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Alaska film market is growing exponentially


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 10:22 PM

I just got some wonderful news from our newly re-opened film office. It seems Alaska film market has grown by a factor of 82 times in just a year. Granted we had a very low production level last year and for the past 2 decades, but with the incentive just now affecting producers decision making, we are seeing the snowball effect in terms of dollars spent in state.


Quick look at the numbers the state office announced today:


In 2008 a mere $149,500 was pre-approved in rebates (most shooting was done in 09).
In 2009 that surged to over 12.4 million dollars, representing 36 million dollars that should be spent this year.

That figure includes 14 feature films, and 8 non-fiction productions, including one IMAX 3D picture. Not too shabby, this year should be a good one.


Quick overview of our incentive:


30% general tax rebate (all rebates are exchangeable for cash from oil companies to offset their taxes and royalties, film companies pay no tax as far as I know)
10% rebate for local hires
2% for shooting off season (fall, winter and spring)
2% for shooting in rural areas

No income tax (not part of the incentive, that's how it always has been, but still a benifit)
No sales tax (in most towns, Wasilla, Juneau, Fairbanks and a few others have sales tax. again, this is not specific to film makers)

Now that's what I know (well I know more, but that's all the public info I am willing to throw out on a public website). If you should hear of anything coming up this way, feel free to drop me a PM, I always like to keep my ear to the ground so to speak. Or if your coming up here for a location scout or shoot give me a shout, first round of Alaskan Amber is on me.


read the film office report to the legislature here: 2009 Film Incentive Report
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 05:00 PM

Yeah, tax credit numbers still low compared to Canada. Especially since the US does not have a national film tax credit for all 50 states. Canada has a federal tax credit that applies to all 10 provinces plus each province has a film tax credit on top of that. Plus the regional bonus in Ontario is 10% not 2% like it is in Alaska.

But, I'm sure every one in Alaska is glad to see more film production coming to the state. The no sales tax is a big plus though because on July 1st the sales tax here in Ontario on film related items will jump from 5% to 13%, yes you heard me right.....13%! Now, the vast bulk of this will be refunded to the film company, but, you have to cash flow it whilst you wait for your cheque. That's a major pain in the arse, and will not be easy for people on indie budgets.

Is there a place in Alaska to process 35mm dailies?

What is the union situation there in Alaska? Strong? Medium? Weak? Can I shoot there without IATSE, NABET, or Teamsters?

R,
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#3 John Sprung

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 07:32 PM

I know "Ice Road Truckers" moved from Canada to Alaska (bringing in their two star Canadian drivers). I'm not sure what years they were there, though.



-- J.S.
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#4 Michael Collier

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 08:05 PM

'IRT' I believe was sent up last year, in response to the incentive.

Boddington, always pushing Canada :P . I'm gonna get you up here to shoot a film, you'll love it. I am not sure the regional bonus will ever be used, unless tangentially by a doc whose focus is on Nome, or McGrath or something like that. To be honest though, I am not sure what counts as rural. In my estimation I would say that Houston and Willow (just minutes north of Wasilla) should count as rural, but I don't know what the actual regs say about it. It might apply to only communities off the road system, or off the rail belt, or any other classification they could think up.

There are no lab in Alaska, yet. I assume if we start doing a lot of work we will eventually get one. Right now its easy to ship down to AlphaCine. Even ground shipment to Seattle gets there in a day on a plane.

Our largest film studio in Anchorage has publicly indicated they are looking at building a sound stage up here. Until then producers from what I hear have been looking at the Dena'ina convention building, since it has a huge truck accessible lower floor space and 40' ceilings, 3 phase power, 15 minutes from the airport, 3 minutes from the port, well sound insulated and away from heavy traffic. We also have a lot of warehouse space available for excellent rates (especially compared to LA warehouse space cost)

The union situation (as it applies to the film industry) is pretty weak. I think we have 2 IATSE members in town (there is more representation for theatrical workers in IATSE of course), NABET as far as I know has no representation up here. Teamsters I am sure you will find, though they don't work on films typically so their union probably won't turn the screws on low budgets, since they aren't expecting work like that anyway.

We do have SAG representation. A few actors are SAG and we have a SAG rep who is local, and a pretty good guy to work with. I am not sure if he has an office up here, but he is easily findable. Don't know if there is any AFTRA up here.

So bottom line, if your not a huge studio you can probably get away without having any union workers at all. This obviously won't stay that way, but for a good 5 years at least it should be fairly accessible for those who don't want union work. However the good workers in town will probably be the first to go union, so as time passes the quality of worker you can get non-union will go down. We are a red state, but we trend pro-union very heavily.

