California Film Tax Credit Hearing Draws Supporters

The program has generated 41,000 jobs and $2.2 billion in spending since 2009.

Members of the entertainment industry are eager keep California's film tax credit program in tact.

During a hearing before members of the Assembly Select Committee on the Preservation of California’s Entertainment Industry on Friday, filmmakers, actors, union leaders and more testified to the success of the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program, which offers 20-25% tax breaks on in-state productions.

"Even though in Hollywood we make dreams, we still look to find the least expensive place we can to make those dreams," said independent producer Larry Thompson. He credited the state tax incentives with helping him make his recent Lifetime film Amish Grace.

According to the California Film Commission, the five-year tax credit program has already generated 41,000 jobs and $2.2 billion in economic returns since its launch in July 2009. Of the money spent, $728 million went to below-the-line workers, who are often the hardest hit when production crews move out of state.

The program has attracted a great deal of interest among filmmakers. In the last fiscal year, it distributed its $100 million annual budget to 43 productions on the first day, forcing the rest of the applicants to join a waiting list.

Since Canada introduced film tax incentive legislation in 1997, U.S. states followed suit, causing production figures in California to plummet. Even the recent box office hit, Battle: Los Angeles, was shot almost entirely in Louisiana because rebuilding Santa Monica pier was more affordable than filming on-location.

"Because of tax breaks, L.A. was recreated in the other LA: Louisiana," said Ed Duffy of Teamsters Local 399.

Assembly member Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada-Flintridge) pointed out that movies shot in California dropped from 272 in 2000 to 160 in 2008 and praised the program for turning the tide.

"This expenditure of limited tax dollars has brought back billions to the California economy and the public needs to know it," Portantino said.

Portantino and others recently introduced a bill to extend the program past its current 2014 cut-off date.