Dwayne Johnson on the set of HBO’s “Ballers,” one of the TV series that relocated to California due to the state’s production tax credit incentive.
Dwayne Johnson on the set of HBO’s “Ballers,” one of the TV series that relocated to California due to the state’s production tax credit incentive.

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This week, California took a big step toward extending through 2025 the film and television tax credit program that’s been fueling a boom in local production.

The state Assembly and Senate both voted overwhelmingly to add another five years to the current, $330 million annual incentive program that sunsets in 2019. Carefully designed to improve on the state’s previous, frustrating-for-producers $100 million yearly scheme to prevent movies and TV shows from shooting in highly incentivized, out-of-state jurisdictions, the current plan, dubbed 2.0, is considered a great success by almost any measure.

“California’s film tax credit has a proven track record of creating and retaining jobs in the film industry,” Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, lead author of the AB1734 reauthorization bill which the chamber approved in a 74-2 vote Wednesday, noted in an email. “According to their preliminary data for the first three years of Program 2.0., we have allocated $840 million in tax credits to 150 approved projects. Together, these projects are contributing $5.9 billion of direct in-state spending, including $2.3 billion in wages to the technical crew (this excludes any wages paid for writers, directors, producers or actors as those wages are not eligible for tax credits). Another $1.7 billion has been spent in qualified non-wage expenditures (purchases and rentals from California vendors).”

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, authored the mirroring Senate Bill 951 that passed on a 37-0 bipartisan vote Thursday.

“The program is about more than just the numbers and statistics,” Mitchell, who is chair of the Senate Budget Committee, emailed. “It is about the working men and women who for decades were able to earn a living and support their families working on productions in California. That reality started to shift 15 or more years ago and reached a crescendo by 2013. California was no longer the home of motion pictures. And people were forced to move, leaves their families for months on end or find another livelihood —- or be unemployed. We turned that around, to the good of these below-the-line workers and to the benefit of California. We are now turning away programs that want to come home. And we want to bring them home … which is what I believe SB 951 by extending the program will help make possible.”

The current 2.0 program starts its fourth fiscal year July 1. So why the urgency to extend it with two of the initial five years still left?

“The industry plans way far in advance,” Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission which administers the tax credit program, explained during an interview conducted several weeks before the Legislature voted. “They’re thinking about where they’re going to be locating these productions, and if it’s right up against the deadline of the cutoff to the program, they wouldn’t be able to count on it. So would we even be in their plans?”

Lemisch noted that major feature films don’t just prep for at least a year before production, but pre-prep considerations like budgeting and scheduling can begin another year before that. Though broadcast television series have traditionally taken less long to prepare, and shoot episodes on a more adaptable, week-to-week basis once in production, the rising tide of bingeable streaming series requires much more prep and condensed production time now so every episode can be launched simultaneously.

Both of the just-passed bills would retain the major features of 2.0 as we know it now. They’ll likely need to be reconciled and voted on again by the two chambers before Aug. 31, and subsequently signed by the governor to extend the program through 2025.

Some of the bills’ retained provisions are awarding tax credits based on the number of jobs a production creates and other economic factors; dividing the credits into separate, dedicated “buckets” for feature films, TV series and independent productions; providing additional credit to TV series that relocate to California after shooting elsewhere; and offering a five percent increase to shows that film in the state outside of the 30-Mile Zone around L.A.

New features that would become effective July 1, 2020 if the legislation becomes law include creating a pilot training program for industry careers for Californians from underserved communities; a bigger slice of the credits pie for smaller, independent production companies; and requiring applicants to submit policies against sexual and other unlawful harassment.

One of the shows that took advantage of 2.0’s series relocation incentive is HBO’s “Ballers,” which shot its third and just-completed fourth season in California after filming the first two in Miami.

Two crew chiefs from the Dwayne Johnson-starring sports dramedy gave some indication of the program’s effect on the California production community.

“A lot of the vendors that I work with have vastly benefited from the incentive because of the workflow that’s been going on in California in general,” noted location manager Eric Fierstein, who lives in Venice. “In the last two years, my vendors – air-conditioning, tent suppliers and the like – have increased their business considerably. They’ve hired people, and they’re able to give people union jobs. My layout board company [a firm responsible for protecting locations from filming-related damage] has hired several new employees under union contracts, and they’re getting health insurance, benefits and all this. That wouldn’t have taken place if the incentive wasn’t there.”

“I am 99 percent sure that the major factor in bringing it back from Miami was the incentive, and that put a lot of people to work in Los Angeles that probably would not have been working otherwise,” added “Ballers’” transportation manager and Calabasas resident Dusty Saunders. “The incentive was a major factor in a bunch of shows that have relocated to Los Angeles because now it’s financially feasible for them to do it. It helped out tremendously.”

Calderon noted that incentivized shows are good for California outside the state’s production support community, too.

“The benefits extend beyond the thousands employed in film and television production, to the ancillary businesses that serve the production sites and teams, such as the caterers, hotels, set construction companies, restaurants, and much more,” Calderon wrote. “Further, the state as a whole benefits, as the tax revenue generated from filming helps to pay for teachers, police officers and infrastructure throughout California.  Additionally, given the cultural influence that comes from being the home of the entertainment industry, the state benefits from a very healthy tourism industry, which supports many of the small and large businesses around the state.”

