• Friday, Feb. 8, 2019
End Of An Era In New Mexico
"Kindergarten Cop" sign on the Historic Oregon Film Trail

As 2018 drew to a close, so did the tenure of Nick Maniatis as New Mexico Film Office director. In an open letter, Maniatis reflected on his tour of duty. He wrote, “It has been my absolute privilege to work with the film community in this state. Coming in eight years ago I was greeted with much warmth (and some skepticism!), but I immediately knew I had made the right decision to be here. 

“Over the years I have watched as filmmakers grew and flourished across the state, crew members who started out as PA’s came into their own careers and started working regularly, and more and more companies began to know the talent that New Mexico had to offer. One of the highlights of my job was welcoming and introducing new productions to our State and hearing how impressed they were by the talent and infrastructure that existed here.  

“For whomever takes over the directorship of the New Mexico Film Office, I know they are in the extremely capable hands of the New Mexico State Film Office and of the entire New Mexico film community. I look forward to watching the New Mexico Film industry continue to flourish in the coming years.

“Thank you all for being a part of my journey, and I hope to bump into you on my journey to come.”

The Historic Oregon Film Trail (HOFT) has officially begun.

The Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Oregon Film Office developed the initial concept of HOFT and identified Astoria movie locations, in partnership with the Oregon Film Museum, that represent the beginning of the Trail. The Oregon Coast Visitors Association provided additional funding and support for the signs.

The Historic Oregon Film Trail, has been designed to showcase iconic locations in the state, and the first official group of signs was unveiled at Alameda Park in Astoria. The group of three signs feature facts and anecdotes from the The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop and Short Circuit--all #OregonMade films shot on Oregon’s North Coast.

One sign in particular has been positioned at the East End Mooring Basin near the Astoria Riverfront Trail to give an alternative view of the “Goonies House” in an effort to eliminate trespassing on the hill of the privately owned residence. Goonies fans, it turns out, never say die, or no, to a photo opportunity. While the sign signifies a location for that viewpoint, the sign copy shares information about the nearby Astor Elementary School which was featured in Kindergarten Cop.

The lesser-known Alameda Park offers a great viewpoint of the Astoria-Megler Bridge and it is the topic of the Short Circuit sign located there. The sign for The Goonies is located by the Oregon Film Museum and speaks to it and the Flavel House’s roles in that film. “Historical markers are typically about famous people and events. Movies filmed here are also an important part of Oregon’s history and culture, so ours offer a twist on that convention.” said Tim Williams, executive director, Oregon Film.  

On-location filming in greater Los Angeles rose 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, a strong finish for a year in which local film production came close to record highs. Area filmmakers logged 10,359 shoot days in the fourth quarter, and 38,795 shoot days for all of 2018.
Reasons for the 1.3 percent year-over-year annual increase include double digit increases in feature film (up 12.2 percent), TV drama (up 10.6 percent) and TV pilot (up 15.2 percent) production, plus a strong showing for commercials (up 8.7 percent).

  • Friday, Dec. 14, 2018
Hot Locations: New Mexico Gains "Rural" TV Production Base
Nick Fish

Rural Media Group has purchased the former Imus Ranch in Ribera, New Mexico, and will use the ranch as a TV production base for RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel.

“It’s an honor to welcome Rural Media Group to New Mexico,” said Governor Susana Martinez. “For years, we’ve grown the film industry and made our state more-friendly for investment--now, we’re seeing industry leaders bring their productions to New Mexico.”

Nick Maniatis, director of New Mexico’s Film Office, added, “Rural Media Group programming is currently distributed into more than 92 million homes internationally. We are very happy that Rural Media Group sees our landscape, culture and vibrant film industry as an inspirational home for their unique programming worldwide.”

Productions that will be produced in New Mexico include: Best of America by Horseback, Debbie Duning’s Dude Ranch Round-Up, and Gentle Giants. Production will begin in New Mexico in the spring of 2019.

“The ranch is set up perfectly to assist our desire to produce a wide variety of new television programs and series for both RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel,” said Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of Rural Media Group, Inc. “The existing authentic old western town, indoor and outdoor arenas, along with over 30 miles of trails located on the 3,400 acres set against the beautiful New Mexico skyline will provide tremendous opportunities for these original productions.”

The western town set on the ranch may also be made available to outside productions.  Since 2011, Governor Martinez has bolstered economic development tools, cut taxes and fees 61 times, and rolled back unnecessary regulations and red tape to create a business-friendly environment in New Mexico. The Governor also expanded the film production tax credit for TV productions, to incentivize the growth of the film industry in New Mexico. Since then, New Mexico has seen three record breaking years of film, has hosted dozens of major productions, and has become home to the first U.S. production of the media giant Netflix.

