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Top 10 state film incentive programs?


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:48 AM

I was just wondering which states had the best film incentive programs? I was very impressed with New Mexico's film incentive program but also wanted to see what else is available out there also are there any national incentive programs? I found out something about Canada's incentive program but who else is offering incentives to film in their countries? Thanks-Steve B)
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#2 John Brawley

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:10 AM

I found out something about Canada's incentive program but who else is offering incentives to film in their countries? Thanks-Steve B)



Do you mean state or country ?

There are 7 states and two territories in Australia. Most of them have some form of film production and development regime, along with the federal system.

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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 02:01 PM

I think Michigan is worth looking into Steve.

One thing to keep in mind if you plan to use any state tax incentives to shoot your movie you need to become an EXPERT on all of the rules and procedures that surround the plan.

Typically small scale movies do not use the state tax incentives because of the mind boggling paper work and rules involved. One false move and they will disqualify your application.

Remember you only get the tax refund AFTER you have shot the movie in their state, so technically they have your money and they have nothing to lose by denying your application once you have left the state and gone back home.

And believe me....government pricks will deny your file if a period or comma is missing. The hilarious thing is that with all of these state programs they will not bother a 50 million dollar Hollywood movie shooting in their state on the tax rebates. They figure they can't afford to piss off such a large entity that may come back to the state and spend another big chunk of money.

But, a small producer spending 100K...they won't give a damn about you, they would sooner deny your application on a technicality and get rid of you.

So BE WARNED, you need to protect your self in advance and cover every base. These state tax incentives are promoted as being "easy money" they are nothing close to that. It's a long complicated and drawn out process where they will fight you every step of the way.

Remember they really don't want to give you any money, they just want to get their hands on your money.

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#4 Tim Tyler

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 02:23 PM

...One false move and they will disqualify your application.
...government ***** will deny your file if a period or comma is missing.
...they won't give a damn about you,
...they really don't want to give you any money, they just want to get their hands on your money.


Those are some pretty serious accusations, Richard.

Are you speaking from experience?
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 02:36 PM

Those are some pretty serious accusations, Richard.

Are you speaking from experience?


Yes, and from the experience of others. You'll notice that I didn't name names. I simply said "state."

I just wanted to warn other low budget filmmakers that they need to know in advance every rule and procedure or they will be screwed.

Just for laughs I took a look through one state's requirements for the tax credits (a state I will not name). Oh my gosh what a mess! I can see dozens of pitfalls for the low budget filmmaker, dozens! You would surely need a professional to monitor the pre-production, production, and end of shoot tax fillings to stand a chance. It's so incredibly complicated I just can't see a low budget filmmaker standing a chance at getting any money back.

On another note here is a state program one could take a look at, New Mexico:

http://nmfilm.com/fi...ent-program.php

I won't make any "comments" about this. Read it for yourself.

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#6 Mike Lary

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 03:18 PM

I think Michigan is worth looking into Steve.


The Michigan incentives are some of the best in the US.

Richard is right about filmmakers needing to read the fine print and follow the letter of the law when it comes to the incentives. I don't know of any instances in Michigan where productions were denied the incentive unjustly, but I can think of films that lost it because they didn't read the fine print. One production in particular lost the incentive because they flew their entire crew from L.A. (including some PAs) and only hired a few locals as interns and PAs. The incentives clearly state that a certain percentage of the crew must be Michigan residents.

Other productions have missed deadlines. If there's a big show coming to town, the film office will process their paperwork first, so smaller productions need to plan extra time for processing.

There's also a clause that says a film can be denied the incentives if it contains obscene material, which of course is subjective, so it's best to be upfront about content when applying.

There are plenty of ways to get denied, but the easiest way is not to read the paperwork.
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#7 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 10:37 PM

I was just wondering which states had the best film incentive programs? I was very impressed with New Mexico's film incentive program but also wanted to see what else is available out there also are there any national incentive programs? I found out something about Canada's incentive program but who else is offering incentives to film in their countries? Thanks-Steve B)



Funny you should ask. I just did a bunch of research to dig up the latest info. It's a little difficult to recopy it all here, but if you go to the Facebook Group "What I Really Want to Do," you'll find the articles under the Wall posts near the bottom of the page. http://www.facebook....id=118637395645

In general, at this moment, it appears the Atlanta and Louisiana will be the hot spots. NY apparently just ran out of money to fund the tax incentives and Michigan has actual training programs that they hope will place new people into film jobs. But for the most complete info, check out the site above.
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 01:39 AM

NY apparently just ran out of money to fund the tax incentives


Yes that's the game isn't it....which states can afford these programs?

