California Film Commission Reveals 2011 Tax Subsidy Recipients

Men of a Certain Age

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"Justified," "Men of a Certain Age" and "Frankin & Bash" are among the projects receiving part of the state's $100 million fund.

After receiving more than twice as many applications for film and TV tax credits as in 2010, the California Film Commission has awarded the annual $100 million in tax subsidies allocated by the state for 2011 to combat runaway production.

The 27 winners of the state lottery conducted by the commission with an assist from the California Highway Patrol were chosen June 1, the day applications were received, and then those chosen were notified. There were 176 applications this year compared to 70 last year. The number approved dropped from 32 last year to 27 this year, reflecting the higher cost of some productions. There were more TV series and fewer features this year.

At a time more than 40 states and dozens of countries are all trying to lure movie and TV productions to their state, Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, believes what she terms "the modest" three-year-old tax incentive program is making a real difference.

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"We see it constantly where a show is teetering on going to Georgia, or Louisiana or England or something like that and they make it into the program and then are able to make their decision and shift their production to California," says Lemisch. "We also see it the other way constantly."

For instance, after the emails went out last week notifying producers who submitted applications whether they had made the cut, some reacted immediately. "One show low on the waiting list is going out of state already," says Lemisch.

Some hold out, however. Based on past experience, Lemisch says about one quarter of those chosen will drop out and be replaced by another from the waiting list.

The breakdown of approved projects (and percentage of the total it represents) for 2011 was studio features 4 (14.8%), independent features 10 (37%), (cable) TV series 10 (37%), independent movies of the week 1 (3.7%) and TV series that relocated to California from other states 2 (7.4%).

Those that qualified include the feature films Argo, Dunderheads, Nina, and the independently financed features Bachelorette Party, Decoding Annie Parker, Lovelace, Lowdown, Suicide Kings 2, Trust Me and Vocal Chords of Freedom. Cable TV series include Franklin and Bash, Justified, Men of a Certain Age, the Nine Lives of Chloe King, Pretty Little Liars, Rizzoli & Isles, The Protector, and Perception.The two TV series returning to California are Body of Proof and Torchwood.

The types of projects that get funds are those considered most likely to be produced elsewhere without the incentives. Network TV series are not included unless they are returning to the California after having been produced elsewhere.

Based on information provided with the applications, the film commission projects these projects combined will spend an estimated $662.1 million within the state. This includes $233.6 million in wages and $428.6 million in expenditures outside of wages.

The productions getting state tax incentives are expected to employ 3,048 cast members, 3,307 crew and 49,778 extras/stand-ins (measured in "man-days").

The film commission will continue to accept applications for a waiting list. Some of the projects picked in the lottery will fall out either because they never get made or for other reasons, and then the funds will be re-allocated to the next project on the waiting list.

The commission estimates that since the program was enacted in 2009 it has been responsible for $2.2 billion in direct spending within the state, including $736 million in wages paid to "below the line" crew members. (Below the line are other than the stars, director, producers and writers).

"It has achieved its goal of retaining more productions," says Lemisch. "Every production we retain generates jobs and tax revenue back to the state. That's the whole point."

The maximum benefit under the state program is for 20% of spending (which must meet certain qualifications) for features, movies of the week, mini-series and new basic cable TV series. It also pays 25% for local spending by TV series that re-located from outside the state and for independently financed movies.

The criteria for being chosen in that 75% of the total days or production budget must be spent within California with a minimum budget of $1 million for a feature, independent film or new cable TV series. The minimum budget for a qualifying movie of the week or mini series is a budget of $500,000. Films qualify as independent if produced by a company that is not publicly trade or more than 25% owned by publicly trade companies. More info on the program and requirements is available from the California Film commission (at

In some cases the state also provides relief for productions from sales tax and hotel occupancy tax. That info is available from the California Board of Equalization. 

The following is a full list of the 27 projects receiving funding:

Studio Features
Argo, Dunderheads, Nina, To the Dogs Part 1.

Independent features

Bachelorette Party, Decoding Annie Parker, Lovelace, Lowdown, Suicide Kings 2, The Metro Gardeners, The To Do List, To Believe, Trust Me, Untitled Project G, Vocal Chords of Freedom.

Basic cable TV series

Franklin & Bash, Season 2; Hail Mary; Justified, Season 3; Men of a Certain Age, Season 3; The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Season 2; Perception, Season 2; Pretty Little Liars, Season 3; Rizzoli & Isles, Season 3; Switched at Birth, Season 2; The Protector, Season 2

Relocating TV series

Body of Proof, Season 2; Torchwood, Season 2.