Commissioner Nick Fish will become the Portland City Council’s first official liaison to the Portland (Oregon) Film Office. His sr. policy director, Jamie Dunphy, will be point person on this new relationship.

Fish’s new role recognizes the challenges that film productions face and establishes a direct line of communication with City Hall. This liaison role can be helpful in coordinating broad cooperation across city bureaus, problem solving, assisting with long-term financial sustainability, and establishing a high-level city lead in any issue involving the film industry.

Creative BC and Screen Ireland announced the recipients of their inaugural international co-production development fund.  Through the newly formalized funding partnership, Creative BC and Screen Ireland collaborated to support five motion picture projects, each with Canadian and Irish producers.

The project slate crosses genres and formats, growing and developing content including television series, documentaries and a feature film. The five selected projects are: In Blood produced by Underground Films and Hoodwink Films; Crossfire produced by Tile Films and Soapbox; Children of the Church produced by Wildfire Films and Screen Siren; Cry from the Sea produced by Shinawil and Sepia; and Recovery produced by Samson + Goonworks.

This fund is the first international co-development program of its kind in Western Canada, with each partner contributing $75,000 toward the total of $150,000.

Previous co-productions between Ireland and Canada have produced internationally acclaimed award-winning projects, such as Room, Brooklyn, Maudie and The Breadwinner. The new program serves to deepen relationships between the countries and to promote B.C. collaborations with Ireland’s movie producers.

  • Friday, Oct. 26, 2018
L.A. Location Lensing Rises For 3rd Straight Quarter
Paul Audley

On-location filming in Greater Los Angeles rose 3 percent in the third quarter of 2018. In all, 9,734 Shoot Days (SD) were logged during the period, including all filming categories tracked by a report from the nonprofit FilmL.A. On-location Feature production is up for a third consecutive quarter.

“We are grateful for the continued positive impact of the California Film Tax Credit program as it continues to boost employment and production in Greater Los Angeles,” said FilmL.A. president Paul Audley. “Increases in feature film, commercials, TV pilot and TV drama production are very good news for the region’s economy.”

Incentivized projects brought to L.A. by the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program contributed 15.1 percent or 197 of the 1,301 SD in the Feature category. Incentivized features filming in Los Angeles in the third quarter included Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Against All Enemies and Birdbox.

The TV category overall saw an increase of 1.8 percent to 4,095 SD in the third quarter. Much of the jump in the TV category was attributed to the TV dramas category which leapt 21.6 percent for the quarter. Incentivized TV dramas accounted for 19 percent or 284 of the 1,497 SDs during the period. Qualifying TV dramas that filmed during the third quarter included American Princess and Netflix’s newly acquired Lucifer.

Increases were also seen in TV pilots (up 30 percent to 78 SD), TV reality (up 5.5 percent to 1,127 SD) and the “Other” category, that consists largely of still photo shoots, student projects and music videos (up 0.4 percent to 2,938 SD)

Decreases were seen in TV comedies (down 3 percent to 518 SD). Incentivized TV comedy projects accounted for 18.1 percent or 94 of the 518 SDs for the quarter. A qualifying TV comedy that filmed during the third quarter was Good Girls. A decline was also seen in web-based TV (down 32.1 percent to 379 SD), a category comprised primarily of short-form content.

On-location commercial production continued to rise in 2018, increasing 4.9 percent in the third quarter (to 1,400 SD), and finishing 9.2 percent above the category’s five-year average.

Roswell Starts Shooting In New Mexico
The new Warner Bros./NM Talent Inc. TV series Roswell has begun principal photography on its first season in the New Mexico communities of Las Vegas and Santa Fe. Production started in August and will run through January 2019.

“We welcome back Warner Bros., an extensive collaborator in the New Mexico film industry, with this creative story based on historic events in Roswell, NM,” said Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office. “Our state’s unique history, crew, support services, and a very successful tax credit have drawn the producers back to our thriving industry.”

The production will employ approximately 90 New Mexico crew members and 2,600 New Mexico background talent. Roswell is produced by My So-Called Company, Amblin Television and Bender Brown Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. Carina Adly MacKenzie (The Originals) wrote the pilot script and serves as EP along with Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries), Justin Falvey (The Americans), Darryl Frank (The Americans), Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction) and Kevin Kelly Brown (Roswell). 

