California Film Commission awards tax credits to 31 projects

The lottery is over. The winners are 31 film and TV producers who were vying against hundreds of others for a piece of California’s $100 million in film tax credit funds.

The California Film Commission said Tuesday that 380 projects had applied for a piece of the $100 million the state allocates annually for film and television projects — a nearly 20% jump over last year, and a new record high.

Because of limited funds, however, only 31 of those 380 applicants were approved for funding.


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They included 14 feature films, among them a Warner Bros. movie version of the HBO TV series “Entourage” and a Lionsgate movie called “The Wash.” A dozen cable-TV series also made the cut, including “Pretty Little Liars” and “Switched at Birth.”

Only two relocating TV series were selected — MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” which received a credit last year after moving to L.A. from Georgia, and the TNT crime drama “King & Maxwell,” which is moving production from Vancouver, Canada.

The relocation of the show, which is produced by CBS, is the latest blow to Vancouver, which has seen a sharp fall in production this year because of rising competition from other cities in North America that have stepped up their incentives.

“The record number of applications this year serves as affirmation that the production industry wants to stay at home in California,” said California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch. “But tax credits now drive much of the decision making process, and sadly many projects that weren’t selected to receive California credits will be shot elsewhere.”

In an effort to keep filming in California, the state provides a 20% to 25% tax credit for certain projects. But the program has limited funds and various restrictions, such as excluding movies with budgets of less than $75 million. Recipients can use the credits to offset any business or sales tax liability they have with the state.

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Applicants lined up early Monday morning outside the Hollywood offices of the California Film Commission for a chance to enter the lottery. Each project was assigned a number. A corresponding number was put in a drum. Numbers in the drum were selected at random until the $100-million fund was allocated. Winning applicants were notified Tuesday.

The news wasn’t good for Josh Elliott, a producer at Fade to Black Films who was hoping to secure a credit for a movie set in Malibu. Last year, he submitted an application for two projects, but those didn’t win the lottery and were put on a waiting list.

Elliott’s new movie project was not selected in this year’s lottery, either, and is No. 99 on the waiting list. He said he will “absolutely film somewhere else,” listing Florida as an option.

“It’s about making a movie,” Elliott said. “When Los Angeles runs out of money, people are forced to go to other states.”

Indeed, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina have aggressively courted the industry.

Randall Miller, a director and founder of Pasadena-based Unclaimed Freight Productions, applied unsuccessfully for the credits last year, and ultimately had to shoot his upcoming film “CBGB” in Georgia, which offers a tax credit of up to 30%. Miller applied again this year, but again struck out. He plans to return to Georgia with his new project.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I would love to stay here [but] it’s a matter of economics.”

Steve Dayan, a Film Commission board member, said other states’ incentives have drained work away, siphoning jobs from the local entertainment industry.

“It’s hemorrhaging,” said Dayan, a business representative for Teamsters Local 399, which represents casting directors, location managers and drivers. “If we don’t do something now to stop the bleeding, we’ll be in deep trouble.”