And while we are on the topic of worker quality, in my opinion we have some of the toughest, hardest working people in the world. Alaskans, for whatever reason, have a pretty robust work ethic, and are usually very knowledgeable about whatever they do. Its really not asking much to ask an Alaskan to work outside with heavy gear and complex tasks in -20 degree temps for 12-16 hours on end. If you look at slope oil field workers, they do that sort of work in -45 to -65 degree temps. I am sure in 10 years time our crews will be world renown. From what I have seen of select people in town, they already should be.


(just to alleviate some concerns- our average temperature in Anchorage is 10-20 degrees above. Rarely does it get to -20 in town. summers are in the 80 degree range; 90s and 100s in Fairbanks. Around the solstices we get probably 6-7 hours of usable light in the winter, and 21-22 hours of usable light in the summer. light during those times generally stays low to the ground, so you don't have the 11am-3pm ugly light, its more like golden hour all day long.
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#5 Michael K Bergstrom

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 03:33 PM

Ice Road Truckers is still up here, phone rang yesterday for some crew. Just got another call today for the soundstage, someone wants to shoot a feature up here in a couple months from LA. I've gotten more calls related to narrative TV, and Features in the last two months than I have in years. Very exciting.
There is no 35mm dailies processing up here, but as Collier said, you can get it down to Alpha Cine really quick. My favorite so far has been the TV show that takes place in Maine, and their looking at shooting in Alaska. Hopefully we'll have a few good years up here.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 07:43 PM

Hopefully we'll have a few good years up here.


Ah you just hit the nail on the head. What we have seen in the US with state incentives is that a change in state government can lead to a cancellation of the state tax credit program. So there is very little security in using US state programs. New York and Iowa both burned a lot of producers.

This has made off shore producers very weary of US state programs.

A sudden down turn in the price of oil will have Alaskan legislators on the prowl to reduce their budgets, and a film tax credit program will be first on the chopping block.

One has to wonder how long Michigan can keep up their generous film tax credit program, considering the economic sink hole they are in.

So get in while you can, it may not last.

R,
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#7 Michael K Bergstrom

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 03:09 AM

Picking up slowly this summer. Now comes the fun of the politics, how does one keep them from bringing the whole crew, and hire local, rent local gear, etc, etc.

From the Office.

"As of today, 18 productions are pre-qualified for the Film Industry Tax Credit and another 4 productions have been issued tax credits totaling $244,546.53. The pre-qualified productions anticipate spending over $50 million in Alaska and could receive over $17 million in tax credits. Among the pre-qualified productions are 9 non-fiction TV productions, 3 documentaries, 3 feature films, 2 TV dramas and an IMAX 3D production"
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#8 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 09:25 AM

By all means, every state and national government should compete to see who can give the biggest bribes to already profitable Corporations. :P It's a race to see who will offer 100% financing paid for by taxpayers in the game of "publicize the costs, privatize the profits." A brilliant strategy designed to ensure long-term stability for .... who again? :unsure:

Anyhow, for a complete rundown on where the current bribes/incentives are, go to http://www.realfilmcareer.com and click on the Incentives link on the right side of the screen.
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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 04:01 PM

By all means, every state and national government should compete to see who can give the biggest bribes to already profitable Corporations. :P It's a race to see who will offer 100% financing paid for by taxpayers in the game of "publicize the costs, privatize the profits." A brilliant strategy designed to ensure long-term stability for .... who again? :unsure:


At some point Brian your fellow Americans on this site that don't live in LA, and want to work in the film industry, are going to get seriously offended by your comments like: "biggest bribes to already profitable Corporations". Alaska has every right to offer incentives to any one they want, and Alaskans have just as much right to a job in the film industry as you do.

I guess you choose to continue to live in your delusional state that all movies should be made in LA. Enjoy your own private fantasy world.

There is some very good news for you and the rest of the film crews in S. Calif. The Canadian dollar will soon once again be worth more than the USD. If oil takes off again it will be worth a LOT more than the USD. This will do more than any protests could do to knock US production out of Canada.

Anyhow, for a complete rundown on where the current bribes/incentives are, go to http://www.realfilmcareer.com and click on the Incentives link on the right side of the screen.


Please explain to me why if you are so opposed to state tax credit schemes....why on earth would you post them on your own website? :blink:

And BEFORE you say it......Milton Friedman!!!!

R,
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 04:05 PM

Picking up slowly this summer. Now comes the fun of the politics, how does one keep them from bringing the whole crew, and hire local, rent local gear, etc, etc.