After returning to her hometown of Roswell, the daughter of undocumented immigrants discovers a shocking truth about her teenage crush who is now a policeman: he’s an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden. She protects his secret as the two reconnect, but when a violent attack and long-standing government cover-up point to a greater alien presence on Earth, the politics of fear and hatred threaten to expose him and destroy their romance. The series stars Jeanine Mason.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018
Why DC stories rarely film in DC--and what's being done about it
This image provided by Bill Gray via DC Noir, LLC., shows writer George Pelecanos on the set of his upcoming film "DC NOIR" in Washington. In any given year there are multiple movies and shows set in Washington, but almost none of them actually film in the nation’s capital. Now Washington is seeking to reverse that trend with a tax incentive package designed to lure productions here. (Bill Gray/DC NOIR LLC via AP)

It's a hobby among District of Columbia locals: Picking apart glaring geographic and architectural inaccuracies in movies and television shows set in Washington.

One of the most famous is the 1987 film "No Way Out," where Kevin Costner escapes pursuers by taking a subway from Georgetown. No subway station has ever existed in the tony neighborhood. The opening credits of the new Amazon show "Jack Ryan" show the title character biking to work via a route that makes no geographic sense.

The reason for this disconnect is simple: Few TV shows or movies actually film in Washington. That's something district officials are trying to change. They scored one success last summer with the filming of the Wonder Woman sequel in the district. And they have a high-profile ally in author George Pelecanos, who has set all 20 of his crime novels in the Washington area and is on a personal mission to turn the nation's capital into a film hub.

But they have difficulties overcome.  Other cities offer more generous tax incentives. Filmmakers say Washington can be a difficult place for them —the entire district is a no-fly zone for helicopters and drones. Those seeking film permits must sometimes contend with several overlapping police forces: the district's Metropolitan Police, National Parks Service police, the United States Capitol Police and the Secret Service.

So Washington-centric series like "House of Cards" or "Veep" typically come to the District just to shoot what locals call the "postcard shots" of the monuments or the White House, then do their principal filming elsewhere. "The Americans" was set in Washington, but filmed in Brooklyn; "NCIS" has been set in Washington for 16 seasons, but fakes the district in southern California. "The Post" was filmed in Brooklyn and "Lincoln" was filmed in Richmond, Virginia — the capital of the Confederacy.

But Angela Gates, director of Washington's Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, feels like the district is on a roll after the "Wonder Woman" shooting.

"That says a lot about how far we've come," Gates said. "When you do a project well, word of mouth starts to get around."

Gates said 2016 was a turning point. That's when Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstituted Washington's dormant tax rebate program. A production spending more than $250,000 filming in the district can apply for a rebate of up to 35% of taxable expenditures, with further incentives for hiring local residents. Her office also helps secure permissions from law enforcement.

"We have a seat at the table now," Gates said. "These are game-changing times for us."

Pelecanos' support has also helped.  His popularity is surging due to his work as a writer on "The Wire." Now he's the executive producer of the HBO show "The Deuce." He recently completed an independent film, "DC Noir," based on his stories, and made a point of filming in all eight of Washington's wards.

"The city's beautiful, and it hasn't really been exploited yet," said Pelecanos, who grew up just outside the district in Silver Spring, Maryland, but regularly came into Washington to work in his father's diner.

Pelecanos recalls many inaccuracies in Washington-based movies and shows, but he has a particular peeve about fire escapes. It bothers him when movies purportedly set in the district show apartment buildings with New York-style zigzag escapes.

"Baltimore or New York can look like D.C. to anybody but Washingtonians," said Kyle David Crosby of Pictureshow Productions, who worked on "DC Noir."

Still, competing against film hotspots like Georgia, Louisiana and New Mexico is hard. Washington's funding package is relatively modest--about $5 million per year.

Vans Stevenson, senior vice president for state government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, said Washington's rebate funding is dwarfed by most of its rivals.

"They've put some money in it, but it's still not competitive," he said.

Still Stevenson said Washington has "a wonderful track record" and enjoys "a good reputation of being able to accommodate productions."

Crosby said the difficulties of filming in Washington are often exaggerated. It can sometimes take a little longer to secure permission, but generally the process works. However certain sites like the Vietnam Memorial are off-limits and, "You're not putting a camera crew on the steps of the Capitol ever. You're just not," he said.

Crosby said local filming increased after the tax rebates were reinstituted, with movies like "Jackie" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming" filming there. But he describes a chicken-and-egg problem: there's a shortage of specialized equipment because there aren't enough productions to justify keeping them in Washington.

"For now if you're going to do a major project here, you're bringing most of your trucks from outside," he said.

The same goes for behind-the-camera talent and technical crew. Crosby describes the local talent pool as wide, varied and accomplished, but not particularly plentiful.

