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World of Locations Screen International

Overview

Here we provide a breakdown of the key US territories and what they have to offer....

California

The Golden State has long been a destination for filmmakers, with a well-established production infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, year-round shoot-friendly weather, iconic locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Death Valley, Sequoia national park and elsewhere, and, of course, the biggest and starriest talent pool in the world.

The state gave the greenlight to restart production after the pandemic lockdown in mid-June though it was not until early September that Hollywood studios and film unions issued their Covid 19 Return to Work Agreement, laying out terms for shooting up to the end of April 2021. 

Production has resumed slowly and in early September FilmLA, which issues permits for on-location filming in Los Angeles County, reported activity in its region was at 44% of the normal late-summer level. 

Back on set

Features including Michael Bay-produced thriller Songbird and independent romance A California Christmas were among the first projects to shoot successfully under the new procedures. But there have also been instances of temporary shutdowns after positive Covid-19 tests, most notably on daytime soap Days Of Our Lives and CBS comedy series Young Sheldon. The pandemic has also caused belt-tightening in California’s 2020-21 state budget, which includes a clause that, until the end of 2022, effectively lengthens the process of utilising film and TV tax credits worth more than $5m.

California’s upgraded tax incentive programme, introduced in 2015, saw the state begin to win back some of the runaway production that had been leaving for Canada and other US states since the end of the 1990s.

California’s 2.0 film and TV tax credit programme — designed in part to attract bigger-budget features and TV series that had shot previous seasons in other locations — tripled the size of the state’s annual incentive pool to $330m, eliminated budget caps, designated funding pots to four different types of productions and introduced a ‘jobs ratio’ selection formula to replace the original programme’s lottery system.

The 2.0 programme allocated credits to 243 productions over five years, with the number of projects benefiting each year remaining fairly steady but the total in-state spending associated with the projects climbing. In total, productions in the programme generated $11bn in direct in-state spending.

Features to shoot in California under the programme include the Disney/Fox family adventure Call Of The Wild (which reserved credits worth $17.1m on qualified expenditures of $82.3m), Warner Bros’ comic-book feature Birds Of Prey (with credits of $12.6m from a $63m qualified spend), Sundance comedy Palm Springs (with $2.5m in credits from a $12.6m spend) and Lionsgate’s drama Bombshell. Upcoming productions with credits already reserved include Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes 3 (expected to make $106.8m in qualified expenditures, the second-highest total ever under the 2.0 programme) and Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood silent-era story Babylon (set to make an $83.4m qualified spend).

TV projects to have shot include HBO’s untitled series about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers basketball team (with $18.4m in credits from a $90.9m qualifying spend) and Netflix comedy series Special, which relocated from Texas.

The third way

The 2.0 programme, which came to the end of its fifth and final year in June 2020, has helped stem the tide of runaway production but not stopped it altogether — projects that were not selected for California credits over the programme’s first four years but were still made spent $3.55bn in other states, according to California Film Commission.

The California industry is hoping the 3.0 tax credit programme, which runs 2020-25, will continue the push to reclaim production business for the state. The latest iteration still has $330m a year to allocate, but increases the portion of that total available to independent films from 5% to 8% and splits the independent pot into two categories: projects of less than or more than $10m. At the same time, the portion of the total available to relocating TV series will be cut from 20% to 17%.

The new programme will also provide an additional 5% credit on wages paid to workers from outside the Los Angeles area and eliminate the additional 5% credit for music scoring wages.

Other changes include the extension of the carry-forward period for the credit from five to eight years as well as requirements for the provision of a written anti-harassment policy and (for applicants other than those making sub $10m independent films) a summary of voluntary moves to increase staffing diversity.

Among the first projects approved for credits under the 3.0 programme have been Netflix action thriller The Gray Man (which has had $20m in credits reserved), independent drama Faster, Cheaper, Better (with $2.5m) and Universal’s untitled Jordan Peele feature (with $8.4m).

Infrastructure and crews

As the long-standing home of the film business, California has a massive production infrastructure, with most of it concentrated in the Greater Los Angeles area. It boasts hundreds of equipment rental houses, production and post facilities and a huge crew base.

