25 film, TV productions among first to get California tax credits


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California’s effort to woo film and TV productions that have been fleeing to other states has netted its first results.

The California Film Commission on Monday announced that 25 productions had been awarded tax credits, which refund 20% or 25% of all spending in the state on so-called below-the-line employees, Hollywood parlance for behind-the-scenes crew.


Fifty-nine movies and TV shows applied for the credits once they became available on July 1. Almost all of them filed on that day, since the credits are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications that arrive on the same day are ranked randomly.

The state is awarding $67.5 million in tax credits for the 25 productions. Amy Lemisch, director of the CFC, said those movies and TV shows will spend $347 million on below-the-line employees. Lemisch said she was confident the vast majority of that money would otherwise not have been spent in California.

‘Based on my talking to these producers for some quite some time before they even applied, I’m confident most of these would not have shot here without the incentives,’ she said.

The CFC has $32.5 million left to award in tax credits for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2010. But Lemisch is allowed to award credits from future fiscal years for current productions at her discretion.

Though they’re being awarded now, the first tax credits won’t be issued until January of 2011.

California’s tax credits, where were approved in February, are relatively small compared to some other states, but many in the industry have said they are critical as productions such as ‘Ugly Betty,’ ‘Deal or No Deal’ and ‘Terminator: Salvation’ have shot in other states with tax credits. California’s share of feature-film production has dropped from 66% in 2003 to 31% last year, according to the CFC. The effect on California entertainment employment has been severe.

Productions using the credits include CBS Films’ action flick ‘Faster’; DreamWorks’ comedy ‘Dinner With Schmucks,’ starring Sacha Baron Cohen; and Sony’s upcoming movie about the founding of Facebook, ‘The Social Network.’

Comedy Central’s ‘Important Things With Demetri Martin’ is using a credit to help it move production from New York.

There’s even a direct-to-DVD sequel from Disney that looks sure to increase employment among California dog trainers: ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2.’

-- Ben Fritz