Spotlight: West Coast
* By Cory Sekine-Pettite
[Left] Desert Road leading to Death Valley in California. | [Right Top] Summer Dog Sledding on Alaska’s Glaciers. (Alaska Film Office / Alaska Travel Industry Assn.) | [Right Bottom] The city of Portland, Ore. (Travel Portland.) From the quiet deserts of Southern California to the lush forests and deep canyons of Oregon, and beyond our continental border to the wilderness of Alaska, the West Coast of the United States offers perhaps the most diverse landscapes available to filmmakers anywhere in the world. You don’t have to look very hard to find the locations you need. And to make this task even easier, Markee 2.0 asked the state film offices in Alaska, California and Oregon to express the advantages of shooting in their states, as well as to explain their incentive packages. Float Planes in Kodiak Harbor – Kodiak, Alaska. Alaska Film Office / Alaska Travel Industry Assn.
Alaska Film Office
What comprises your current incentive package? What are the qualifications? With a base rate of 30 percent on above- and below-the-line spending in Alaska, and additional percentages for local hire (+10 percent), off-season, October to March (+2 percent) and shooting in a rural areas (+2 percent), our incentive program offers up to 44 percent in a transferable tax credit to encourage projects to greenlight Alaska. Eligible projects are broadly defined as film, documentary, commercial, and video productions. A minimum of $100,000 of qualified expenditures in Alaska is required. Unlike some incentives, Alaska does not have a salary or project cap. Production companies are not required to be domiciled in Alaska, nor are there a minimum requirement for principle photography days or for local hire. If such a package currently is unavailable, is your state working toward providing incentive programs? During the last session, the Alaska legislature passed a bill extending the program thru 2023 and adding up to $200 million in additional credits.
|Sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage. Alaska Film Office / Alaska Travel Industry Assn.|
What notable movie and TV productions are underway (or pending) in your state? Alaska has seen a variety of feature films, including Big Miracle and Frozen Ground. Other features are in various stages of production and development. Alaska is also a popular location for non-fiction television production: Ice Road Truckers, Alaska Gold Rush, Yukon Men, Bering Sea Gold, Flying Wild and several others are active in the state. What local production companies are on your radar? Alaska has a wide variety of local production and production service companies that are working in independent projects and assisting in-bound productions. Describe the versatility of geography and locations available in your state. While Alaska is often considered a land of ice and snow (which we have in abundance), the state has far more to offer. Across Alaska are a nearly unlimited number of potential filming locations – so unless you’re looking for sun-baked cactus in the desert, Alaska can help realize your vision. 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! Within the context of movie and TV production, what makes your state unique? Is Alaska right for every project? No, but productions are often surprised by the versatility of our locations, the strength of our crew base, and are excited by our aggressive incentive program. Alaska has an authenticity that can’t be found everywhere – and we’re ready, willing and able to help bring it to the screen. ‘Spirit Houses’ Alaska Native Cemetery Eklutna, Alaska. Alaska Film Office / Alaska Travel Industry Assn.
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. Pending legislation will extend the program another two years. 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. Skyotee Ranch, Lancaster, Calif. 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 “qualified spend” 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 (2012-13) 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, 2013. More information about the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program is available at http://film.ca.gov/incentives.htm. Big Sur 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: Gangster Squad, Argo, Knife Fight, End of Watch, The Hive, Seven Psychopaths, Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO) • Television: Dexter, Franklin & Bash, Rizzoli & Isles, Switched At Birth, Sons of Anarchy, Body of Proof, Justified, Glee, American Horror Story, Bunheads, Private Practice and NCIS. What local production companies are on your radar? California is home to many production companies, film studios and post-production facilities. All of the major U.S.-based studios are headquartered in the Los Angeles region. Downtown Los Angeles 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.
What comprises your current incentive package? What are the qualifications? Any production that intends to spend at lease $750,000 in Oregon may apply and qualify for the Oregon Production Investment Fund, which offers a 20 percent cash rebate on Oregon goods and services and a 10 percent rebate on labor. In addition, any production that spends more than $1million in Oregon can receive an additional 6.2 percent on labor expenses through the Greenlight Labor Rebate. If such a package currently is unavailable, is your state working toward providing incentive programs? Currently, the Oregon Production Investment Fund is fully allocated through 2013, but we are working to up the overall cap through legislative action in 2013. Should this be successful, funds will become available immediately. What notable movie and TV productions are underway (or pending) in your state? The most notable productions include TNT’s Leverage, which recently wrapped season 5; IFC’s Portlandia, which is in production for season 3; and NBC’s Grimm which is filming season 2. In addition, LAIKA animation studios produced the feature ParaNorman, which was in theaters this summer and are already working on their third feature film. It’s also worth noting that two independent feature films are due to begin production in Southern Oregon this fall thanks to a strong creative community in the Ashland/Medford region. The Hawthorne Bridge in Portland is the oldest operating vertical lift bridge in the United States. What local production companies are on your radar? There are a host of local companies throughout the state. In Portland, there are too many to mention as commercial production continues to thrive in the area. Several companies that produce animation commercials have been growing for some time now. Outside of Portland there also are strong pockets of activity in Bend (Rage Productions) Eugene (video game companies such as Pipeworks) and Ashland. Describe the versatility of geography and locations available in your state. Oregon has an incredible diversity of locations thanks to the variety of the region. It’s easy to shoot a desert, snowy mountain, dense urban, and coastal location within a 24-hour stretch. It’s why car commercials are frequently filmed in our state and why we created a special “Roads of Oregon” site to show off this diversity – http://oregonfilm.org/roads/. Within the context of movie and TV production, what makes your state unique? Our uniqueness comes from a combination of several factors – fast and easy cash incentive program, close proximity to Los Angeles, virtually any location you can imagine, and a talented cast and crew base. With all of these factors in place, Oregon is in high demand because producers and directors know that they will get a quality product for a reasonable price in Oregon.
Markee 2.0 would like to thank the following people for helping to complete this article: Dave Worrell, Alaska Film Office; Nancy Rae Stone, California Film Commission; and Vince Porter, Oregon Film.