On "DC Noir," Pelecanos said he employed 60 interns from Howard University's film department to give them professional experience. Chadwick Boseman, the "Black Panther" star, is a Howard graduate, as is Bradford Young, the first black cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar for 2017's "Arrival." But Howard assistant professor Jami Ramberan said the lack of local work is "a huge reason that many of our students leave."

Pelecanos said productions like the "Wonder Woman" sequel boost Washington's reputation, but what would really help the city is television.

"What you need is an ongoing series that lasts for five or six years," he said. "We need to get it to the point where people are working all year long for many years."

Attracting those projects often comes down to money. Pelecanos said that unless you're a location ideologue like him, the production incentives generally determine filming locations.

For now, bringing major productions to Washington remains a hard sell.

Pelecanos recalls pitching a film based on his novel "Hard Revolution," which depicts the 1968 riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. where large swaths of Washington were set ablaze.

"I told them, 'I have one catch. If we're going to do this, it has to be 100 percent filmed in Washington,' " he said. "The whole room went silent."

The deal didn't go through.

  • Friday, Aug. 10, 2018
Hot Locations: Global Production Network Marks 15th Year Anniversary
Harry Tracosas. founder/president of Global Production Network

Global Production Network (GPN), which connects producers and production houses with a network of top-level production services companies internationally, is marking its 15-year anniversary. And while there have been varied changes in the worldwide production scene over that span, GPN founder/president Harry Tracosas said that certain constants have remained which have served his clients well, in turn contributing to his company's longevity.

For one, GPN thoroughly vets each of the production services companies and people in its network. "That's the basis of what we do, making sure that our clients will get what they need on both a production level and a human level," said Tracosas. "We provide them with a safety net, keeping them out of harm's way while getting them what they need to successfully deliver their production."

To ensure that success, GPN does much up-front research, providing its clients with such info as comparative country production costs, the availability of ethnically diverse talent, country infrastructure and logistics, talent buy-out costs and comparisons, and the ability of a single country to afford projects the looks available in multiple nations.

In recent months, GPN clients have produced projects in assorted countries including work for Aleve, Hyundai and Fage Yogurt in Chile, adidas and Samsung in China, Apple and Hyundai in  Croatia, Panadol in Denmark, Mercedes-Benz and Nokia in Dubai, Coke and Opel in Estonia, L'Oreal in Ireland, Apple in Kenya, Centrify in Poland, Marriott in Singapore, Budweiser in Spain and Thailand, and Sony in Uruguay.

Tracosas noted that some countries are gaining momentum as there's been a recent call for more remote places than he's had in the past. Asia, he shared, is gaining in popularity, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Mayanmar, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. GPN clients in the U.S., Germany and France have as of late opted to produce in these and other Asian locales.

And while South Africa, Spain and the Czech Republic continue to attract business, other lesser known sites are being discovered. Tracosas cited Estonia as an example--with clients in the U.K., France and Germany jumping over there for diverse looks as well as cost savings in budget-challenged times.

Motion Picture Academy Adds 5 LMGI Members
Five Location Managers Guild International (LMGI) members have just joined The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) class of 2018. Robin Citrin, Mike Fantasia, Ilt Jones, James Lin and Emma Pill—having distinguished themselves by their creative contributions to theatrical motion pictures—have joined the highly collaborative Designers Branch of the Academy. They are welcomed in good company by fellow LMGI and established Academy members, Lori Balton, Kokayi Ampah and Elston Howard.

“This is a powerful acknowledgment of the talent, creativity and the vital role location professionals bring to the design team. With this announcement, the number of LMGI members accepted into the Academy grows to eight,” said newly appointed LMGI president Mike Fantasia.

Citrin’s credits include The Aviator and Rain Man; Fantasia has worked on Munich and Memoirs of a Geisha; Jones on Black Panther and The Dark Knight Rises; Lin on Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Wonder Woman; and Pill on Spectre and Blade Runner 2049.

Founded in 2003 as a non-profit corporation, LMGI is an organization of experienced career professionals in the motion picture, TV, commercial, and print production industries. LMGI members are dedicated to the establishment of professional standards of personal conduct and business ethics. The Guild supports the formation of strong links with business members, governmental agencies and local communities.  The Guild promotes awareness of the goals and achievements of members to the general public and within the industry.

  • Friday, May. 18, 2018
Hot Locations: L.A. Feature Location Lensing Rises in Q1
Paul Audley, FilmL.A. president

On-location filming in Greater Los Angeles increased 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to a FilmL.A. report. In all, 9,724 Shoot Days (SD)* were logged during the period. On-location feature production experienced its first double digit bump since 2015 (4th quarter), up 11.7 percent to 814 SD.

