involved in the production are happy to be close to home.
What California offers in incentives “actually becomes more money than the incentives offered by others,” said Bruce. “I’m really happy we have it and hope it continues.”
On Saturday April 2 there is also the 4th annual California Only Locations event, from 1 to 6 p.m. in Century city. RSVP at www.4thcaonly.eventbrite.com.
From June 3 through 5, the Association of Film Commissioners International will hold their annual conference in conjunction with the annual Producer’s Guild Produced By Conference, which this year is being held on the Disney studio lot in Burbank. Info at www.ProducedByConference.com