Case Study: ABC Television Drama “Secrets & Lies” Relocates to California from North Carolina

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After nearly 20 years of runaway production and seeing film and television projects leave The Golden State for other states and nations, Californians are now watching something miraculous happen.  TV shows and feature film projects are still relocating, but now they are moving to California rather than away from it.  Accomplishing what it was created to do, California’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program Program is turning the tide and beginning to reverse runaway production.

A handful of shows have relocated to California since the state’s first film tax credit was introduced in 2009. In six years under the original program, four series relocated to California. Important Things with Demetri Martin (from New York), Torchwood (from U.K.), Body of Proof (from Rhode Island), and Teen Wolf (from Georgia) all came west with the aid of the California Film & Television Tax Credit. All were welcome wins for California, but they were hardly enough.

But that was then; this is now. Last year, California’s film incentive program was significantly enhanced with extra firepower. Tripled in size and modified to include television projects that were previously ineligible, the enhanced California Film & Television Tax Credit Program 2.0 has reeled in four relocating TV series since May, 2015, when $27.6 million in tax credits was made available specifically for relocating shows.

In just a single month, California lured as many shows from other locations as it did in the prior six years under the old program. One of those four series is ABC Television’s Secrets and Lies, a mystery anthology series that tells a different story each season.  Save for Juliette Lewis, who plays Detective Andrea Cornell, the show will feature an entirely new cast when its second season airs in 2016.

Production on the second season began in California last month at the show’s new home stages on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood. “After shooting out of state last season, the California incentive has afforded us the amazing opportunity to bring our production home,” said Executive Producer Barbie Kligman.

In return for $5.7 million in tax credits that the studio can only use against its California state tax liability (credits for publicly traded studios cannot be refunded for cash or sold to other taxpayers), Secrets and Lies will spend a total of $35 million in the Golden State to produce its second season. This spending will support 128 cast, 185 crew and over 1,800 background positions in California.

On August 13, the crew of Secrets & Lies received on-set guests from the California State Legislature who worked to expand the California Film & Television Tax Credit.  The Honorable Kevin de Leon, Senate Pro Tempore, and AB 1839 (Gatto/Bocanegra) co-author Assemblymember Mike Gatto used the occasion to celebrate the return of film industry projects and jobs to California.

Kligman said many of the advantages of shooting in California are the well-known tangibles like world class stages, highly skilled crews, diverse backlots and reliable weather were already making a huge difference to the production, which was then just one week into shooting season two. Beyond the obvious, Kligman said other differences are hard to describe.

“There’s something magical about making a show in the heart of Hollywood on a studio lot as old as the business itself. And bringing these jobs home, bringing these fathers, mothers and husbands and wives back to their families and loved ones each night… these are the changes that are immeasurable.”

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