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Spotlight: West Coast

More Than Beaches

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

[top] Oregon [bottom] Washington
[top] Oregon
[bottom] Washington

From scorching deserts to snow-capped mountains to lush forests, the West Coast has you covered. Our western-most states can provide virtually any type of landscape – urban or rural – needed for your productions. With few exceptions, there still are tax incentive dollars to be had, so Markee asked the state film offices in Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington to explain their incentive packages and to express the advantages for shooting in their states.

Farm near Palmer, Alaska ñ Pioneer Peak in the background. Palmer is about 40 miles north east of Anchorage, Alaskaís largest city. In the 1930ís the federal government enlisted farmers from the upper Midwest to settle the Palmer area and establish farms, many of which still operate. The area has many of the characteristics of small town, farm country ñ in an amazing setting.  Photo © 2011 Dave Worrell
Farm near Palmer, Alaska – Pioneer Peak in the background. Palmer is about 40 miles north east of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. In the 1930’s the federal government enlisted farmers from the upper Midwest to settle the Palmer area and establish farms, many of which still operate. The area has many of the characteristics of small town, farm country – in an amazing setting.
Photo © 2011 Dave Worrell

Alaska Film Office

What comprises your current incentive package? What are the qualifications?

Alaska has an aggressive Incentive Program for Film and Television Production – up to 44 percent. Here’s the breakdown: The base rate is 30 percent. Additional uplifts are available for hiring Alaska residents (10 percent), off-season production (October thru March – 2 percent) and productions filmed in rural locations (2 percent). In addition, Alaska has no state income tax and no statewide sales tax (although some communities have local sales taxes). The Incentive is a transferable tax credit based on expenses incurred in Alaska (including wages and salaries).

We require a minimum of $100,000 of qualified expenditures in Alaska and an audit by an independent, Alaska-licensed CPA. We do not require the company to be domiciled in Alaska; however, they will need to procure an Alaska Business License. In addition, we do not have minimum requirements for principle photography days or Alaska hire – we encourage you to hire as many Alaskans as possible through the additional 10-percent uplift for their wages, but there is no requirement.

Unlike some incentive programs, both above-the-line and below-the-line expenditures can qualify, and our program doesn’t have salary or project caps. Rentals and purchases through Alaska companies, as well as in-state food and lodging expenses, can qualify. All transportation costs in state can qualify and half the dollar value of transportation to and from Alaska as well. Call the Alaska Film Office with questions about specific expenses.

If such a package currently is unavailable, is your state working toward providing incentive programs?

Alaska’s incentive legislation currently sunsets in 2013. However, a 10-year extension of the program (with an additional $200 million in tax credits) is pending before the legislature and has already passed the Alaska Senate (unanimously!)

What notable movie and TV productions are underway (or pending) in your state?

A wide variety of productions ranging from micro-budget films to major non-fiction television series to large-budget independent features are working in the state.

What local production companies are on your radar?

Alaska has a number of production companies and production service companies (and crew) that are uniquely qualified to work in Alaska’s sometimes challenging conditions. The Film office maintains an online listing service of Crew, Support Service providers and Talent. Visit www.film.Alaska.gov and look for “Find People and Services” in the menu.

Describe the versatility of geography and locations available in your state.

From alpine peaks to misty shorelines, quaint coastal towns to suburban neighborhoods, wide-open tundra to deep dark forests, farms to fishing boats, glaciers to beaches, railroads to goldmines, year-round snow to barren sand dunes – Alaska has great locations for almost any project. And don’t forget unbelievable natural light that ranges from a “magic hour” that lasts for several hours to summer sunshine that lasts 20 hours and more! Across Alaska are a nearly unlimited number of potential filming locations – so unless they’re looking for sun-baked cactus in the desert, we can help realize a filmmaker’s vision.

Within the context of movie and TV production, what makes your state unique?

Alaska is unique from many perspectives: we have more shoreline than all the “lover 48” states combined; we have North America’s highest peak (and glaciers so large they can only be seen in their entirety from orbit); we have wilderness and (small) city-scapes – often within minutes of each other; our locations are second to none – but filmmakers often remark that Alaska’s people were the best part of shooting in the state; we’re part of the United States, and have the benefits of “domestic” production; our incentive program is aggressive, easy to access and not threatened.

But most of all, Alaska is “Alaska” – America’s last frontier. It’s a place with unlimited opportunity and a welcoming spirit. And it doesn’t hurt that the state is drop dead gorgeous. Alaska: not just another pretty place!