Ah yes that is the trick isn't it. Since Alaska is new to the tax credit world for film I can tell you what will happen. 100% of the dept heads will come from LA for starters, the studios will not be hiring local directors or DOPs that is for sure.

In Canada at least the labor laws prevent the studios from brining in "the whole crew" since this is a foreign country. Alaska on the other hand is part of the USA, so technically speaking they could "bring in the whole crew" from LA.

I hope you guys have a busy Summer and lots of Alaskans are gainfully employed in the film industry.

R,
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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 05:03 PM

At some point Brian your fellow Americans on this site that don't live in LA, and want to work in the film industry, are going to get seriously offended by your comments like: "biggest bribes to already profitable Corporations". Alaska has every right to offer incentives to any one they want, and Alaskans have just as much right to a job in the film industry as you do.

I guess you choose to continue to live in your delusional state that all movies should be made in LA. Enjoy your own private fantasy world.

There is some very good news for you and the rest of the film crews in S. Calif. The Canadian dollar will soon once again be worth more than the USD. If oil takes off again it will be worth a LOT more than the USD. This will do more than any protests could do to knock US production out of Canada.



Please explain to me why if you are so opposed to state tax credit schemes....why on earth would you post them on your own website? :blink:

And BEFORE you say it......Milton Friedman!!!!

R,


I'm not delusional, just realistic. :)

I personally am opposed to any governments handing out bribes to ANY Corporation no matter what it makes. Ultimately, bribes like this are harmful to society as a whole and only benefit those at the very tippy top of the economic strata.

But that's got nothing at all to do with why I include the most current "incentive" information at http://www.realfilmcareer.com. As the masthead says, "it's not about how to make a movie, it's about how movies are made." The point of that site (and my book) is to give the most realistic information possible for those who wish to work in the professional movie/tv industry. I may personally not like all of the shenanigans that go on, but it is reality. I don't like to hide behind wishes and ideology like too many people do. :)
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 09:22 PM

I may personally not like all of the shenanigans that go on, but it is reality. I don't like to hide behind wishes and ideology like too many people do. :)


Oh well at least you realize then that tax credit schemes are not going to go away any time soon. They'll probably expand.

LA is still the centre of the universe for the film industry, no other city can even come close. I'm baffled by what you guys have to complain about?

As I said before the LA studios already command a 99% market share in Canada.

All that's left to fight over is that little scrap of 1% :blink: :blink:

R,
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 09:51 PM

LA is still the centre of the universe for the film industry, no other city can even come close. I'm baffled by what you guys have to complain about?

As I said before the LA studios already command a 99% market share in Canada.

All that's left to fight over is that little scrap of 1% :blink: :blink:

R,


Los Angeles is where the studio and marketing executives live and work and collect their healthy share of the profits, but that doesn't mean that the majority of the actual work is done in Los Angeles. And that's the "problem," not just for those who built lives in LA, but for everyone else around the world.

"Why?" you ask. Well, because now "manufacturing" can and does take place anywhere in the world, it is nearly impossible for a person to move to a single area and reasonably expect to build a stable life in that place. As this bribery expands, no one who wants to make a living and a life doing this can have any sense of reasonable stability, financial or otherwise. This business is already tentative and difficult, but this "globalization" is making it even more so for everyone no matter where they are.

The Alaskan contingent is getting excited right now just as those in Prague and Budapest did a few years ago. But Corporations are like locusts, taking what they can until there is nothing left then coldly unemotionally moving on to the next place that is willing to hand out bribes, until it too is bled dry.

So, unless someone is very dedicated and willing to live a nomadic life, chasing work across the globe (assuming that immigration policies allow that sort of thing), then in time, the pools of qualified experienced worker-bees will be depleted because they simply will not be able to afford the scarcity of work in their particular area. Those workers will either have to go do something else entirely or they'll stick it out in the film industry, but will have to scale back the quality of their own lives as those at the tippy top build bigger mansions behind more ornate gates.

The age of Aristocracy is returning, thanks to your old buddy and mine, Milton. ;)

The constant push to skirt unions also has an affect on this depletion of quality too, as wages are suppressed, the best people simply won't be able to afford to continue working in the industry and productions will be left with the bottom of the barrel. But hey, as long as the Corporations and Producers can save a few bucks, quality doesn't matter and neither does the stability of society as a whole.
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#14 Michael Collier

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 04:05 PM

Ah yes that is the trick isn't it. Since Alaska is new to the tax credit world for film I can tell you what will happen. 100% of the dept heads will come from LA for starters, the studios will not be hiring local directors or DOPs that is for sure.

