The California Film Commission has selected 26 film and television productions to receive a total of $100 million in tax credits meant to spur the state’s showbiz economy.
There were a record 497 submissions and the winners were chosen in a lottery held June 2.
Among those selected was BET’s “Being Mary Jane,” which is expected to relocate its production headquarters from Atlanta to Los Angeles. The show, BET’s first original scripted drama, received an estimated $5.2-million credit.
The anticipated relocation of “Being Mary Jane” illustrates the commission’s goal of preserving -- and increasing -- in-state production. Since the program was launched in 2009, a handful of TV shows have relocated to California after being awarded tax credits.
“We would not have been able to consider bringing the show to L.A. if we had not been chosen for the tax credit,” said Lucia Gervino, senior vice president of production for BET, a unit of Viacom’s MTV Networks. "You get a luxury from the tax incentives that allows you to put the money back on the screen."
The commission’s tax credit program was launched to help California better compete with other states, including New York and Louisiana, which offer generous production incentives. For years, an exodus of productions to those locales and elsewhere has ravaged the local entertainment industry.
“California’s tax credit program has proven to be our most effective economic development tool for retaining and attracting production jobs, spending and tax revenues,” said Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, in a statement.
The 26 projects include 13 television series, 11 films and two made-for-TV movies.
Among the television shows selected were Sony Pictures Television’s “Franklin & Bash,” which airs on TNT; “Justified,” which airs on FX; and MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” which was allocated $11.5 million -- the most of any production. That show previously relocated from Georgia to California.
Planned feature films “All Summer Long - A Beach Boys Musical” from 20th Century Fox and a “Scarface” reboot from Universal Pictures were among the movie projects selected.
California offers tax credits of 20% to 25% toward qualified production expenses, which include the cost of building sets, paying for stunt equipment and crew members’ salaries. The credits may be used to offset state tax liabilities.
Projects receiving the credits must begin production in the state within the next 180 days. (Returning television series are exempt from the 180-day rule.)
“Being Mary Jane,” which stars Gabrielle Union as a cable news personality, is shooting its second season in Atlanta. The show has yet to be officially renewed for a third season, but Gervino said the tax credit “is a big help, clearly.”
She said that shooting locally would allow the show’s Los Angeles-based writers and producers to more easily sort out issues on set while giving them “the luxury of being able to go home to their families at the end of the night. Aren’t most people excited to be able to shoot in L.A.?"
But fewer productions are doing so.
Gervino said that BET has only one program that shoots in Los Angeles -- “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” a reality TV spoof that stars Kevin Hart.
“To me, it is always nice to see the [production] trucks out when you are driving on your way home,” she said. “And that’s just something you don’t see anymore. It will be exciting to see our trucks on the street."