Avenue of the Giants: This world-famous scenic drive in northern California is a 31-mile section of old Highway 101, which features more than 51,000 acres of redwood groves. It is considered the most outstanding view of these giant trees in the entire 500-mile redwood belt. The Avenue of the Giants is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.   Photo courtesy of California Film Commission
Avenue of the Giants: This world-famous scenic drive in northern California is a 31-mile section of old Highway 101, which features more than 51,000 acres of redwood groves. It is considered the most outstanding view of these giant trees in the entire 500-mile redwood belt. The Avenue of the Giants is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.
Photo courtesy of California Film Commission

California Film Commission

What comprises your current incentive package? What are the qualifications?

California’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program provides credits against income and/or sales and use taxes on qualified expenditures. The original, five-year, $500-million program was enacted in 2009 and recently extended for an additional year through fiscal 2014-15. Tax credits range from 20 to 25 percent, depending on the type of production.

Those eligible for a 20-percent tax credit include feature films with budgets from $1 million to $75 million, movies of the week (MOWs) or miniseries with a $500,000 minimum budget, and new television series with a $1 million minimum budget licensed for original distribution on basic cable. Projects eligible for a 25-percent credit include TV series planning to move production to California after shooting all prior seasons outside the state, and independent films with budgets up to $10 million.

Qualified films must shoot 75 percent of their production days (or 75 percent of their total production budget) in California, and begin principal photography within 180 days of tax credit approval.

The current (2011-12) fiscal year of the program is fully subscribed, and there is a waiting list for any projects that apply. Applications for the next fiscal year’s $100-million allocation will be accepted starting June 1, 2012.

More information about the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program is available at http://film.ca.gov/incentives.htm.

What notable movie and TV productions are underway (or pending) in your state?

California hosts productions of all sizes and budgets. Each year, more than 200 feature films and countless TV series, commercials and documentaries are produced in the Golden State. A small sampling of recent and current projects includes:

• Feature Films: Drive, Moneyball, Batman, Gangster Squad, Argo, J. Edgar, Rampart, We Bought a Zoo, Horrible Bosses, HBO’s Hemingway and Gelhorn, In Time, The Muppets, My Mother’s Curse and Super 8.
• Television: Dexter, CSI Miami, House, Sons of Anarchy, Body of Proof, Justified, The Office, Glee, American Horror Story, Parenthood, Private Practice and NCIS.

What local production companies are on your radar?

California is home to countless production companies, film studios and post-production facilities. All of the major U.S.-based studios are headquartered in the Los Angeles region.

California
California

Describe the versatility of geography and locations available in your state.

California has moderate weather with an average of 315 sunny days each year. Its diverse landscape ranges from more than 800 miles of coastline to mountains, deserts and everything in between. A few examples include:

  • The Sacramento Delta, which doubles for Asia or the American South
  • South Mammoth Mountain, which doubles for the Himalayas
  • Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, which doubles for West Texas
  • Mendocino County, which doubles for the East Coast, and
  • Ridgecrest, which doubles for the terrain of other planets.

Within the context of movie and TV production, what makes your state unique?

California is acknowledged as the leading center for entertainment production. While many regions boast about production infrastructure, California has the ability to sustain more than 100 large-scale productions simultaneously. The state is home to a critical mass of production infrastructure (crews, equipment, locations, sound stages, etc.) that is unmatched anywhere in the world.

An historic mining town, Jacksonville, Ore., was first settled during the Gold Rush in 1851. It is known as Southern Oregonís first settlement, and today more than 100 of Jacksonville's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, the town was voted one of the ìTop 10 Coolest Small Townsî by Budget Travel magazine.  Photo courtesy of Oregon Film
An historic mining town, Jacksonville, Ore., was first settled during the Gold Rush in 1851. It is known as Southern Oregon’s first settlement, and today more than 100 of Jacksonville’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, the town was voted one of the “Top 10 Coolest Small Towns” by Budget Travel magazine.
Photo courtesy of Oregon Film

Oregon Film

What comprises your current incentive package? What are the qualifications?

There are two programs. One is called the Oregon Production Investment Fund (OPIF). The other is the Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate. Basically, with those two programs, if you spend over $1 million in the state you would get a cash rebate of 20 percent on goods and services and up to 16.2 percent on labor. There’s one caveat: the Oregon Production Investment Fund is an annual allocation [funds are distributed to productions via rebate checks]. There is a fixed amount of money. Right now, we have so many projects that we’re fully allocated through 2012. The Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate [however] is a rebate on certain taxes that get collected; there is no cap to that.

If such a package currently is unavailable, is your state working toward providing incentive programs?

We just got our programs extended for six years, so they’ll be in place until 2018. There’s always the hope and the possibility that we could get more money sent to the OPIF fund, but there’s no legislation that currently is allowing for that.

