Filming incentives and why perception matters
Filming incentives play a large role in steering big-budget studio productions and where they choose to shoot, but international perceptions can also have a major impact.
Louisiana’s filming incentive was capped last year for the first time in its history. Capped, but not cancelled – indeed, the fund limit was set to $180m a year, which still makes it among the most generous in the US.
However, confusion appears to have followed. The number of crew jobs available in Louisiana reportedly plummeted by a staggering 75% in April. A New Orleans film crew workers’ union partly attributed this to a perception that the incentive had in fact been completely cancelled.
Crew jobs have since increased and Louisiana’s production future looks rosier – in the short-term at least. However, the truth remains that in an era where perceptions and feelings carry the same weight as fact, misinformation can carry dramatic economic consequences.
Louisiana’s film industry challenges may have been partly the fault of individuals in the local business itself. Loud but isolated rumours of an exodus of crew from Louisiana to Atlanta when the annual cap was implemented were intended to put pressure on the state government to abandon the funding limit, but may also have helped power rumours that the incentive had been removed altogether or that expertise was no longer widely available in Louisiana itself.
Even a whiff of financial uncertainty is enough to put off producers looking to get the most they can for their inherently risky filming endeavours.
When states, provinces and countries make only short-term commitments to tax credit programmes – of perhaps one or two years – producers question authorities’ enthusiasm for Hollywood productions.
Features may need more time in development and TV shows want to know they won’t have to move if they run to three or four seasons.
Pennsylvania is a case in point in the US. The eastern state was considered as the filming location for a lavish adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel American Gods (pictured), but a long delay in the renewal of the state tax incentive meant the producers ended up choosing the more predictable financial support in Toronto.
A filming incentive’s scope and structure can say a lot about whether an authority has taken the time to understand how the production industry works and what kind of shoots it is looking to attract.
The truly eager will then show how much they want to welcome Hollywood by organising familiarisation trips and by revealing a willingness to negotiate any additional requests from producers. They may even send a delegation to meet with studio heads and sell their locations and production support to the rich and famous in person.
Local personal passion can be a head-turning presence for producers whose primary focus remains the finances, but who are looking for that something extra when searching for the best value for money and a smooth production experience.
American Gods BTS image: Jan Thijs / Starz / FremantleMedia North America