Paul Audley, FilmL.A. president, said that contributing to that growth is the California Tax Credit program. Incentivized projects, brought to Los Angeles by that program, contributed 20 percent, or 161 of the shoot days in the feature category in the first quarter. Incentivized features that filmed in the first quarter of 2018 included Bird Box, Peppermint, The Devil Has a Name, Destroyer and Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel was one of seven films under California’s incentive program with budgets over $100 million and is the first Marvel project to film in the state since Captain America: Winter Soldier in 2014.

Despite a 7.4 percent (3,623 SD) decline in the television category overall, TV pilots saw a 22 percent increase, to 272 SD and TV dramas saw gains of 4.4 percent, to 1,044 SD. Decreases were seen in TV comedy (down 13.0 percent to 529 SD), TV reality (down 20.7 percent to 922 SD) and Web-based TV (down 28.7 percent to 362 SD).

Overall TV production is still tracking 0.4 percent ahead of its 5-year average. Incentivized TV drama projects contributed 50.3 percent, or 525 of the total shoot days in the category in the first quarter. Incentivized TV pilot projects contributed 24 percent or 65 of the total shoot days in the category. Incentivized TV comedy project counts totaled in at 89 SD or 17 percent of the category.
On-location commercials production rose 10 percent in the first quarter of 2018, to 1,633 SD. The category is tracking 10 percent above its 5-year average.

Roswell Project Wraps In Albuquerque
New Mexico Film Office director Nick Maniatis announced that the Untitled Roswell Project, a new pilot for Warner Bros. Television/Palladin Productions LLC, wrapped principal photography in Albuquerque back in March. The production employed 90 New Mexico crew members and approximately 800 New Mexico background talent.

The Untitled Roswell Project is produced by My So-Called Company, Amblin Television and Bender Brown Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. Carina Adly MacKenzie (The Originals) wrote the pilot script and serves as executive producer along with Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals), Justin Falvey (The Americans), Darryl Frank (The Americans), Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fiction) and Kevin Kelly Brown (Roswell). It is based on the Roswell High book series, written by Melinda Metz.

Starring Jeanine Mason, Nathan Parsons, Michael Vlamis, Lily Cowles, Michael Trevino, Tyler Blackburn and Heather Hemmens, the Untitled Roswell Project is the story of a daughter of immigrants who, after reluctantly returning to her hometown of Roswell, NM, discovers a shocking truth about her teenage crush who is now a police officer: He’s an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden his entire life. She protects his secret as the two reconnect and begin to investigate his origins, but when a violent attack and longstanding government cover-up point to a greater alien presence on Earth, the politics of fear and hatred threaten to expose him and destroy their deepening romance.

Bad Samaritan Shoots In Oregon
Electric Entertainment has wrapped Bad Samaritan starring Kerry Condon, David Tennant and Robert Sheehan, directed by Dean Devlin and written by Brandon Boyce. Bad Samaritan shot in and around Portland, Oregon. City landmarks figure prominently in the film which is about a pair of burglars who stumble upon a woman being held captive in a home they intended to rob.

  • Friday, Mar. 23, 2018
Hot Locations: California Takes Initiative With New Wrinkle
Ava DuVernay

California's expanded Film & TV Tax Credit Program 2.0 includes a provision called the Career Readiness Initiative that helps students from all walks of life gain access to production-related careers. It requires each project in the tax credit program to offer hands-on opportunities ranging from paid student internships and professional skills tours to teacher externships. So far, the feedback from students and educators has been overwhelmingly positive.  

A high-profile example of the initiative in action is Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. Director Ava DuVernay made career readiness and access to the filmmaking process a priority. She personally interviewed and selected three community college students for on-set internships and created an atmosphere of inclusiveness that has inspired the students to continue exploring careers in the production industry. Here are a few Career Readiness Initiative stats to date:

•  97 internships 
•  18-49 student age range 
•  30% of students from work-based learning programs
•  70% of students from community colleges
•  4 classroom workshops
•  24 teacher externships
•  48 projects made contributions to underwrite paid internships and scholarships

STARZ Series Counterpart Shoots In Berlin
The critically acclaimed STARZ Original series Counterpart began production on February 28 in Berlin.  The 10-episode second season of the one-hour scripted drama is from creator Justin Marks, Gilbert Films and Anonymous Content, with MRC serving as the studio for the series.  Season two of the espionage spy-fi thriller will continue production in Los Angeles later this year.

