California Announces Dates For 2015 Film and TV Tax Incentives

Keith Bernstein
Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper on the set of 'American Sniper,' which got a $6.8 million tax incentive

The new law will see the state hand out $330 million a year.

The California Film Commission is currently developing new rules and procedures to comply with the expanded film and TV tax credits that will be available under the California Film & Television Job Retention and Promotion Act signed into law last September by Gov. Jerry Brown.

However, before the state can start giving out $330 million a year, it still has to hand out $100 million under the old incentive law.

Some of the movies that got incentives in the last two years include American Sniper, Blackbird, In Your Pocket and Mainstream.

On Friday, the film commission officially announced the dates for both the old and the first allocations under the new program to be available this year.

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The state will still make available $100 million and choose recipients by lottery under the old law. Then it will also offer the additional $230 million using the new rules that give priority to certain projects, mainly those that create the most jobs.

Next year California will just have the $330 million program in place. The new program runs until at least the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The film commission is breaking up the application periods under the new law by the type of project. The first dates to be announced are for TV.

The dates to apply for tax credits for big budget movies for example will be announced later and are expected to begin this summer.

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Applications for the final tax credit lottery program under the old rules will be accepted on April 1. 

Some projects that were put on a waiting list continue to get funding even now. Among those that recently learned they would get tax credits are TNT’s Agent X and USA Network’s The Farm.

Some of the $100 million will actually not be available. It is reserved for returning TV shows and those that relocated from another state, which were guaranteed participation when they were initially accepted. Among those that continue funding as long as they are on the air and still shoot in California are ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars, MTV's Teen Wolf and TNT's Rizzoli & Isles.

Beyond that, under the old rules, $10 million in tax credits will be reserved for “independent” movie projects. Those projects must start principal photography after July 1 and have budgets ranging from $1 million - $10 million.

Then from May 11 through 17, the state will for the first time accept applications for TV projects from major studios and non-independent companies under the new law.

In this first wave of applications, there will be $55.2 million in tax credits available for new TV series, TV pilots, movies of the week and mini-series, and it doesn’t matter if they are on broadcast, cable, streaming or digital. The actual credits will be issued after July 1, when  production can begin.

There will also be $27.6 million in credits available for relocating TV series.

Once the entire new program is operational, it will make big budget movies eligible for the first time. The new law eliminates budget caps for studio and indie films, but only applies the credits to the first $100 million in qualified spending. There is also a 5 percent “uplift” provision for projects that film outside of the Los Angeles zone (up to about 30 miles outside the city). The new law for the first time also includes penalties for projects that overstate how many jobs will be created. 

CORRECTION 2/6 10:43 a.m.It was incorrectly stated in an earlier versioin that April 1 is for TV and was chosen for pilots to be eligible. TV pilots are not eligible to apply to the “old” lottery program. The launch of the first phase of the “new” program was timed to coincide with the TV network production schedule.