Tuesday, December 18, 2018
  • Monday, Nov. 19, 2018
Calif. Tax Credit Draws Big Budget Films, Lensing Beyond L.A.’s 30-Mile Zone
Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission
  • HOLLYWOOD, Calif.
  • --

California’s Film & TV Tax Credit Program 2.0 continues to attract big-budget features and production activity statewide as reflected in the latest round of film projects announced by the California Film Commission.

The 15 projects (10 non-independent, five independent) include the big-budget “Space Jam 2” and at least five films that plan to shoot outside the Los Angeles 30-Mile Zone. Four of the out-of-zone projects (“Janis,” “Cry, Baby,” “Lexi” and “Luminous”)* will film in the San Francisco area, while a feature titled “Palm Springs” will shoot in its namesake desert resort city.

“One of the goals for Program 2.0 is to bring production jobs and spending to regions across the state, and we’re beginning to see that happen more often and on a larger scale,” said Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film
Commission. 

A total of $73.3 million in tax credits has been reserved for the 15 projects, which are on track to generate $370 million in qualified expenditures. This figure includes $194.7 million in wages for below-the-line crew members. Based on data provided with each tax credit application, the projects will employ an estimated 2,300 crew, 750 cast and 28,000 extras/stand-ins (the latter measured in “man- days”) over a combined 554 shoot days. (Qualified expenditures are defined as wages to below-the-line workers and payments for equipment/vendors. Overall in-state production spending by the latest round 15 projects will be significantly greater with the addition of above-the-line wages and other expenditures that do not qualify for California tax credits.)

Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam 2” alone is on track to generate more than $100 million in qualified spending, including almost $43.2 million in below-the-line wages. The long-awaited sequel produced by Ryan Coogler and starring LeBron James is the latest in a growing list of big-budget films choosing California over locales that offer more aggressive financial incentives.

The five new out-of-zone projects plan to spend 88 filming days in San Francisco, Riverside and Kern Counties. Topping the list are CBS Films’ “Lexi” with 30 filming days in San Francisco, and the Andy Samberg comedy “Palm Springs” with 20 of its 25 filming days in the desert city.

The 10 non-independent projects in the latest round of films set to tap into Tax Credit Program 2.0 are: “24/7” (Universal City Studios), “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” (20th Century Fox), “Cry, Baby” (Cry Baby Productions), “Lexi” (CBS Films), “Margaritaville” (Lions Gate Entertainment), “Marlowe” (Amazon Studios), “Marry Me” (Universal City Studios), “Mouse Guard” (20th Century Fox), “Space Jam 2” (Warner Bros. Pictures), and “Unicorn” (1440 Productions).

The five indie projects are: “Janis” (Atlas Entertainment), “Luminous” (JB Productions), “Palm Springs” (Kablamo! Productions), “Stuck at the Office” (Sato Productions), and “The Walk” (Big One Productions).

A total of 37 film projects applied for tax credits during the October 15-19 application period. (The lineup of approved projects is subject to change, as applicants may withdraw from the program and their reservation of tax credits is reassigned to one or more other projects currently on the wait list. A subsequent application period for TV projects was held November 5 – 9, with selected projects scheduled to be announced December 10th. The next application period for feature film tax credits will be held February 25 – March 1, 2019.

Projects approved for California tax credits are selected based on their jobs ratio score, which ranks each project by wages to below-the-line workers, qualified spending for vendors, equipment, etc., and other criteria. The top 200% ranked projects in each round (i.e., those that would qualify if double the amount of funding was available for the current allocation round) are evaluated, and those with the highest-ranked jobs ratios receive tax credits. Those not selected are placed on the waiting list. The program allocates funding in “buckets” for different production categories, including non-independent films, independent films, TV projects and relocating TV series. This enables applicants to compete for credits directly against comparable projects. As has been the case since the state launched its first- generation tax credit program in 2009, the California Film Commission awards tax credits only after each selected project: 1) completes postproduction, 2) verifies that in-state jobs were created, and 3) provides all required documentation, including audited cost reports.

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