Just as producers are keenly aware of the budget for their film, TV, animation and new media projects, film commissions around the world are striving to offer high incentive packages to keep filmmakers happy.
There are currently 42 U.S. jurisdictions and 31 foreign jurisdictions offering strong film/TV incentives, but the most attractive perks involve consistent laws, processing, funding, infrastructure and favorable exchange rates. To explore the best offerings worldwide, P3 Update partnered with the Entertainment Partners division EP Financial Solutions, which provides production finance/incentive advice and services to film, TV, commercial and new media producers around the world. The alphabetical lists below explores the U.S. and international jurisdictions offering the most lucrative and reliable incentives along with a jaw-dropping buffet of cinematic scenery.
First, the big news: California is back. Skeptics were taken aback by the recent signing of legislation AB 1839 by California Governor Jerry Brown, which assured that the California Film and Television Incentive will receive an additional $230 million to its existing $100 million. The new program will also receive $330 million in funding each following financial year, which is easing the worries of the studios currently sending one-hour dramas and TV movies out of state. Eligibility of the credit has also been expanded by removing budget caps for studio and independent feature films, while TV series are eligible regardless of distribution medium. This last point opens the door for online series, such as those offered by Netflix, to take advantage of the credit. And that’s not all: the program offers an additional 5-percent break for visual-effects and music scoring work incurred in the state.Meanwhile, California still retains an impressive lineup of top productions, including the TV series “Extant,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family,” and feature films like Need for Speed and Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated Interstellar. www.film.ca.gov
From the big cities of Miami and Orlando to small beach towns and suburbs, Florida offers quite a range of spectacular locations to meet the needs of upcoming film and TV projects. The state also offers an impressive list of film commissions that all work together to ensure that each production runs smoothly, such as Dolphin Tale 2. Florida’s 20-to-30-percent transferable tax-credit program was so successful that the $296 million allocation is already gone. An economic study released by the MPAA indicates a 4.7 ROI for the program, with the expectation of more money being added to the Florida program in 2015. www.filminflorida.com
Without a doubt, one of the standout states of 2014 has been the Peach State. Georgia’s booming film economy is growing at a rapid speed, hosting a steady stream of film productions like Dumb and Dumber To, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, The Good Lie and No Good Deed and TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Tyler Perry’s Single Mom’s Club.” And it was recently announced that Chris Evans will head south to shoot the Marvel sequel Captain America 3 in the state. Georgia currently offers producers a 20-percent (and added 10-percent logo uplift) transferable tax credit as well as a strong crew base. And Pinewood Studios is building state-of-the-art soundstages to take advantage of the influx of productions. www.georgia.org/industries/entertainment/georgia-film-tv-production/
Hawaii is the leading tropical filming destination in the U.S. Featuring a diverse natural environment, the state is made up of eight main islands with each offering uniquely mind-blowing characteristics. Hawaii is also home to a slew of reefs, shoals, mountains, volcanos, rainforests, small towns, beach communities and cities, some of which served as hosts for the popular TV series “Hawaii Five-0” and the blockbuster film Godzilla. “Hawaii has long been a favorite location for Hollywood due to its distinctly ‘not in America’ looks while still being part of the U.S., with all of the benefits and security that offers,” says Location Manager Kent Matsuoka. “[Benefits include] the U.S. dollar, English language, no passport/customs requirements, and first world infrastructure. [And] the best reason for shooting in Hawaii is that it’s close enough to fly an actor out for a couple of days, with many flights and carriers making the run every day out of LAX and most major west coast cities.”