The state has 5.2 million square feet of stage space, according to FilmLA, most of it also around Los Angeles. But with many facilities operating at near full capacity — especially between February and April, when pilots for new TV series are shot — stages, particularly those bigger than 30,000 square feet, can be hard to come by. Major facilities in the Los Angeles area include Fox Studios, Sony Pictures, Los Angeles Center Studios, Raleigh Studios, Allied Studios, Culver Studios (which is being expanded for new tenant Amazon) and Crimson Studios in Chatsworth, with five stages and 40,000 square feet of space.

Among new facilities in the area are Quixote Studios’ five-stage complex with 75,000 square feet, and LA North Studios, a former warehouse with four stages and 125,000 square feet. Other studios that have recently expanded include NBCUniversal, Santa Clarita Studios and Warner Bros, and plans were recently approved for Line 204, a new studio that will comprise 10 stages over 240,000 square feet.

In Northern California, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are home to Pixar, Dolby, Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, American Zoetrope and dozens of other production, animation, film technology and effects companies.

The Bay Area around San Francisco has seen the opening of two facilities adapted for filming: Mare Island, with 200,000 square feet of soundstage space, and Treasure Island Hangar 3, with 79,000 square feet.

Size matters

California is the most populous US state and the third largest by size, stretching 770 miles from the US-Mexico border at its southern end to the mountains and forests beyond state capital Sacramento in the north. Los Angeles and San Diego in the south to San Francisco and San Jose two thirds of the way up the state’s Pacific coastline is about 90 minutes by air or a seven-hour drive on the extensive freeway system.

Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport — both 11 to 12-hour flights from Europe — are the major hubs for visitors from overseas, but there are also about a dozen large commercial airports, among them San Diego International, with flights to London, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Vancouver and Toronto, and San Jose International, with flights to London, Beijing, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Vancouver.

Most of the state’s production facilities are within an hour or two of one of the big airports, though traffic congestion is a factor in the major cities.

First person to contact

Colleen Bell, executive director, California Film Commission 

@ cbell@film.ca.gov 

Georgia

Georgia’s generous tax credit of up to 30% and fast-growing industry infrastructure has made it the third-largest production centre in the US, after only New York and California, and the state has become especially popular with big-budget studio features. Georgia hosted 391 film and TV projects in its fiscal year 2019, down from 455 in fiscal 2018, though direct film and TV spending in the state was up from $2.7bn to $2.9bn. The 2019 tally included 26 studio features, 31 independent films and 214 TV series.

In April, it was one of the first US states to be given the greenlight to restart production following the spring shutdown. 

Major features to shoot in the state in recent years include Warner Bros and DC Entertainment’s The Suicide Squad, Net­flix action comedy Red Notice, MGM’s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Warner’s Clint Eastwood drama Richard Jewell and Sony’s action comedy Jumanji: The Next Level.

New TV and streaming projects including Apple’s Amazing Stories and The Banker, HBO’s Watchmen and The Outsider and National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha have shot in Georgia, joining established series such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and Netflix’s Stranger Things and Ozark that make the state their ongoing home.

The Georgia industry, though, continues to face boycott threats from Holly­wood, with the most recent coming because of the ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban bill passed by the state last year. A number of industry figures vowed to shoot projects elsewhere if the bill became law at the start of 2020, but as of mid-June the regulation was still being blocked by the US court system and Democratic state lawmakers were pushing legislation to repeal it altogether.

Georgia also faces the prospect of tighter oversight of its film and TV tax credit programme in future after the recent release of state reports suggesting inadequate controls on the granting of credits. In spring 2020, a bill calling for mandatory audits of productions applying for credits and other restrictions was moving through the state legislature.

Infrastructure and crews

The state’s crew base draws from more than 30,000 film workers. Its infrastructure includes some of the biggest soundstage facilities in the US and more than 3,000 film and TV-related businesses. Major facilities include EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta, with 10 soundstages, Blackhall Studios with nine soundstages, Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta, Savannah Film Factory, Riverwood Studios and Pinewood Atlanta Studios, the third largest facility in the US, with 18 soundstages (15,000 to 40,000 square feet) and a 400-acre backlot.

