Tax incentives already paying off for 2 states

Tax incentives already paying off for 2 states

Connecticut and South Carolina have film incentive schemes that went into effect July 1, and both have shot strongly out of the gate, with major productions already lining up to take part of the action.

"Like many states who had not been in the tax credit game, we found ourselves surrounded by states who had tax credits," says Heidi Hamilton, film division director of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, pointing to such states as New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

And while filmmakers loved the looks the state provides, such previous productions as "The Stepford Wives," "War of the Worlds" and "The Family Stone" didn't stay in the area longer than two or three days because of the economics.

"It took a number of years for the legislature to realize that we were losing business," Hamilton says.

The state's General Assembly passed legislation in the spring providing for an aggressive 30% tax credit with a threshold of only $50,000.

One of the goals of the incentives is to offset the cost of labor, which Hamilton says has been traditionally expensive in the Northeast. But neighboring states aren't the real competition, she says. That comes from such pesky Canadian cities as Vancouver and Toronto.

Now, Connecticut is hoping to use its proximity to New York to lure in everything from actors to postproduction facilities. In that respect, it already has succeeded, attracting Uma Thurman and 2929 Entertainment's "In Bloom."

2929 president Marc Butan confirmed that the $15 million production will shoot in the state for two reasons: the incentives and New Yorker Thurman's desire to be close to home while making the movie.

Butan said the movie was set in a nondescript New England town, and the producers could have gone anywhere on the East Coast, even in Canada, but decided on Connecticut locations like Stamford.

"The money worked and without traffic, you're 45 minutes away from Manhattan," Butan says.

South Carolina, meanwhile, has attracted two major productions from Hyde Park Entertainment. The first is "Death Sentence," an action-thriller starring Kevin Bacon and directed by James Wan. The movie is in preproduction in Columbia, looking for low-income urban locales as well as affluent suburban locations.

Hyde Park also is in preproduction on the thriller "Asylum," which will be "Snakes on a Plane" director David Ellis' next movie. The story revolves around a group of teens who are housed in a new wing of their college, only to find out it was an asylum where a doctor performed barbaric experiments.

That production is planning on invading Rock Hill next month and is looking at a university in the area.

South Carolina's new incentive package, which ups the numbers significantly from where they were before, offers up to a 30% cash rebate on supplier expenditures and up to a 20% cash rebate on employee wages when at least $1 million is spent in the state. The state also offers sales, use and accommodations tax exemptions, as well as some fee-free state properties.

With tax incentives multiplying like rabbits, productions, especially the independent ones, are depending on them more than ever. Says Butan: "In the independent world, it's kind of become built into the fabric of how you finance a film. You need to look for a piece of soft money or incentive money from your shooting location to help the number add up."
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