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State Film Commissions Guide: California

State Film Commissions Guide: California

What are some of the greatest financial perks of filming in your state? In addition to our tax credit program, we offer 315 days of sunshine, the most diverse locations, the most skilled crews, the best and largest selection of local on-screen talent, access to the finest equipment and the world’s best production infrastructure. Shooting in California affords any production the resources and tools needed to save both time and money.

What tax credits are available for productions in your state? California’s Film & TV Tax Credit Program provides $100 million in tax credits annually. A minimum of $10 million of the annual funding is available for independent films. The following is a brief description of the program parameters.

Qualified taxpayers are allowed a credit against income and/or sales and use taxes, based on qualified expenditures. Credits applied to income tax liability are not refundable. Only tax credits issued to an “independent film” may be transferred or sold to an unrelated party. Other qualified taxpayers may carryover tax credits for 5 years and transfer tax credits to an affiliate.

To apply for the California Film and Television Incentive Program, a “qualified motion picture” must be one of the following:

Eligible for a 20% Tax Credit:

       – Feature Films ($1 million minimum – $75 million maximum production budget)

       – Movies-of-the-Week or Miniseries ($500,000 minimum production budget)

       – New television series licensed for original distribution on basic cable ($1 million minimum budget; one-half hour shows and other exclusions apply) 

Eligible for 25% Tax Credit:

       – A television series, without regard to episode length, that filmed all of its prior seasons outside of California.

       – An “independent film” ($1 million total production budget – $10 million qualified expenditure budget that is produced by a company that is not publicly traded and that publicly traded companies do not own more than 25% of the producing company.)

A “qualified motion picture” must also meet the following conditions: 

       – 75% test (production days or total production budget) in California

       – Application must be submitted at least 30 days prior to commencement of principal photography

       – Once an application is approved, principal photography must begin within 180 days

In addition, San Francisco offers qualified productions a refund of all payroll tax and city fees up to $600,000 per production. And the San Francisco Vendor Discount Program provides an opportunity for production companies and their crew members to receive discounts while shopping locally at participating businesses. Santa Clarita offers refunds of basic film permit fees and portions of hotel occupancy taxes to qualifying productions (subsidies capped at $50,000 per fiscal year). They also provide savings to productions assigned LA County Sheriff Deputies for traffic control and safety during filming within City limits.

What are some of the locations in your state that filmmakers should know about? California offers the world in one place: 800 miles of dramatic coastline, the Golden Gate Bridge, urban city centers, farmland, mountains, deserts, redwood forests, rolling hills, waterfalls, ski resorts, vineyards, Victorian villages, gold mines and historic downtown centers. Our locations have doubled for the Himalayas, Iraqi villages, quaint Pennsylvania towns, New York City and the terrain of other planets.

Are there studios and soundstages that the state hosts that filmmakers should know about? California offers over 500 stage facilities throughout the state.  A list can be found here. Abundant stage facilities can be found in Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, Orange County, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.

What can you tell us about talented labor in your state?  Do you have robust union representation? California is home to the most talented cast and crew base in the world, both union and non-union. And our crew base is 100 deep. 

Are there deals that you have with equipment, craft service or other suppliers to make these services more affordable? Having so many vendors to choose from, productions can negotiate great deals for everything they need.

What are some of the recent productions that produced films in your state? “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Argo,” “The Bling Ring,” “After Earth,” “The Artist,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Savages,” “Behind The Candelabra,” “NCIS” and “NCIS Los Angeles,” “Dexter,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Castle,” “Justified,” “Rizzoli and Isles,” and many more.

What cities have their own film commissions in your state? Access to California’s statewide network of more than 60 Regional Film Offices can be found here.

How many productions shot in your state last year? California hosts nearly 200 feature films each year and countless TV series, commercials and documentaries.

What should filmmakers do if they’re interested in shooting a film in your state?  Who should they contact if they have more questions? Go to: www.film.ca.gov for information on filming in California.

Interested in the incentives offered by other state film commissions? Check out Indiewire’s full guide to state film commissions HERE.

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