Three Ring Studios, targeting bigger feature productions, is under construction on a 200-acre site 40 miles from Atlanta, and the first phase of the 12-stage Tyler Perry Studios is open near Atlanta. Georgia’s growing list of effects facilities includes Method Studios, Crafty Apes, Spin VFX and FuseFX. 

Size matters 

Nestled in the south-east corner of the US, Georgia extends about 300 miles from north to south and about 250 miles from east to west, with capital Atlanta in the north and Savannah on the Atlantic coast. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport offers non-stop flights to all large US cities as well as destinations including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Doha. Flight time to Los Angeles is about five hours and to New York about two hours.

First person to contact

Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner, Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office Lthomas@georgia.org

New York

New York state has always offered film and TV producers a huge pool of acting and behind-the-camera talent as well as iconic locations. But it has been the state’s tax credit programme that has driven growth over the last decade, providing incentives to more than 2,200 projects spending $30.4bn locally since 2011. The programme has been extended until the end of 2025 with funding of $420m a year, though the level of credits was cut from 30% to 25% and the minimum spend requirement for some films increased to $1m. 

Pre-pandemic, features and high-end TV productions to have shot in New York in recent years include Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II, STX’s Hustlers, Focus Features’ Never Rarely Sometimes Always, A24’s Uncut Gems and Netflix’s Marriage Story. TV and streaming series based in the state include HBO’s Succession, Netflix’s Russian Doll and NBC’s Law And Order: Special Victims Unit. 

The state’s post-production credit is widely used, having received more than 600 applications from projects spending $829m since 2012. Effects-heavy films that have taken advantage include Disney’s Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Searchlight Pictures’ Wendy and MGM/Orion’s Gretel & Hansel.

The coronavirus pandemic hit New York hard but by early summer the state had fewer cases per capita than most other US location hubs. Production guidelines — including a 100-person limit on cast and crew shooting exterior locations on public property — were issued and by October a number of projects — mostly TV series such as Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant — were in production or pre-production.

Even without the challenges of Covid-19, the next few years could be demanding for New York’s production industry as the state faces increased competition from other states and international location hotspots. In the third quarter of 2019, (the most recent period for which figures are available) New York received 53 eligible applications for estimated credits totalling $348.9m, well down on the 73 applications for $398.3m in credits for 2018’s third quarter.

Latest Covid-19 protocols

governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/MediaProductionShortGuidance.pdf

Infrastructure and crews

New York has one of the most experienced talent and crew pools in the world and an infrastructure that has been growing fast. The state has about 1.8 million square feet of dedicated stage space, with major facilities, most in New York City, including Steiner Studios, which has 21 stages and nearly 260,000 square feet of space, York Studios, Silvercup Studios, Kaufman Astoria Studios and Broadway Stages. Among the facilities that should come online in coming years are Lionsgate’s planned studio in Yonkers, with 70,000 square feet of studio space, and Netflix’s production hub in Brooklyn, which will have six stages. Steiner Studios is set to build a facility in Brooklyn and UK investment fund Great Point Management — a backer of the Lionsgate Yonkers project — is also planning a studio complex in the upstate city of Buffalo.

Recently opened New York post-production houses include Mr X Gotham and local outposts of Sixteen19 and Fuse, while expansion is underway at Deluxe, Phosphene, Molecule and Technicolor among others. 

Size matters

The state extends 300 miles north and west from its namesake city, and has one of the most extensive transport infrastructures in the country. New York City is served by John F Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and there are seven other international airports in the state. Flight time to Europe is about seven hours and to Los Angeles about four-and-a-half hours.

First person to contact

Yoni Bokser, acting executive director, NYS Governor’s Office of Motion Picture & Television Development @ nyfilm@esd.ny.gov

 

Florida

The south-eastern state’s iconic locations and small pots of financing mean it is never far from the locations radar of international producers. John Hazelton reports.

Film and TV production in Florida took a big hit when the state’s tax credit programme was allowed to sunset in 2016, but the area’s year-round sunshine, remaining film and TV infrastructure and locations — such as South Beach, the city of Miami and the Florida Keys — are still attracting producers.