What notable movie and TV productions are underway (or pending) in your state?

Television and animation have been very successful here. As far as TV goes, the TNT series Leverage has shot here for the last three years, and they’ll be doing season 5 (their fourth one in Oregon) next year. The Independent Film Channel show Portlandia shoots here; they just completed their second season. And NBC has a show called Grimm that is currently in production.

There are a couple of different animation companies here that have been doing some high-profile projects. There’s a company called Bent Image Lab that are finishing up a project called Jingle All the Way, which is a stop-motion television special that will be airing on the Hallmark Channel around Thanksgiving. They’re reconnecting with that whole stop-motion animation holiday special tradition. And a much bigger project from LAIKA Animation Studio is currently production their second feature film called Paranorman (in theatres 8/17/12). They are the producers of the Academy Award-nominated film Coraline.

The collection of those five projects has really kept us pretty busy. Lake Shore Entertainment also did a feature film here earlier in the year with Amanda Seyfried called Gone, which does not yet have a release date.

What local productin companies are on your radar?

Oregon has always had a really strong advertising community. [Those companies] have started doing branded entertainment and things like that. There’s a very full list of companies on a website called sourceoregon.com.

Describe the versatility of geography and locations available in your state.

For television in particular, the close proximity to L.A. definitely is advantageous on certain projects. And you combine that with such a diverse landscape – even within the city of Portland – but when you look out into the entire state…

Leverage, for example, is set in Boston, so they shoot Portland to look like Boston. There’s another film worth mentioning called Meek’s Cutoff that was shot in eastern Oregon in a desert area that no one really expects Oregon to be. But the state is one of the few places in the country where you can find a lush rainforest, urban areas, mountainous ski areas (Mount Hood is only 1 1/2 hours from downtown Portland and features year-round snow.), and a desert all within a one-day drive.

Within the context of movie and TV production, what makes your state unique?

One thing that producers really have a tough time budgeting for – until you experience it you really can’t figure out how it impacts your production – is Oregon being a no sales tax state. Compared to other places, you’re immediately getting a 7-, 8- or 9-percent break on the cost of goods. That’s one of those things people budget for on their second project in Oregon, but on their first project it becomes a nice surprise.

Known for its acres of dense forests, Washington also is home to rural farm settings, rugged coastlines, and towns and cities of all size and shape. And letís not forget the modern beauty of Seattleís skyline, which features the landmark Space Needle.  Photo courtesy of Washington Filmworks
Known for its acres of dense forests, Washington also is home to rural farm settings, rugged coastlines, and towns and cities of all size and shape. And let’s not forget the modern beauty of Seattle’s skyline, which features the landmark Space Needle.
Photo courtesy of Washington Filmworks

Washington Filmworks

What comprises your current incentive package? What are the qualifications?

Washington’s Motion Picture Competitiveness Program sunset on June 30, 2011. While we were able to raise our annual allocation of $3.5 million between January and June of this year, all of the funds have been allocated to productions.

If such a package currently is unavailable, is your state working toward providing incentive programs?

Washington Filmworks is currently strategizing about how to get the program renewed during the 2012 legislative session, which takes place from January to March 2012.

What notable movie and TV productions are underway (or pending) in your state?

21 and Over – Relativity
The Apostles – Exclusive Media Group

What local production companies are on your radar?

To find a full list of full-service production companies in our area, please visit our online crew and production resource database at www.WashingtonProductionIndex.com.

Describe the versatility of geography and locations available in your state.

Few states in the United States can match Washington for sheer geographic variety. While famous for its acres of dense forests, Washington also is home to snowy mountain peaks, rolling sandy dunes, vast fields of corn and wheat, rugged coastlines and sprawling valleys. But locations in Washington are not limited to just natural beauty. Towns and cities of all size and shape stretch across the state, from the world-renowned Seattle skyline to sleepy beach communities, working-class logging towns, suburban neighborhoods and even remote ghost towns that predate Washington’s statehood.

Within the context of movie and TV production, what makes your state unique?

In addition to the scenic beauty of Washington, the Evergreen State has always attracted artists, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. For the film and TV industry, this translates to a surplus of creative minds and passionate workers all helping to create a deep and talented cast and crew base. Within the production centers of Seattle and Spokane, filmmakers can find production resources for preproduction all the way through post. Always on the cutting edge of technology, Washington also is home to nationally renowned sound design facilities, animation studios and editing houses.

Editor’s note:
The state of Hawaii was contacted for this feature, but could not provide answers by our deadline. We will include the Hawaii Film Office in a future issue.


November 26, 2012