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California assesses boosted filming incentive

VeepCalifornia’s boosted filming incentive has scored successes with TV production but needs to do more to attract big-budget studio movies, the California Film Commission has found.

The Golden State massively increased its film fund last year and sought to prioritise TV production by allocating 60% of the money to supporting television, including incentivising shows to relocate to California from out of state.

Six high-profile TV shows ended up switching to California filming locations – including acclaimed political comedy Veep and drama American Horror Story – and collectively they spent nearly $330m in the state in the 12 months up to June of this year.

This success was not repeated with large-scale studio features as films with budgets above $75m all sought stronger incentives and tax credit programmes either elsewhere in the US or abroad.

The report noted the growth of Georgia, New York and Louisiana in the US, and of Canada and the UK internationally. Additionally, the study acknowledged how generous filming incentives in these hubs have rapidly stimulated the growth of associated production infrastructure like studios and post-production facilities.      

California also faces a challenge rebuilding its visual effects industry and the report focuses on VFX-specific incentives that are luring companies to Vancouver, Montreal, New York and now Europe.

For more on filming in California and for local contacts see our production guide.

“Overseas countries, in particular the UK, are offering tax breaks that put pressure on California companies such as Industrial Light and Magic,” said Gretchen Libby, executive in charge of ILM Global Studio.

“ILM has expanded and grown its business by opening a UK division to develop and train locals to handle work for many visual effects projects, including the Star Wars franchise. The company also has a growing Vancouver studio and a studio in Singapore.”

Three Star Wars films have been based in the UK over the past couple of years including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (pictured).

Rogue OneA fourth Star Wars movie – following the adventures of the young Han Solo – is scheduled to start shooting in the UK next year. 

The California Film Commission nonetheless remains optimistic about the state’s production future and its broadening appeal.

“In a highly competitive global environment, California still boasts a superior critical mass of state-of-the-art facilities, highly skilled crews, and the best talent, both in front of and behind the camera,” the report stated.   

California may face significant production challenges but the state is in fact offering more money in the new financial year now that the previous lottery system of applying tax credits has been phased out. The state is also hosting major feature production A Wrinkle in Time, which represents the largest support payment so far allocated under the boosted programme.

Veep image: HBO. Rogue One image: Lucasfilm