A number of the state’s 67 counties have their own, relatively small incentive programmes. These include Pinellas County’s cash rebate programme, run by St Petersburg-Clearwater Film Commission, that pays up to 10% on qualified above- and below-the-line expenditures with no minimum spend. 

Miami-Dade County offers grants of up to $100,000 to productions spending a minimum of $1m and doing at least 70% of their production work locally. Duval County, centred on the city of Jacksonville, has a performance-based programme that offers 10% on qualified expenditures for productions spending at least $50,000 and hiring local residents. 

Ramping up production

All areas of Florida have now reopened for production with no state-wide Covid 19 safety mandates (other than those agreed by unions and studios for the entire US), though local film commissions may have their own requirements for granting permits.

As of mid-October, only smaller productions such as commercials and unscripted TV shows were already filming, though bigger projects — including season two of OWN’s David Makes Man and independent feature Three Months — were reportedly preparing to shoot. 

In recent years the state’s distinctive locations have attracted Sony’s buddy cop sequel Bad Boys For Life, the third series of Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and three Netflix-backed films: Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and crime drama The Last Thing He Wanted starring Anne Hathaway. 

Among projects doing more extensive shoots in the state have been A24’s award-winning drama Waves, Sundance entry Zola, John Leguizamo’s Critical Thinking and National Geographic/Disney+ scripted series The Right Stuff. 

Scott Rosenfelt, producer of Critical Thinking, about the real-life Miami high school chess team that became the first inner-city winner of the US national championship, says: “We were really loathe to make a movie about Miami Jackson Senior High School and make it in Atlanta, although believe me that was suggested early on by various parties. The positive part about Miami and the whole area is it’s enjoyable working there. The culture, the food, the arts scene — it’s a great place to go make a movie.”

Cassian Elwes, producer of The Last Thing He Wanted, says the project took a week out of its main shoot in Puerto Rico to film scenes set in various parts of the US in Florida. 

“It was a two-hour plane trip from Puerto Rico to Florida, so it was very easy to bring in people to prep the set and ship the equipment that we needed,” he explains. “We found enough in Florida that we could make it all work and the logistics of shooting there were great.”

The Last Thing He Wanted shot in July, one of the state’s hottest summer months. “There weren’t so many tourists and hotels were quite empty and easy to get,” Elwes says. “It is a great location, cosmopolitan, with lots of different looks and the local film commissions were very user-friendly.” The lack of a Florida tax credit “was the big drawback”, Elwes confirms. But that was outweighed, he says, by the ease of access to the state from the film’s primary location: “Miami is a major hub and it was very easy to go back and forth to Puerto Rico.” 

Infrastructure and crews

The state has about 850 active members of film, TV and theatre workers union IATSE, making for a crew depth of between three and four. Studio facilities include Universal Studios Florida, Chapman/Leonard Studios and Full Sail University Soundstages in Orlando; Telemundo Studios, Cachita Universal Studios and EUE Screen Gems/Viacom International Studios in Miami; G-Star Studios in Palm Beach; and Stage 41 at Ringling College in Sarasota.

Size matters

Occupying the peninsula at the south-east corner of the US, Florida extends about 350 miles from Miami in the south to Jacksonville in the north, and about the same distance from Jacksonville in the east to Pensacola in the west. Freeways connect those cities as well as Tampa, Orlando and St Petersburg, the state’s other major conurbations. Flights from Miami to Los Angeles take about five-and-a-half hours and from Miami to London about eight-and-a-half hours. 

First person to contact

Niki Welge, film commissioner, Film In Florida – The Florida Office of Film & Entertainment 

@ niki.welge@deo.myflorida.com

 

Louisiana

Louisiana was one of the first US states to lure production away from Hollywood with tax incentives some 15 years ago. Three years ago the state’s incentive programme was revamped, making it less lucrative but more stable through the imposition of separate annual caps for claiming and issuing credits.

The revamp has renewed producers’ confidence in the programme and seen production levels rise again, helping support a growing production infrastructure. Certified spending in the state by film and TV companies totalled $538.5m in 2019, up from $446.8m in 2018, according to Louisiana Entertainment. Certified payroll spending climbed to $167.5m from $148.2m.