California appears to be the most broke state in the USA so I doubt they will be introducing a film tax credit any time soon.

The irony is that if California did introduce a film tax credit they would pretty much wipe out the other states and provinces and kill run away productions. Thereby seeing their state revenues increase.

Imagine if CA had a 40% tax credit like Michigan, oh boy, that would be the end of the other state programs.

I'm glad Michigan introduced their program though, it keeps the heat on the Ontario gov't and makes it un-thinkable that the Ontario tax credit system would ever be scrapped.

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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 03:08 AM

This stuff is great guys, please keep it coming, I'm learning a lot. Hey Richie, with regards to Canada, is it the same bureaucratic for lack of a better word, pettiness and disregard for low budget indies or are the Canadian authorities more "understanding" towards the needs of film makers coming into the country regardless of their size? ALSO with regards to fire arms using blanks and FX explosions, what's the Canadian view on such things? Is that a huge hurtle to breach or what? The reason I'm asking is here in Texas and New Mexico firing blanks in the deserts outside the city limits wouldn't even raise an eyebrow, CANADA however may frown upon such activity, I just don't know. Thanks-Steve B)
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 09:27 AM

This stuff is great guys, please keep it coming, I'm learning a lot. Hey Richie, with regards to Canada, is it the same bureaucratic for lack of a better word, pettiness and disregard for low budget indies or are the Canadian authorities more "understanding" towards the needs of film makers coming into the country regardless of their size? ALSO with regards to fire arms using blanks and FX explosions, what's the Canadian view on such things? Is that a huge hurtle to breach or what? The reason I'm asking is here in Texas and New Mexico firing blanks in the deserts outside the city limits wouldn't even raise an eyebrow, CANADA however may frown upon such activity, I just don't know. Thanks-Steve B)


Oh no it's totally different here in Canada, the government looks out for the little guy and supports your 100% of the way. There is no pettiness or disregard for low budget indies. It's all wonderful here.

As for guns, just thinking about guns is a crime in Canada, does that answer your question?

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#11 Hal Smith

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 02:32 PM

To get a production loan from NM you've got to have a distribution deal in hand and give them points on the backside? With a distribution deal in hand I suspect my rich Uncle Louie would front me the money...and not make it necessary to have a Hollywood attorney to handle my side of the deal.
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#12 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 12:26 AM

Yes exactly, but with the right star, a distribution deal is fairly close to a given. NM also offers a tax rebate in addition to a no interest loan. It will also of course depend on the number of points they require. If it's too much, it would of course be worth going a different direction.
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#13 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 02:08 AM

I live in NM. For the past few years I have made good money working on feature films that have taken advantage of the state incentives. They are certainly not geared for small budget indies, much to the chagrin of the (very small) local indie community. Anyone looking for cheap money better look elsewhere. It certainly requires a prod co to get "lawyered up" and have very tight payroll and accounting departments, but honestly, most reputable film companies will anyway.

There are some problems with the system, but it works well at the higher budget feature level. In real world terms, it pretty much means that a movie that would be made in LA for $50 million, say, can be done here for half that amount, sometimes less. But there have been some $500 K films that have been produced here with good results.

There was at least one movie co. that took the state for a ride early on (no names please) and requirements became very stringent consequentially. The last thing we want is public funds being given away to out-of-towners. Like I said, anyone thinking of coming here and getting handed out free money to make a movie with (or for anything else, for that matter) ought to have his/ her head examined. At the very least, there will be a LOT of hoops to jump through.

Sure, unfortunately us bottom feeders have very little chance of producing anything under the tight state requirements _but some companies will take advantage of the resources and incentives, which in turn means money pumped into the local economy and more jobs for us. :)

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 16 February 2009 - 02:09 AM.

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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 12:18 PM

There was at least one movie co. that took the state for a ride early on (no names please) and requirements became very stringent consequentially.


I could actually tell that as I read the requirements, obviously they hired some industry people to write the regulations for them. I especially like the part where they mention the 1000s of direct to video movies made every year and how in their assessment only 1% make it into distribution.

But Hal is right, if you could achieve their incredibly long list of requirements chances are you wouldn't need them. And you are right Saul....the program is not at all geared toward the "little guy." Which is quite typical of any government incentive program.