Betty Gabriel (Get Out, Purge: Election Year, Westworld) joins the cast as Naya Temple, a former FBI agent recently hired by the Office of Interchange to clean house. Gabriel is best known for her portrayal of Georgina in the Best Picture Oscar-nominated film Get Out.  

Gabriel joins Academy Award®-winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, The Accountant, Juno) who plays Howard Silk, Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense, Hyde Park on Hudson) as Emily Burton Silk, Harry Lloyd (The Theory of Everything, Jane Eyre) as Peter Quayle, Nicholas Pinnock (Captain America: The First Avenger) as Ian Shaw, Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland, Ben-Hur, Hotel Mumbai) as Clare, and Sara Serraiocco (Salvo, Cloro, Worldly Girl) as Baldwin.

Succession Wraps In New Mexico
After shooting previous episodes in New York, the HBO Drama series Succession recently came to New Mexico. A Succession episode was lensed during the second half of January in the state.

Succession starts off 2018 in what we are confident will be another booming year of production for our film industry in New Mexico,” said Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office. 

The production employed 89 New Mexico crew members and approximately 75 New Mexico background talent.

The HBO series is created by Jesse Armstrong and executive produced by Armstrong, Adam McKay, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick, Will Ferrell, Jane Tranter and Mark Mylod. Succession follows the Roy family—Logan Roy and his four adult children—who control one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. The series tracks the lives of the key members of the Roy family as they grapple with what the future will hold for them as their aging father begins to take a step back from the company.

  • Friday, Feb. 16, 2018
L.A. Lensing Marks 2nd Strongest Year On Record
Paul Audley

On-location filming in the Greater Los Angeles region achieved its second best year on record in 2017, according to data released by FilmL.A.

Last year on-location filming decreased 3.4 percent (from 39,627 Shoot Days to 38,284 Shoot Days) for a second-place annual finish compared to 2016. Meanwhile, according to new data, L.A. area sound stage occupancy remains above 92 percent.

FilmL.A.’s longest-running reporting effort, focused on production that takes place on-location within its service area, determined that filming levels in 2017 remained high despite finishing below 2016 totals.

On-location television production finished 2.1 percent above its five-year rolling average in 2017, despite slipping 7.6 percent (to 15,218 SD) compared to the prior year.

TV dramas ended last year 11.2 percent over the category’s five-year average, slipping 1.3 percent (to 4,385 SD) year over year. A 21.3 percent fourth-quarter increase helped, as did the California Film and TV Tax Credit program which continues to sustain local production. TV dramas saw 1,401 incentive-linked Shoot Days in 2017, which accounted for 32 percent of all activity for the year.

“Our ability to achieve and sustain a high level of production over the past few years is substantially due to the California Film and Television Tax Credit—which is creating thousands of jobs and returning high economic benefits to California,” said Paul Audley, FilmL.A. president.

Incentive-linked TV projects that filmed in 2017 included This Is Us, SWAT, Westworld, Lucifer, Shooter and the TV pilot project, Mayans.

On-location TV comedy production decreased 12.8 percent in 2017 (to 2,155 SD). TV pilot production also decreased 40.2 percent (to 441 SD). FilmL.A. analysts attribute the pilot decline to the significant number of scripted television series already available through broadcast, cable, and digital channels. 

Television subcategories ineligible for state incentives also decreased compared to 2016, including TV reality (down 8.3 percent to 4,383 SD), and web-based TV production (down 9.2 percent to 1,918 SD).

Meanwhile, on-location feature production decreased in 2017 (down 19.8 percent to 3,901 SD). FilmL.A. analysts note that while the total number of feature shoot days is down, the economic value of projects in this category may be increasing over time. Feature projects that qualify for California’s Film & Television Tax Credit tend to generate larger job and spending impacts than non-incentive-linked projects. In 2017, 61 feature projects filmed in Los Angeles, including 19 incentive-linked projects with a cast and crew count above 75 persons on-location. This is nearly twice the number of incentive-linked, similarly-sized projects the region captured in 2016. Incentive-linked features filming on-location in Los Angeles included Destroyer, A Wrinkle In Time, Bumblebee and Ad Astra.

Commercial production increased 9 percent in 2017 (to 5,548 SD) compared to the prior year. This is the strongest annual showing for commercials that FilmL.A. has ever observed.

In November 2017, FilmL.A. released its first comprehensive analysis of production occurring on certified sound stages in Greater Los Angeles. The analysis was made possible with the help of 12 studio partners (Culver Studios, Walt Disney Studios, Fox Studios, Los Angeles Center Studios, MBS Media Campus, Occidental Studios, Sunset Gower & Sunset Bronson Studios, Raleigh Studios, Sony Picture Studios, Warner Bros. Studios and Paramount Studios). Together, these partners control nearly 70 percent of the certified stage properties available for use in L.A.

