The Golden State has always had its attractions: an extensive and historic production infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, year-round shoot-friendly weather and, of course, the biggest and starriest talent pool in the world.
Added to that are unique locations including the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, an 800-mile Pacific coastline, and natural wonders such as Yosemite and Death Valley.
But it was only with the introduction of the state’s upgraded incentive programme in 2015 that California began to win back some of the runaway production.
California’s ‘2.0’ film and TV tax credit programme tripled the size of the state’s annual incentive pool, eliminated budget caps, designated funding pots for four different types of productions and introduced a ‘jobs ratio’ selection formula.
Of the programme’s $330m annual funding, 40% is allocated for new and recurring TV series, mini-series, pilots and movies-of-the-week, 35% for non-independent features, 20% for relocating TV series and 5% for independent features.
Big-budget features lured by the state’s incentive for shoots in 2019 included Warner Animation’s Space Jam 2 and Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes 3. While TV series have included NBC smash This Is Us and the new Star Trek series with Patrick Stewart from CBS All Access.
The ‘3.0’ programme, which will run from July 2020 to June 2025, will have $330m a year to allocate, but it will increase the portion of that total available to independent films from 5% to 8% and split the pot into one category for projects under $10m and another for projects over $10m.
The western half of the US offers film and TV makers some spectacular natural locations and generous production incentives.
New Mexico’s 25% refundable tax credit is one of the most reliable in the region. This was one of the reasons why Netflix chose to buy the Albuquerque studios, which offer eight sound studios and has already hosted the streaming giants’ productions Army of the Dead and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
As part of the deal, the streaming giant is to spend $1bn over the course of a decade and add 1,000 jobs per year. “The Netflix deal has changed the paradigm in many ways,” insists Todd Christensen, director of the New Mexico Film Office, to KFTV. “They’re fully committed to the state and will likely grow their presence here, creating more stages and backlots.”
But Netflix is not the only big player in town. NBCUniversal has also committed to invest $500m in the state over the next 10 years by building a studio in Albuquerque with two sound stages, creating 330 jobs and generating an estimated $1bn in economic development.
Meanwhile, Oregon has one of the region’s faster growing production sectors. The state’s cash rebate incentive programme — which offers 20% on local goods and services and up to 16.2% on wages, with a $14m annual cap — has recently attracted Disney family feature Timmy Failure and David Oyelowo’s directing debut The Water Man.
Utah is another western state gaining industry ground, thanks to its strong incentives, proximity to Hollywood and right-to-work status.
The Pacific island state of Hawaii attracts film and TV productions requiring specific kinds of locations, notably jungle and beaches, such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Hawaii’s 20%-25% credit programme was also recently extended to the end of 2025, but the state imposed a $35m annual cap.
Oklahoma’s generous 35%-37% rebate is luring in productions, including Martin Scorsese’s next movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, which will shoot there in Spring. What limits the state’s appeal to producers is the incentive programme’s $4m rolling annual cap.
Nevada usually attracts productions looking for brief location shoots in and around Las Vegas or in the hills and dry lake beds of the Great Basin and Mojave deserts.
Alicia J Keyes, cabinet secretary of economic development, State of New Mexico firstname.lastname@example.org
The southeastern corner is known as ‘Hollywood South’ thanks to its success luring billions of dollars worth of production away from more traditional film locales. But production levels in different parts of the region rise and fall regularly — as local politicians back or attack film and TV incentive programmes.
Georgia, with its generous tax credit of up to 30% and a strong and still growing infrastructure, remains the most active state in the region. Recent shoots include Disney’s live-action remakes Lady And The Tramp and The Little Mermaid, and Ron Howard’s Netflix movie Hillbilly Elegy.
However, the Georgia industry faces recurrent threats of a boycott from Hollywood due to the state’s controversial new ‘heartbeat’ abortion law, due to come into effect on January 1, 2020. It’s a similar story in Louisiana, although it is still attracting productions thanks to its revamped incentive programme, with $446.8m in eligible state spending by production companies certified in 2018.
Mississippi — another state with pending abortion legislation — offers cash rebates ranging from 25% to 30%, which have attracted productions such as Son Of A Gun and The Atoning.
Florida could also be set for a resurgence with two film incentive bills — one promising credits of up to 35% and annual funding of $36m — being considered in the state senate.
In the meantime, various Florida regions offer their own incentives, like St Petersburg/Clearwater, which provides a 10% cash rebate based on local spend. “We are extremely popular [not just for the incentive] because we have some of the best beaches in the world,” Tony Armer, St Petersburg commissioner tells KFTV. “We’ve also had a lot of commercials shoot here in Pinellas County to convey the midwest.”
Virginia is proving to be a popular shooting spot thanks to its great locations and architecture that easily doubles for Washington D.C. The state’s major facilities are Bridge Studio in capital city Richmond and New Dominion Pictures in Suffolk, as well as a 3,000-acre historic backlot just outside Richmond, which recently hosted The Good Lord Bird series, starring Ethan Hawke. “We also had Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 here in the City of Alexandria using one of our malls, dressing it up with stores from the period and extras in mullets everywhere,” laughs Andy Edmunds, head of the Virginia Film Office, to KFTV.
Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner, Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office Lthomas@georgia.org