Hawaii currently has a 20- or 25-percent refundable tax credit as well as a 5-percent increase in an effort to compete with other state offerings. There are also plenty of first-class accommodations easily accessible to Hawaii’s popular locations. “Just the excuse of going to Hawaii can be reason [enough] to convince someone to come out,” adds Matsuoka. “[Just look at] the endless stream of guest talent that has appeared on the new iteration of ‘Hawaii Five-0.’” http://filmoffice.hawaii.gov
When you’ve got the city of Chicago at bat on your team, it can be pretty easy to entice producers to suit up and join the game. The city and the entire state of Illinois boast some of the most breathtaking modern and historical locations. Recent productions shot in Illinois include the films Divergent, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Jupiter Ascending and the hit TV shows “Shameless” and “Chicago Fire.” The state’s 30-percent transferable tax credit has once again been renewed, pushing the sunset date all the way to May 2021. There’s an additional bonus of up to 15 percent on labor expenditures for the employment of residents from geographic areas of high poverty or unemployment, so the credit can actually reach a whopping total of 45 percent. Illinois is also the only state with a production incentive program that includes a diversity provision.
Louisiana has been a production giant for much of 2014 with a stream of star-powered blockbusters lining up to take advantage of the state’s incentives. Louisiana’s up-to-35-percent transferable tax credit consistently attracts TV shows like “American Horror Story: Freak Show” and slew of studio features, such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 22 Jump Street, The Fantastic Four, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales andthe recently released Left Behind, starring Nicolas Cage and Lea Thompson. It was also just announced that Sylvester Stallone will shoot some intense action sequences in Louisiana for the fifth installment of his Rambo film franchise. http://www.louisianaentertainment.gov
Massachusetts currently still offers its reliable 25-percent transferable tax credit, which has attracted the film productions for the sequel Ted 2 (directed by Seth MacFarlaneand starring Mark Wahlberg), R.I.P.D. (starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges)and the Oscar contender The Judge (starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall). The state is not only known for featuring a wide array of period locations that range as far back as the 1600s. With its vast architectural options and a supportive incentive, it’s no surprise why Massachusetts continues to make the cut year after year. www.mafilm.org
New Mexico remains a film hotspot, thanks to its 25- or 30-percent film production tax credit (the 5-percent bump is for TV series and resident labor) and a standalone 25-percent postproduction tax credit, both of which are refundable. Big budget features, like Transcendence and The Lone Ranger, and TV projects alike have utilized New Mexico’s cinematic locales as a backdrop. AMC’s “Breaking Bad” just ended its six-year run of filming five seasons in the state just in time to start shooting its spinoff show “Better Call Saul” in New Mexico. In a recent conversation, Albuquerque’s Director of Communications in the Office of the Mayor Dayna Gardner spoke about the financial impact high-profile productions have had on the city. “The industry provides jobs for our citizens that are high-paying and creative,” she states. “Local companies also benefit from having a production here, like lumber companies, hotels and restaurants, travel agencies [and] sign companies.… In fact, almost all local businesses profit in some way. When ‘Breaking Bad’ was filming, the direct-spend-per-episode shot over eight days was approximately a million dollars to the city.” www.nmfilm.com
The Big Apple takes enticing productions to a whole new level, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has just extended the state’s incentive program to 2019 along with an additional $2.1 billion in film funding. New York currently offers a 30-percent fully refundable tax credit on qualified production and postproduction expenses incurred in the state, as well as a 30- to 35-percent postproduction credit on qualified post expenses incurred in-state (for projects not eligible for the film production tax credit program). There’s also a commercial production credit of 5 percent, a 20-percent annual growth credit (with applications submitted annually), and sales-tax exemptions.