Projects to shoot in Louisiana since the revamped programme took effect range from studio films such as Fox’s Ben Affleck thriller Deep Water and Universal’s romance The Photograph to independent features including franchise revivals Bill & Ted Face The Music and Jay And Silent Bob Reboot, A24’s Joaquin Phoenix drama C’mon C’mon, Tom Hanks war story Greyhound and One Night In Miami, the narrative feature directing debut of Oscar-winning actress Regina King.

TV reruns

Television series that return regularly to shoot in the state include CBS spin-off NCIS: New Orleans (which has now shot six seasons in Louisiana), Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar (with five seasons), basic cable crime drama Queen Of The South (also five) and Showtime comedy On Becoming A God In Central Florida (with two).

Among new series recently setting up shop in the state have been Showtime’s Bryan Cranston drama Your Honor, Quibi short-form episodic #FreeRayshawn and Hulu limited series Looking For Alaska.

Louisiana is one of a number of US states that recently passed bills calling for ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion bans, leading to threats of production boycotts from some Hollywood film companies and producers. As of mid-June, however, the Louisiana heartbeat bill was being blocked from going into effect by the US court system and production levels in the state appear not to have been affected.

Infrastructure and crews

Since its production boom began in the early 2000s, Louisiana’s crew base has more than quadrupled in size, according to Louisiana Economic Development, and now takes in more than 15 crews. The state is home to more than 1,200 members of film and TV unions including the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Teamsters. 

The state’s infrastructure has also grown rapidly and now includes Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge, claimed to be the largest design-built studio in the US, and Second Line Stages in New Orleans, the first independent studio in the US certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building programme. Other soundstage and post-production facilities include Starlight Studios and Big Easy Studios in New Orleans, Digital FX and Pixel Magic in Baton Rouge, The Louisiana Wave Studio and StageWorks of Louisiana in Shreveport, Nims Center Studios in Harahan and the St John Center Soundstage in LaPlace.

Size matters

Known as the Pelican State, Louisiana is wedged between Texas and Mississippi along the US’s Gulf of Mexico coast and bordered to the east by the Mississippi river, whose coastal marshes and swamps make up a large portion of the state’s southern half. 

The state extends about 300 miles from New Orleans in the south east to Shreveport in the north west, with New Orleans being a four-hour flight from Los Angeles and a three-hour flight from New York. Louisiana’s Gulf coast location means that productions can sometimes be disrupted by tropical storms or hurricanes in summer and early autumn, as it was in July 2019 when tropical storm Barry made landfall.

First person to contact

Stephen Hamner, director, film, Louisiana Entertainment stephen.hamner@la.gov 

 

Mississippi

By offering incentives in the form of 25%-30% cash rebates, Mississippi has built up a modest but steady film and TV production business over the two decades of the US production incentives era.

In 2017 the state’s industry was dealt a blow when the portion of the rebate programme applying to non-resident cast and crew lapsed, but in 2019 that attractive benefit was reinstated and production has picked up again. 

Recent projects shooting in Mississippi have included AGC Studios’ Jake Gyllenhaal-produced thriller Breaking News In Yuba County, with The Help’s Tate Taylor once again directing on his home turf; musical biopic Blaze, written and directed by Ethan Hawke; the pilot for NBC series Bluff City Law; Blumhouse’s Octavia Spencer thriller Ma and Paul Schrader’s crime drama The Card Counter. 

Mississippi has issued a set of best practices for shooting during the coronavirus pandemic allowing The Card Counter — which had been shut down because of a positive Covid-19 test in March — to finally finish its shoot in July. Further visiting productions since the state re-opened have included the Morgan Freeman-Ruby Rose action thriller Vanquish, directed by George Gallo.

Bill controversy

Mississippi is among the US states that last year passed bills calling for ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion bans, resulting in threats of production boycotts from a number of Hollywood film companies and producers. Like those in most other states, however, the Mississippi bill was blocked by courts and did not go into effect. Early in 2020, the bill was again blocked, this time at the appeals court level, and film and TV production in Mississippi does not appear to have been adversely affected.