During the first six months of 2017, the overall occupancy rate at studio partner facilities was 92 percent. During this time, scripted television series (including both one-hour and half-hour series) accounted for 63 percent of total stage and backlot-based film activity, generating 2,982 SD. Next came TV talk shows, with 753 SD, or 16 percent, of total stage activity. 

New Mexico Milestone
This past December marked the beginning of a yearlong celebration for New Mexico, commemorating the 120th year of filming in the state. Events extending throughout 2018 will recognize the milestone.

Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said,  “For 120 years, New Mexico has been at the heart of the film industry. We are continuing to build on that strong tradition by attracting new productions to New Mexico and creating the film industry’s greatest economic impact in New Mexico history, three years in a row.”

The film industry contributed over half a billion dollars of direct spending into the state’s economy last year.

The Highwaymen starts production in Louisiana
Netflix announced that The Highwaymen from director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks, The Founder) commenced principal photography in Louisiana. The feature film is produced by Casey Silver Productions, with Casey Silver (Godless, Mosaic) serving as producer. The cast is led by Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner (Molly’s Game, Hidden Figures), Academy Award® nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Hunger Games series), Academy Award® winner Kathy Bates (Disjointed, The Blind Side), John Carroll Lynch (The Founder, American Horror Story), Kim Dickens (Gone Girl, Fear of the Walking Dead (tv series)), Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Kong: Skull Island), and William Sadler (Power (tv series), The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist). The Highwaymen is written by John Fusco (Hidalgo, The Forbidden Kingdom), Academy Award® nominee Scott Frank (Godless, Out of Sight, Logan) and Hancock. 

Based on true events, the movie introduces us to Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and ex-partner Maney Gault who are drawn out of retirement in a last-ditch effort to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde. The Netflix Film is slated for release this year.

Serbia ups film incentives
Serbia has increased its film incentive program, now offering a 25% direct cast rebate for lensing in the country.

After supporting 28 projects in 2017, the Ministry of Economy decided to double the annual budget to 6,7 million EUR available in 2018, while minimum threshold and relevant entry criteria stay the same for most categories. The only change is related to TV series that are required to have minimum spending per episode of 100.000 EUR. 

The Ministry of Economy reports that in 2016, the total amount of production in Serbia amounted to 20,8 million eur (2,5 billion dinars) and in 2017 the total amount of investments made in film production was 31,9 million EUR (3,8 billion dinnars) which proved the effectiveness of the incentives initiative. With these successes in mind, the government has committed to building on these successes and ensuring that Serbia remains an attractive destination for filming of all kinds of entertainment media content.  

The program also applies to TV commercials with a total of 17 international advertising projects shot in 2017. 

The list of projects successfully completed in 2017 includes McMafia (BBC premieres on February 28, serviced by Work in Progress), Intrigo trilogy by Daniel Alfredson and Extinction (Universal Pictures, serviced by Work in Progress) and Incoming (Bennatar/Thomas, serviced by Red Production) together with South Indian blockbuster Vivegam (serviced by Clockwork Film production).

  • Friday, Dec. 22, 2017
Hot Locations: Recovery & Resilience in USVI, Houston, Florida
Luana Wheatley

While devastating hurricanes in recent months took their toll on the U.S. Virgin Islands, Houston and Florida, these locales have recovered or are at least well on the road to recovery, reaffirming the resilience of affected communities as they get back to business as usual on varied fronts, including filmmaking.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria both hit the U.S. Virgin Islands hard in September. But in recent weeks, Luana Wheatley, director of the USVI Film Office, shared, “We are starting to feel like we’ve turned the corner. Some of our locations are bruised but not lost. We’ve had heavy rains which have restored the lushness, reviving a lot of our landscapes and locations. The beaches are still beautiful. Choice locations have been cleared of debris. Filming inquiries are coming in again.”

Helping to spark these production inquires has been coverage from CNN, E! Entertainment and Good Morning America. “They’ve provided great exposure showing the recovery process,” said Wheatley. “And while they were here, they hired people and used services, visited restaurants, used accommodations, all helping the economy here.”

Wheatley acknowledged that there are still challenges that need to be met, one of them being accommodations. “While we might not have all our traditional hotel rooms available, we have rental villas, timeshares. Especially in  St. Thomas, our hotel product is down. But we’re able to find other creative and nontraditional accommodations.”