How much money did the failed Wall Street executives get again?

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#15 Michael Collier

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 02:36 PM

We have an incentive program here in Alaska just a bit better than New Mexico. Its a newly minted law that gives a 25% general rebate, 10% for local hires, 1% for shooting in rural areas, and 1% for shooting off season (anytime but summer)

Also we have no state tax on anything film related, and in most cities we have no sales tax.

Once you get your rebates, you can take them to an oil company who does pay royalties on the oil they produce, and they will buy the rebates, giving the production co. cash on hand. 200 million in rebates have been approved for the next 5 years.

We also (finally) have opened a film office. And if you talk to the right people you can wrangle really talented local crews and gear.

From the looks of it, our program has way less red tape than NM. (that said, I doubt we are in competition with NM, unless all you want is desert. Past that I think we are more in competition with Canada)
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#16 Michael Collier

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 02:53 PM

Woah, disregard the above, it seems they passed a better law than I thought. From the states website:

* Must spend at least $100,000 in a consecutive 24 month period.
* 30 percent transferable tax credit on qualified expenditures.
* Claim an extra 10% for wages paid to Alaska residents.
* Claim an extra 2% if filming in a rural area.
* Claim an extra 2% if filming between October 1 and March 30.
* No salary cap per employee per production.

No requirement for distribution, no guarantor needed. Seems much more aimed at indies than NM. I do believe rural area would be counted even in somewhat larger cities near Anchorage that is close to production centers, and very close to hotels and transpo. I think Wasilla/Palmer even count as rural, and thats not more than 30 minutes from north Anchorage.

Link to state incentive website
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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 03:52 PM

Woah, disregard the above, it seems they passed a better law than I thought. From the states website:

* Must spend at least $100,000 in a consecutive 24 month period.
* 30 percent transferable tax credit on qualified expenditures.
* Claim an extra 10% for wages paid to Alaska residents.
* Claim an extra 2% if filming in a rural area.
* Claim an extra 2% if filming between October 1 and March 30.
* No salary cap per employee per production.

No requirement for distribution, no guarantor needed. Seems much more aimed at indies than NM. I do believe rural area would be counted even in somewhat larger cities near Anchorage that is close to production centers, and very close to hotels and transpo. I think Wasilla/Palmer even count as rural, and thats not more than 30 minutes from north Anchorage.

Link to state incentive website



I was looking over the site, that's interesting where it says that if you give Sarah Palin a starring role in your movie you qualify for an extra 25% tax credit.

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#18 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 03:56 PM

From the looks of it, our program has way less red tape than NM. (that said, I doubt we are in competition with NM, unless all you want is desert. Past that I think we are more in competition with Canada)


While NM has a lot of desert, there is certainly more to the state than desert . . . And it is a matter of weather too, NM has plenty of sunshine year round and it hardly ever snows in the plains and valleys, making it perfect for year round filming. Also, NM is closer to LA than Alaska, Hollywood production companies like that.

And there is the matter of crews, ten years there was one experienced feature film crew in the state. Now there are close to ten, some of which have worked with Oscar-winning heads of departments on award-winning projects. It takes a while to build crews like those from the ground up. So even if a state offers good incentives and there are only one or two crews available, then prod co's will have to bring out qualified people from out of town, therefore offsetting any cost savings from the rebates and incentives.

Don't want to get into a pissing contest, but we are comparing apples and oranges here.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 16 February 2009 - 03:58 PM.

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#19 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 04:47 PM

Well if the Canadian dollar drops back into the .65 range all US state programs will be screwed!!

Canadians will work for Canadian money, good luck getting Americans to work for Canadian dollars.

Right now at .80 it isn't enough to get Hollywood back into Toronto like they where in the mid 90s. But if the US dollar ever does recover from its record lows....the studio jets will once again start landing in Toronto.

Until then....we can get by with the mighty Canadian film industry which accounts for 3% of Canada's box office. Yeah!! We have 3%!! We have 3%!!

In a related story the MPAA vows they will not rest until they get that last 3%.

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#20 Hal Smith

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 07:00 PM

I was looking over the site, that's interesting where it says that if you give Sarah Palin a starring role in your movie you qualify for an extra 25% tax credit.


Truth be told and politics aside, find the right role for the Governmater and I suspect she'd do okay. She was loose as a goose on Saturday Night Live...she'd ain't afraid of no camera.
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