Infrastructure and crews

Crew depth in the state is between one and two. And because Mississippi is a ‘right-to-work’ state — meaning that workers cannot be denied employment because of membership or non-membership of a union — productions often use crews that include both union and non-union personnel.

There are no large studios, but local production companies include Gulf Coast Studios in Gulfport, 13 South Productions in Lena, Kai Productions/Reel Walk Cinema in Jackson and commercials specialist The Digital Brigade in Madison.

Equipment companies in the state include Devain Lighting in Jackson and Gonzaflex Productions in Biloxi, and among the local editing facilities is Gulf Coast Filmworks in Long Beach.

Size matters

Mississippi sits in the south-eastern US, between busy filmmaking state Louisiana on one side and Alabama on the other, with the Mississippi river forming its western border and the Gulf of Mexico at its southern end.

The state’s five distinct geographic regions are the hills, with its pre-Civil War homes and towns; the Delta, a mostly agricultural area with a rich musical culture; the pines, with wilderness and modern cities; the capital/river region around the city of Jackson; and the coast, with beaches and islands.

Extending 350 miles from north to south and 170 from east to west, the state has nine interstate highways linking cities including Jackson, Gulfport, Southhaven, Hattiesburg and Biloxi. The state’s two international airports are in Jackson and Gulfport and flight times to Los Angeles and New York are about six hours and four hours respectively.

Like several states in this part of the US, Mississippi can experience tropical storms or hurricanes during the summer and early autumn.

First person to contact

Nina Parikh, Mississippi Film Office @ nparikh@mississippi.org 

 

New Mexico

Having cleared a payments backlog that temporarily limited the popularity of its longstanding incentives programme, New Mexico saw a resurgence in film and TV production in fiscal 2019, with the number of projects spending $1m or more shooting  in the state increasing to 43 from 38 the previous year and direct spending more than doubling to $525.5m. 

Much of the increase was down to Netflix, which according to the state spent more than $150m locally in the year since it agreed to open its first US production hub in New Mexico. Projects shot in the state for the global streamer so far have included El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Zack Snyder horror film Army Of The Dead, high-school action comedy series Daybreak and drama series Messiah, while visiting productions from other companies have included Focus Features’ drama Half Brothers and Sony’s Tom Hanks western News Of The World, directed by Paul Greengrass. 

Because of the spring shutdown, the number of $1m-plus projects shooting in New Mexico’s fiscal 2020 (which ended June 30) dropped to 27, with a fall in direct spending to $396.8m. But the state re-opened for production, under Covid 19 guidelines, in September and hosted its first big project in Netflix’s Idris Elba western The Harder They Fall. That project, however, reportedly paused shooting temporarily in mid-October, five weeks into its schedule, because of a positive Covid-19 test on a member of the production team.

Infrastructure and crews

Soundstage facilities in major city Albuquerque include Albuquerque Studios, bought at the start of 2019 by Netflix, and NBCUniversal’s new ABQ Studios. Facilities in and around state capital Santa Fe include Santa Fe Studios, Garson Studios and the recently opened Camel Rock Studios, a 75,000 square foot former casino said to be the first studio owned by a Native American tribe. The state has enough crews for about seven major productions and local production companies include Captivate Media, Fantome Films and Indieproduction.

Size matters

New Mexico, the fifth-largest US state, has major airports in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Roswell. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are about an hour’s drive apart and both are under two hours by air from Los Angeles and six from New York.

First person to contact

Amber Dodson, director, New Mexico Film Office 

@ amberl.dodson@state.nm.us

 

Oregon

Oregon’s three-tiered cash rebate incentive programme, its relative proximity to Los Angeles and its range of locations have helped fuel the growth of the north-west state’s production sector over the past few years. The state provided all the locations for Kelly Reichardt’s Sundance and Berlin title First Cow and hosted Netflix feature Sorta Like A Rock Star, Disney+ feature Timmy Failure and Hulu series Shrill

Laika Entertainment turned out best animated feature Oscar nominee Missing Link from its Portland base and the city’s branch of animation studio Shadow­Machine is housing Guillermo del Toro’s reimagining, for Netflix, of Pinocchio

Infrastructure and crews

Oregon has a crew depth of between four and five. Soundstage studios, all in the state’s largest city of Portland, include Picture This Production Services & Stage, Cine Rent West and New Era Studios (formerly Zarr Studios). 