In Canada at least the labor laws prevent the studios from brining in "the whole crew" since this is a foreign country. Alaska on the other hand is part of the USA, so technically speaking they could "bring in the whole crew" from LA.

I hope you guys have a busy Summer and lots of Alaskans are gainfully employed in the film industry.

R,


Yeah, I hear you on that one Rich. in the first wave of films to come up I made a conscious decision to apply only as an Electrician. Hell, I didn't even apply for best boy. I didn't go anywhere near DP on an application just yet. I have a DP page on the states crew website, but that is mostly to attract reality shows that might need an extra unit, or a quick pick up shoot. I have no allusions my path to ASC cinematographer will be through local hire on an Alaskan location film. More likely I will develop contacts and friendships that would allow me to start to cohabitate LA and AK (I was raised in both AK and CA, so it would be nice to still live in both. I just can't do LA full time.) and then work up the ladder the same as anyone else.

The advantage in applying for that sort of position is those are the jobs that will be in great demand up here, and frankly we don't have a huge selection of people qualified just yet. Sure we have plenty of people who are used to the conditions at play on a film set (slope workers are the best to pull from, in my opinion. Able to work long hours, typical schedule is 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for up to 4 weeks at a time. They are riggers, welders, electricians, etc and are used to working in extremely demanding conditions. But they need to be brought on first as PAs, then as trainees. It will take some time, and in the mean time those of us with set experience will be sure to find a job.)

I have been doing a lot of research to see how Canada became so successful as a location destination, to see if we can repeat that.

I think what we are working on (well not so much me, I don't produce; but people Mike Bergstrom, Levi Taylor, Mike Burns and Dean Mitchell and a host of other people) are trying to develop the independent industry alongside the burgeoning studio business, specifically by developing and funding purely local products.

In the mean time there are people like me (and Bergstrom, and Zach Melms and others in town) who are qualified to work in positions like electrician, grip, 2d ac, etc; and we are working to develop credits above the industrials, music videos, short films, and low budget features we normally get. I figure if we only get a 5 year window, we can make that work to our advantage, but I would love to see 10-20 years at least. Right now we probably have a crew of 20 people that can seamlessly walk into non-PA positions, but as far as I know we only have one or two guys in local 600.

The biggest advantage we have going for us is the few people who are qualified to work are incredibly talented. There is something about this place that keeps people here, and talent drain doesn't really work the same as it does in other cities. Even if film work dries up and I have to go nomadic to make a living, I will gladly do it (though I will be here if I am not working)

And as a guy who loves this state dearly, I can say thank GOD we are finally trying to develop an economy that doesn't hinge its entire existence on oil.

I think our incentive has at least 10 years. There is 100 million in an account that hasn't even been dented yet, and when it comes time to reauthorize in a few years, it probably won't take any extra cash appropriations. Financially we are very stable, no deficit this year, lots of cash reserves and our economy has been somewhat stable, relative to the rest of the country. So I don't see a situation where anyone would argue we need to eliminate the program for budgetary reasons. And when the argument can be made that film making supports tourism industry (our 2d or 3d largest sector) it seems almost like it should be lumped into the nearly 100 million a year they spend advertising our state. In short, this should be stable for the next 10 years, the rest depends on what happens with the gas line (which seems dead in the water at the moment) and how north slope oil production declines (its been declining for a decade now or more)
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 04:58 PM

And when the argument can be made that film making supports tourism industry (our 2d or 3d largest sector) it seems almost like it should be lumped into the nearly 100 million a year they spend advertising our state.


Hmmm -- Product placement on a grand scale.... ;-)




-- J.S.
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#16 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 06:08 PM

I have been doing a lot of research to see how Canada became so successful as a location destination, to see if we can repeat that.


Well the tax credit scheme was invented in Canada primarily to lure big Hollywood productions. In the days before the high Canadian dollar and US states adopting tax credit schemes the system worked great. Albeit to the cries of some in LA crying foul.

A lot of infastructure was built in Toronto, studios and labs, etc. But today Toronto is only at half the capacity it was in 2000.

Louisiana and Michigan both have very competitive tax credit schemes, that are as good if not better than Ontario's.

I'm afraid the service industry here is going to decline further as more US productions stay in the USA and shoot in states with better tax credits. An even bigger blow will be if the Canadian dollar once again goes above the USD. Which it is very likely to do this year. In Nov 2007 it hit $1.10 USD which was pretty much a disaster for the Toronto film service community. That meant US producers saw their US dollars worth 90 cents in Canada.

As Hollywood shoots slowly dry up in Canada it's going to be tough for a lot of people because there is no Canadian film industry any one can work in. Canadian films only make up 1% of the box office here.

R,
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