Cuomo’s dedication to keep productions happy has led to further enhancements, most notably a 10-percent BTL cost uplift to film outside the metro area in specified Upstate New York counties (beyond Albany) — and this can extend the 30-percent New York metro credit up to 40 percent on film-production costs. TV variety and talk shows can also qualify, much like NBC’s “The Tonight Show” and “America’s Got Talent.” Other New York productions include Steven Soderbergh’s new Cinemax series “The Knick,” Jenji Kohan’s “Orange Is the New Black” and the feature films A Walk Among the Tombstones (starring Liam Neeson), St. Vincent (starring Bill Murray, Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy) and the star-studded comedy This Is Where I Leave You. And to serve upstate productions, Empire Visual Effects will create 150 new visual effects and other postproduction jobs in Buffalo within five years. www.nylovesfilm.com
As the home of sprawling cities like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, it’s no surprise why the Lone Star State rounds out our top ten for the U.S. The sheer size of the state is enough to lure productions, with its diverse array of landscapes and geological features. Texas also boasts an up-to-22.5-percent grant program for film and television projects that has kept new Film Commissioner Heather Page busy with nonstop applications. Recent projects utilizing everything Texas has to offer include the newly released Men, Women & Children (starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner), Paramount’s summer blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction and the NBC sci-fi series “Revolution.” www.governor.state.tx.us/film
Abu Dhabi really is like no place on Earth. The city is vibrant and alive, with its Arab heritage inspiring the sprawling architecture, and the fantastically hot desert climate produces the sunniest of blue skies throughout the year. Abu Dhabi also offers a highly attractive 30-percent cash rebate, the likes of which is enough to entice much-anticipated franchise productions like Disney’s Star Wars: Episode VII and Universal’s Fast and Furious 7. Since 2012, Abu Dhabi’s incentive program has functioned without a funding cap and continues to offer additional bonuses, such as free international travel (when booking with Etihad Airways), free scouting assistance and no sales tax. www.film.gov.ae
A filmmaker’s dream locale, Australia is a country that exudes scenic beauty in every direction, and there are a host of film commissions ready help productions with any and all requests. Recent Aussie productions include Warner Bros. The Great Gatsby and Fox’s The Wolverine, and it was recently announced that Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will send its stars and pirates to film in Queensland. “Disney is pleased to be working with both the Australian government and Queensland government as we prepare to set sail on our next Pirates adventure,” says Philip Steuer, senior VP of physical production at Walt Disney Studios. “Queensland has an incredibly diverse landscape and Australia’s robust entertainment industry, and many accomplished craftsmen will provide a fantastic home base for our production.”
Australia’s Screen Production incentive program currently offers tax-based incentives and provides a cash rebate to producers on Qualifying Australian Production Expenditures (QAPE). The three incentives are the Location Offset at 16.5 percent; the Post, Digital and Visual Effects Offset (PDV) at 30 percent; and a Producer Offset of 40 percent for qualifying feature films and 20 percent for qualifying TV productions and documentaries (which include official co-production treaties). www.ausfilm.com.au
Canada has basically taken over production for 2014. With an army of film offices working overtime in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and Yukon, just to name a few, Canada is more than ready to exceed expectations. The country is known for its stunning locations, highly skilled crews, production service companies and incentives that will put a smile on producers’ faces. Recent films shot in Canada include Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (which utilized Alberta) and X-Men: Days of Future Past(Québec). And the upcoming drama The Revenant, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, will shoot in British Columbia and Alberta in 2015. Canada’s generous film incentives vary depending on each region. For a complete list of incentives and commissions, visit www.ep.com/canada/
Germany boasts an extraordinary history in cinema that serves as a foundation for its capabilities as a modern production hub. Fox Searchlight’s Grand Budapest Hotel and Sony/Columbia’s The Monuments Menrecently chose Germany as a filming destination, as the country offers professionally trained English-speaking crews and studios that meet the highest standards in film technology. Germany is also cherished for its timber-frame old towns and contemporary architecture. Meanwhile, the country stays busy by offering film and TV productions a 20-percent cash grant. www.location-germany.de