Size matters

Occupying nearly 100,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest region of the US, Oregon encompasses a rugged coastline, dense forests, high deserts, volcanoes, part of the Cascades mountain range and Crater Lake national park. The major cities, strung along a central interstate highway, are Portland and Salem in the north and Eugene further south. Four airports — Portland in the north, Eugene and Bend/Redmond in the centre and Medford in the south — offer multiple direct flights to Los Angeles each day. Flight times are about two-and-a-half hours to Los Angeles and five hours to New York.

First person to call

Tim Williams, executive director, Oregon Film tim@oregonfilm.org 

Hawaii

Hawaii’s 20%-25% credit programme and beach and jungle locations have created a healthy local industry, and in 2019 film and TV production generated an estimated $405m of direct spending in the Pacific island state. That was down from $477m in 2018, a drop attributed in part to a rush of productions shooting in Hawaii before the imposition of a $50m rolling annual cap on the state’s incentive programme (which had effectively been uncapped before) from the beginning of 2019.

Features to have shot recently in Hawaii include Taika Waititi’s comedy Next Goal Wins, about the American Samoa football team, which is based on a UK documentary. 

Magnum P.I., the rebooted CBS crime series just picked up for a third season, continues to be based in Hawaii, while CBS’s rebooted TV crime series Hawaii Five-0 recently ended its 10-year run shooting locally, promising to free up scarce studio space for other productions.

The state has one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 infection in the US and hopes are high it will reopen to international production soon.

Infrastructure and crews

The state-owned Hawaii Film Studio in capital city Honolulu has been occupied for the past decade by TV series Hawaii Five-0 but has become available again after the show’s cancellation. Other, smaller facilities include Hawaii Media and Island Film Group, both also on Oahu, and Pan Pacific Studios, the only soundstage on Maui. Producers and production companies active locally include FX Group, A2 Media and Confair Productions. The workforce is three crews deep and the state has several local chapters of the major film labour unions. 

Size matters

About 2,500 miles off the west coast of the US mainland, Hawaii’s main islands are Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui and Hawaii. Honolulu International Airport on Oahu is the major commercial aviation hub, with flight times of five hours to Los Angeles and 10 hours to Australia.

First person to contact

Donne Dawson, state film commissioner, Hawaii Film Office donne.dawson@hawaii.gov 

Montana

Montana’s topography of snow-capped mountain ranges, Great Plains prairie and stark badlands — along with the spectacular Glacier and Yellowstone national parks — has long made it a popular location for western films, TV shows and car commercials. But the state is making efforts to appeal to a wider range of productions, with a new tax credit replacing an incentive that ended in 2014, and moves by local companies to develop more production infrastructure.

The new incentive, which came into effect under the Montana Economic Development Industry Advancement Act (Media) in mid-2019 and is set to run through 2029, offers a base 20% transferable income tax credit on in-state spending with add-ons that can boost the level to as much as 35%, with an annual cap for the programme of $10m. 

Between the start of 2019 and mid-2020, 122 productions, including 32 features and documentaries and 34 TV projects, were certified to shoot in the state, with the 117 that completed filming spending $23.9m locally. Among the visiting features were Anna Kerrigan’s independent drama Cowboys (a prize-winner at Tribeca Film Festival) and Cold Iron Pictures’ thriller God’s Country starring Thandie Newton. 

Initially less affected than many other US states by the pandemic, Montana never fully closed to film and TV production. It experienced a surge of Covid 19 cases in the early autumn, but as of mid-October it was still in the second phase of its three-phase re-opening plan, with producers and crew free to operate while maintaining social distancing and following advice from national health authorities. There were no restrictions on crew size, though the state “strongly encourage[d]” the smallest crews possible and asked producers to bring only “essential crew” into Montana.

