Siggraph: Have Film Incentives Plateaued?

ANAHEIM – Production incentives have “plateaued,” according to Russ Nissen, director of film incentives at Ease Entertainment Services, who spoke Sunday during the business symposium at CG confab Siggraph.

He pointed out that some jurisdictions have already pulled back from offered big incentives, while others have increased them. “I think we’ll see more tweaking, but don’t expect more big growth.”

If you’re looking to open a visual effects business in one of these incentive jurisdictions, he urged you to think it through.

For a company looking to attract major studio productions, he said it makes sense to set up in locations where incentives are offered. “I would set up in Connecticut, Louisiana, New Mexico, perhaps Vancouver,” he said.

But if someone is looking to start a more modest VFX boutique to attract smaller independent productions, Nissen said chasing incentives might not be the answer.

“Some VFX houses tried opening in incentive jurisdictions, and it’s been rough for some because most lower-budget films are going to California or New York [for VFX and postproduction] depending on the residence of the director,” he said. “If I was starting a small shop and didn't expect to attract major studios I would talk to independent producers and find out if then will really come out of state to do [visual effects and post]."

Nissen noted that currently the most generous incentive packages are offered in the U.S. in Connecticut, Louisiana, Georgia, and New Mexico; and internationally, in Canada and “perhaps New Zealand. Australia is coming up pretty quickly.”

He pointed out that while incentive packages can refund a production anywhere from 5 to 40 percent of what it spends locally, he advised looking at the whole budget. For instance, he noted that sometimes it's cheaper to not to travel to certain incentive destinations if you don't have to send as many crew members.

Siggraph runs through Thursday at the Anaheim Convention Center.