End of an Era: California's Final $100 Million Film/TV Lottery Gets Underway

Pretty Little Liars S05E14 Still - H 2015
ABC Family/Eric McCandless

Pretty Little Liars S05E14 Still - H 2015

The new $330 million program, which begins accepting applications May 11, will rank productions based on job creation.

On Wednesday, for the final time, the doors of the California Film Commission will open at 9 a.m. for the lottery under the $100 million California Film & TV Tax Credit Program.

Once the doors close at 3 p.m., an L.A. city fire official will assist in the random selection of which projects receive funding and which go on the waiting list.

The difference from past years is that only independently made and financed projects will be considered. Much of the money is already committed to continuing TV shows or movies already approved for funding. 

Among TV shows already assured of funding under the final year of the old system are Pretty Little Liars, Murder in the First, Switched at Birth, Hit the Floor and Teen Wolf.

On May 11, the old system will be replaced by a new program approved by the state last September that makes $230 million more available this year and then $330 million annually for at least four more years for movie, TV and digital projects that shoot at least 75 percent of the project in the state.

The new program, which has different deadlines and changed rules, replaces the lottery with a "ranking" system that allocates funds based on the quantity and quality of jobs a production promises to create in California. The new rules have been worked out in recent weeks by the film commission. 

This is California's effort to be more competitive with states including New York, Georgia, Louisiana and New Mexico in offering incentives to attract productions to shoot using their locations, personnel and facilities. About 40 states and a number of foreign countries (among them Canada, the U.K. and Italy) offer incentive programs.  

On Thursday, the film commission is expected to announce how many independents submitted applications and how many were chosen using the finally lottery. The actual names of those approved for funding and the waiting list won't be known to the public until the state fiscal year begins July 1.

From May 11 through May 17, applications will be accepted under the new program for TV productions that are scheduled to begin production after July 1. For the first time network TV series will be eligible as well as TV pilots and one-hour series.

From July 13 through July 25, applications for feature films and independent projects will be accepted. Principal photography must begin after the credits are issued. For the first time big-budget features can apply; and budget caps are eliminated for both studio and independent movies.

An independent film is defined, according to the film commission, as a movie with a minimum budget of $1 million and a maximum spend in the state of $10 million. The credit applies to the first $10 million in qualified expenditures. It must be produced by a company that is not more than 25 percent owned by a public company.

In the case of a big-budget feature, the credit allocation — 20 percent with a possible 5 percent "uplift" if it meets certain criteria — only applies to the first $100 million in qualified expenditures.

New TV series eligible for a 20 percent credit must have a minimum $1 million per episode budget and must be at least 40 minutes in length per episode (scripted only).

TV series that relocate from outside California are eligible for a 25 percent tax credit, as are independent films (up to $10 million in qualified expenditures).

The "uplift" credit of an additional 5 percent can be earned by shooting outside of the Los Angeles "zone" (roughly 30 miles from the city center); by doing music scoring or tracking in the state; or by doing visual effects in the state (a minimum spend is required).

"Uplifts" cannot be combined, so the maximum credit a production can earn is 25 percent.

The ranking system to decide who gets credits under the new state program gives each project a number or "jobs ratio" determined by the number of jobs it will create and other criteria. Each is judged only against other like projects (TV is ranked against TV, independents against independents, etc.).

April 1, 11:20 a.m. The final lottery will be assisted by a L.A. city fireman, not a CHP officer as was incorrectly stated in a previous version of this article.