Paramount TV’s Kevin Costner series Yellowstone, which shoots regularly in the state, was among the first projects to resume filming, finishing its third season in July and starting its fourth season in late August. Independent western feature The Last Son Of Isaac LeMay, with Heather Graham and Sam Worthington, shot locally in October. 

Infrastructure and crews 

Studio space in Montana is limited but growing. Yellowstone Film Ranch, a western town set built in the picturesque Paradise Valley near the city of Bozeman, offers production offices, storage, catering and set building. Montana Studios has production, office and storage space at its facility near Missoula and recently bought a building in Butte that it plans to turn into a production centre. 

The state has around 700 crew members and can staff around two independent feature productions at a time — more when projects use a mix of local and incoming crew, as most do. 

Size matters 

Sharing its longest border with Canada, the north-western state of Montana extends 250 miles from north to south and 630 miles from east to west, making it the fourth-largest state in the US (with the third-lowest population density). Capital Helena is in the mountainous western half of the state, as are major airports Bozeman Yellowstone International and Missoula International, with Billings Logan International serving the state’s central and eastern regions. Flights to Los Angeles take about four hours and to New York about six. 

First person to contact

Allison Whitmer, film commissioner, Montana Film Office 

@ allison.whitmer@mt.gov

 

Oklahoma

Oklahoma is wooing productions that might otherwise choose Canada and other south central and western US production centres with an enhanced financial incentive. Already offering a generous 35%-37% cash rebate, the programme had its annual cap doubled to $8m and its sunset extended three years to mid-2027. 

Crucially, legislators have also added a provision granting an exception to the annual cap for bigger-budget films and TV series. The enhancements could help a state with some impressive locations — including prairies, mountains and mesas but a limited film infrastructure —become more competitive. 

Projects shot in Oklahoma recently include Sundance grand jury prize (dramatic) winner Minari, locally set drama To The Stars, indie thriller Wild Indian, an episode of Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and a number of faith-based family films.

The state was one of the first to begin re-opening to production after the corona¬virus pandemic shutdown, with ‘Considerations for Oklahoma Filmmaking’ guidelines issued in May. It has since hosted projects including romance Harvest Of The Heart, family films C.I.Ape and Joey And Ella, crime story Ida Red, FX pilot Reservation Dogs and political biopic Reagan, with Dennis Quaid as the US president.

Before the pandemic hit it was announced Martin Scorsese’s Apple TV+ and Paramount project Killers Of The Flower Moon — based on the real-life murders of Osage Nation citizens in 1920s Oklahoma — would shoot in the state in 2020, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro starring.

Reagan, however, had to halt filming in October after some crew members tested positive for Covid-19 amid a spike in Oklahoma cases. 

As of mid-October, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office said the Scorsese drama had been designated as ‘high-impact’ — meaning it could qualify for a sizeable rebate under the state’s newly enhanced incentive programme — and was slated to begin production in Oklahoma in 2021.

Infrastructure and crews 

The local industry has a crew depth of two to three projects, although the local commission can also provide a list of expatriate natives currently working elsewhere in the industry whose wages can qualify for the state’s rebate programme.

Studio space can be hard to come by, but two new projects, both near Oklahoma City, could increase the availability of stages and film workers in future years. Green Pastures Studio recently opened a 5,500 square feet soundstage and a 3,000 square feet soundstage with greenscreen in a converted elementary school property. The studio also launched an academy for training local crew members. 

Prairie Surf Studios recently won approval from the city to turn a downtown convention centre into studio space, with five soundstages ranging in size from 25,000 to 32,000 square feet and 120,000 square feet for offices, set design and storage facilities. 

Size matters 

This south-central US state has an area of about 70,000 square miles and borders Texas to the south and Kansas to the north. State capital Oklahoma City and Tulsa are the major cities, linked by a network of interstate highways. The major air travel hubs are Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and Tulsa International Airport, with the former offering direct flights to both Los Angeles and New York. Flight time to either US coast is about 3.5 hours. 

Though the state has a mostly temperate climate and roughly 230 days of sunshine a year, it is also in the area known as Tornado Alley, with twisters most likely to occur between late March and August. 

First person to contact

Tava Maloy Sofsky, director, Oklahoma Film + Music Office

@ tava.sofsky@travelok.com

 

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