Scenic clouds, sunsets and falling snow all make Iceland the place where filmmakers can attain shots never thought possible. This daring land mass south of the Arctic Circle is packed with lava fields, mountains, glaciers, rivers, oceans, fjords and towns of all shapes and sizes. Offering a wealth of cinematic possibilities, Iceland can double as a faraway fantasyland as well as a distant planet. Recent productions shot in Iceland include the studio films Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Noah and Oblivion and the hit TV series “Game of Thrones.” Iceland’s financial incentive offers a healthy20 percent of qualifying local spends, and the country takes pride in having reimbursements be an easy and straightforward procedure. www.filminiceland.com
Over the past few years, Ireland has developed a well-deserved reputation as one of the top places to shoot. It now stands out on the global production map, courtesy of its high-profile filming locations that have well served projects like the HBO adventure/fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” With its breathtaking scenery, experienced crews and outstanding studios, Ireland is more than equipped to tackle any film of TV project. The country’s current incentive program has been extended to 2020, with the benefit increasing from 28 percent to 32 percent in 2015. In addition, up-front production funding is paid in cash on the first day of shooting or on financial closing. The program is capped at 80-percent global spend of up to 50 million euros, and the amount spent on the Ireland production must at least equal the amount of investment eligible for tax relief. www.irishfilmboard.ie
Malaysia features coastal plains, forested hills and mountains as well as ideally warm tropical weather year-round, making it one of the most utilized film locales in Asia. It also offers producers state-of-the-art studios, the latest production equipment, green-screen facilities, broadcast studios, VFX and digital postproduction facilities, and there are more than 70 production-centered companies ready to assist filmmakers. Incentives-wise, Malaysia offers a 30-percent cash rebate and low production costs. Additional perks include the recent opening of Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios (PIMS), whose name alone guarantees top-quality production values. The Weinstein Company is already booked to shoot its new Netflix series “Marco Polo” at PIMS. www.filminmalaysia.com
Mainland New Zealand features North and South Islands to create one of the greatest filmic backdrops in cinematic history. With jaw-dropping landscapes and an experienced crew base, it’s clear why this Southwestern Pacific gem makes our list every year. In April 2014, the Screen Production Incentive Fund and Large-Budget Screen Production Grant was replaced by the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG), which offers cash grants to key film, TV and animation projects that achieve a certain level of qualifying NZ expenditures (QNZPE). Productions with significant New Zealand content are eligible for a cash grant of 40 percent, while international productions are eligible for 20 percent (with a 5-percent uplift for productions that can demonstrate significant economic benefits to New Zealand). And the revamped Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Grant offers eligible productions a 20-percent cash grant of QNZPE with a 5-percent uplift for economic NZ benefits).
The presence of Peter Jackson’s acclaimed visual-effects house Weta Digital in Wellington remains a big draw for local and visiting producers, as the facility offers a full suite of digital production services for feature films and commercials. Not only did Weta Digital play a large postproduction role in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film franchises, but it also provided work for Hollywood blockbusters like X-Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. www.nzfilm.co.nz www.wetafx.co.nz
South Africa has received notable attention in 2014 for its stunning landscapes, professional studios and a 20-to-25-percent cash rebate. Its coastline stretches over 1,500 miles while offering a wide range of cinematic locations, including lush green hills, crystal blue waters and the sprawling city of Cape Town. Cape Town Film Studios is backed by national, provisional and local governments as it lures big-budget Hollywood productions like the Nelson Mandela biopic Long Walk to Freedom, the Adam Sandler comedy Blended, The Giver (starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep) and theReese Witherspoon drama The Good Lie. www.southafricanfilmcommission.com
Across the pond, the United Kingdom has built a film empire that continually attracts films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Fast & Furious 6, Star Wars: Episode VII and the upcoming Brad Pitt war flick Fury, as well as the new Starz TV series “Outlander.” The UK touts an extensive crew base of highly skilled technicians and an impressive lineup of film studios, including Pinewood, Shepperton, Warner Bros./Leavesden and 3 Mills, just to name a few. The UK also offers a 20- or 25-percent refundable tax credit that has been so successful with features that it now also serves high-end television and animation projects. www.britishfilmcommission.org.uk