While cell phone service and Internet access is spotty in some areas, there are accessible hot spots. “All we ask is that people call us, talk things out. We’ll let you know up front if a project is doable. We’ve gotten quite a number of calls. We have a commercial coming in that’s planned for February, for example. Location managers and crews are starting to feel encouraged again.”

So too is there cause for optimism in Houston which withstood Hurricane Harvey, a force of nature that reached its peak on Sept. 1.  “It was an historic and horrifying event,” said Rick Ferguson, executive director of the Houston Film Commission. “But the perception from media coverage was that the entire city was under water, which just wasn’t true.”

In fact, in relatively short order, Houston hosted a cable narrative TV series shoot. Ferguson wasn’t at liberty to publicly identify the show at press time but noted that the production went off without a hitch. “There’s no way I’d want to downplay the dramatic effects of Harvey for many. The fact is, though, that we’ve been able to bounce back.”

The timing of that bounce back has been fortuitous, continued Ferguson, in that Houston is entering busy season for commercials, particularly automotive advertising. The prospects for a healthy car spot season are again good, according to Ferguson. “We’ve sent out information to our repeat clientele, to production companies that historically have been here in the fall and winter, letting them know all is well. Crews have recovered, are moving about and are accessible.”

Helping to buoy spirits in Houston was the World Series as the Astros were crowned champs of the baseball world in November. Ferguson noted that beyond promoting good feelings, Houston’s sports world continues to have a positive impact on commercialmaking. “We have so many outstanding athletes, many of whom are dedicated to keeping production here in Houston. There are big-name sports figures like J.J. Watt [of the NFL’s Houston Texans] endorsing products and helping to keep our commercial business thriving.”

Also in a thriving mode is production in Florida, which felt the impact of Hurricane Irma in September. In response to a query from SHOOT, Karen Smith, press secretary for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, stated, “While many residents and businesses were impacted greatly by Hurricane Irma, the state’s recovery has been swift. Luckily, the film and entertainment industry was not significantly impacted, and we are happy to report that Florida is open for business.”

  • Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
NY State Milestone: A Million Hires
Howard Zemsky

The Governor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development (MPTV) announced a milestone with more than one million hires supported by the New York State Film Tax Credit Program since 2011. That number represents almost 80 percent of all jobs in the program since its inception in 2004. The more than one million hires were created by 1,156 productions that have participated in the Program and have generated more than $16.8 billion in New York State spending.

“The Film Tax Credit Program is responsible for record-breaking economic impact, which supports our local small businesses and communities statewide and creates hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs across the Empire State each year, said Empire State Development (ESD) president, CEO and commissioner Howard Zemsky.  

Since taking office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has consistently supported the film tax credit program and most recently secured a funding extension through 2022 at $420 million a year. During his tenure, New York State has dramatically expanded the credit for postproduction, enacted a 10 percent additional credit for labor costs Upstate, increased the credit for relocated television productions and lowered the threshold for visual effects and animation. Since the program launched in 2004, New York has received a total of 1,648 applications, representing $25 billion in New York spending.

Miami-Dade County Launches Incentive Program
Miami-Dade County’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources’ Office of Film and Entertainment launched a local TV/film and digital entertainment production incentive program effective August 1. The program intends to help support individual film and entertainment projects that will benefit the industry workforce and boost the local economy. Productions will have to meet certain requirements to benefit from the program, including:

• The production must spend at least $1 million in Miami-Dade County on payroll (for Miami-Dade County residents only) and other expenditures.
• At least 70% of the entire production project must be produced in Miami-Dade County.
• Each production project is required to hire a minimum of 50 main cast and crew (employees) that are Miami-Dade County residents and must include at least one student/recent graduate who is enrolled at or recently graduated from a local college or university.
• Salaries for Miami-Dade County residents hired must be a minimum of the current living wage as defined by County law.
• At least 80% of vendors utilized on the production project must be Miami-Dade County-based registered businesses.

The rebate for qualifying productions would be a maximum of $100,000 per project. Each project’s eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis, and each project/grant agreement will be require approval by the Board of County Commissioners. Grants will only be disbursed after the project is completed and proof that all requirements were satisfied has been submitted.

“The local industry has been asking for the County’s assistance by enacting a local incentive program and now they have it,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez. “This is a vital industry for our local economy, and we want those who are a part of it to be able to work and live here, and not have to move away in order to pay their bills.”

Office of Film and Entertainment director Sandy Lighterman said, “We are excited to be able to offer this local TV/film and digital entertainment production incentive program to the industry. We anticipate this program will be able to stem the loss of our crew, acting talent and supporting businesses.

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