This week, California took a big step toward extending through 2025 the film and television tax credit program that’s been fueling a boom in local production.

The state Assembly and Senate both voted overwhelmingly to add another five years to the current, $330 million annual incentive program that sunsets in 2019. Carefully designed to improve on the state’s previous, frustrating-for-producers $100 million yearly scheme to prevent movies and TV shows from shooting in highly incentivized, out-of-state jurisdictions, the current plan, dubbed 2.0, is considered a great success by almost any measure.

“California’s film tax credit has a proven track record of creating and retaining jobs in the film industry,” Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, lead author of the AB1734 reauthorization bill which the chamber approved in a 74-2 vote Wednesday, noted in an email. “According to their preliminary data for the first three years of Program 2.0., we have allocated $840 million in tax credits to 150 approved projects. Together, these projects are contributing $5.9 billion of direct in-state spending, including $2.3 billion in wages to the technical crew (this excludes any wages paid for writers, directors, producers or actors as those wages are not eligible for tax credits). Another $1.7 billion has been spent in qualified non-wage expenditures (purchases and rentals from California vendors).”

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, authored the mirroring Senate Bill 951 that passed on a 37-0 bipartisan vote Thursday.

“The program is about more than just the numbers and statistics,” Mitchell, who is chair of the Senate Budget Committee, emailed. “It is about the working men and women who for decades were able to earn a living and support their families working on productions in California. That reality started to shift 15 or more years ago and reached a crescendo by 2013. California was no longer the home of motion pictures. And people were forced to move, leaves their families for months on end or find another livelihood —- or be unemployed. We turned that around, to the good of these below-the-line workers and to the benefit of California. We are now turning away programs that want to come home. And we want to bring them home … which is what I believe SB 951 by extending the program will help make possible.”

The current 2.0 program starts its fourth fiscal year July 1. So why the urgency to extend it with two of the initial five years still left?

“The industry plans way far in advance,” Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission which administers the tax credit program, explained during an interview conducted several weeks before the Legislature voted. “They’re thinking about where they’re going to be locating these productions, and if it’s right up against the deadline of the cutoff to the program, they wouldn’t be able to count on it. So would we even be in their plans?”

Lemisch noted that major feature films don’t just prep for at least a year before production, but pre-prep considerations like budgeting and scheduling can begin another year before that. Though broadcast television series have traditionally taken less long to prepare, and shoot episodes on a more adaptable, week-to-week basis once in production, the rising tide of bingeable streaming series requires much more prep and condensed production time now so every episode can be launched simultaneously.

Both of the just-passed bills would retain the major features of 2.0 as we know it now. They’ll likely need to be reconciled and voted on again by the two chambers before Aug. 31, and subsequently signed by the governor to extend the program through 2025.

Some of the bills’ retained provisions are awarding tax credits based on the number of jobs a production creates and other economic factors; dividing the credits into separate, dedicated “buckets” for feature films, TV series and independent productions; providing additional credit to TV series that relocate to California after shooting elsewhere; and offering a five percent increase to shows that film in the state outside of the 30-Mile Zone around L.A.

New features that would become effective July 1, 2020 if the legislation becomes law include creating a pilot training program for industry careers for Californians from underserved communities; a bigger slice of the credits pie for smaller, independent production companies; and requiring applicants to submit policies against sexual and other unlawful harassment.

One of the shows that took advantage of 2.0’s series relocation incentive is HBO’s “Ballers,” which shot its third and just-completed fourth season in California after filming the first two in Miami.

Two crew chiefs from the Dwayne Johnson-starring sports dramedy gave some indication of the program’s effect on the California production community.

A lot of the vendors that I work with have vastly benefited from the incentive because of the workflow that’s been going on in California in general,” noted Location Manager Eric Fierstein, who lives in Venice. “In the last two years, my vendors – air-conditioning, tent suppliers and the like – have increased their business considerably. They’ve hired people, and they’re able to give people union jobs. My layout board company [a firm responsible for protecting locations from filming-related damage] has hired several new employees under union contracts, and they’re getting health insurance, benefits and all this. That wouldn’t have taken place if the incentive wasn’t there.

I am 99 percent sure that the major factor in bringing it back from Miami was the incentive, and that put a lot of people to work in Los Angeles that probably would not have been working otherwise,” added “Ballers’” Transportation Coordinator and Calabasas resident Dusty Saunders. “The incentive was a major factor in a bunch of shows that have relocated to Los Angeles because now it’s financially feasible for them to do it. It helped out tremendously.”

Calderon noted that incentivized shows are good for California outside the state’s production support community, too.

“The benefits extend beyond the thousands employed in film and television production, to the ancillary businesses that serve the production sites and teams, such as the caterers, hotels, set construction companies, restaurants, and much more,” Calderon wrote. “Further, the state as a whole benefits, as the tax revenue generated from filming helps to pay for teachers, police officers and infrastructure throughout California.  Additionally, given the cultural influence that comes from being the home of the entertainment industry, the state benefits from a very healthy tourism industry, which supports many of the small and large businesses around the state.”

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