California, beware: Film producers are increasingly sizing up rivals in emerging regional production centers outside of Hollywood, from Pittsburgh to Atlanta.
That was the blunt, but all too familiar, message delivered at a panel Sunday at the fifth annual Produced By Conference at 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City.
"We're all whores chasing the money," said Chris Moore, whose films have included the Academy Award winner "Good Will Hunting" and the "American Pie" movies." "It's just like the gold rush."
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Moore noted that he filmed 2012's "American Reunion" in Atlanta to take advantage of Georgia's 30% credit, which unlike many other state programs can be applied to salaries of actors. Such salaries can account for as much as 80% of a film's budget.
The Matt Damon movie "Promised Land," also produced by Moore, was filmed in Pennsylvania, which provides up to a 30% credit and is currently weighing a bill that would remove an annual $60-million cap on funding.
California provides up to a 25% film tax credit but is more restrictive than many film incentive programs. For example, the program excludes movies with budgets greater than $75 million and uses a lottery to allocate $100 million in annual funds.
"I represent a generation of producers who've never been able to shoot in L.A.," said Moore, one of the speakers at a panel titled "Beyond Hollywood: The Promise of Regional Production Centers." "We spend all of our time trying to figure out where we can find some attractive soft money."
Another panelist, John Dellaverson, vice chairman of FilmFinances, a Los Angeles-based film financing company, provided some statistics to highlight the competitive challenge facing California's film industry.
He noted that in the last six years, his company has provided completion bonds -- guarantees that a movie will be completed on time and within budget -- to 568 movies. Of those, only 87 were in California, he said.