The Advantages of Shooting in California

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(This is a guest post submitted by Film Works supporter Zack Mandell, a movie enthusiast and owner of and writer of movie reviews.  He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.)

Most-Famous-Places-In-California-Santa-MonicaCalifornia is famous for several reasons.  In the last fifty years, the state has spawned two presidents.  It is far and away the most populous state in the union, and it is also the ninth largest economy in the world, besting India and Canada.  Every year, tens of millions of international and domestic visitors come to California.  Many of the visitor come as tourists who come to the Golden State to explore the vast beaches in the south, the beautiful bay in the middle or the largess of the redwoods in the north.

But if California is famous for anything, it’s for being America’s film industry capital.  The Hollywood Sign on Mount Lee is one of the world’s most recognizable brands.  Yet many filmgoers don’t realize that the number of films shot in California has dramatically decreased over the past decade.  Why?  Mostly financial reasons.  According to Harvey Weinstein, Miramax saved roughly $40 million while filming “Cold Mountain” in Romania.  Unfortunately, productions often go where they can be made for less.

Economically speaking, California does offer some pretty nifty incentives.  Producers of a feature film looking to shoot in California can now apply for a 20 percent tax credit, as long as the budget for the film falls between $1 million and $75 million.  Certain television productions are also allowed access to this same tax credit.  A miniseries or television movie in production is eligible to receive the tax credit so long as the budget of the project is above $500,000.  An established television show that has shot its previous seasons outside of the state can move its production over to California and earn a 25% tax credit.  Finally, independent films can earn a transferable 25% tax credit, so long as they fall within the budgetary requirements.

But there are reasons outside of economics to film in California.  Despite the fact that film productions have been running away from their supposed home, every single day talented newcomers arrive in Los Angeles area with fervent hopes of becoming a star.  Even though Connecticut offers some pretty outstanding incentives for filming, performers don’t flock to Hartford with dreams of making it big.  Even these days, the industry’s talent pool is largely concentrated in cities like New York and Los Angeles.  When creating a film, our deep bench of talented actors and crew members is without parallel.

Productions can leave and they are leaving, every day.  But California is still the home of the movies for a majority of international filmgoers.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t stay that way.

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