More Tax Credits for In-State Films

Enhancements to a state law boosted by Santa Barbara County Film Commissioner Geoff Alexander and supported by the entertainment industry for its incentives to keep the cameras rolling in California were approved by Governor Jerry Brown in Hollywood on Thursday. The California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act of 2014 — otherwise known as AB 1839 — updates the state’s existing tax credit program, which came onto the scene in 2009 and has since doled out $400 million to production companies, kept an estimated 51,000 industry jobs in the state, and contributed $4.5 billion to the state’s economy, according to Visit Santa Barbara, which works in conjunction with the Film Commission.

But with most other states in the country offering similar carrots, lawmakers and filmmakers decided the five­year­old law could use some tweaking to keep productions from seeking cheaper pastures. Quarterbacking a team of dozens of other film commissioners from across the state, Alexander — who has headed the commission for the last seven years — helped ensure that AB 1839 didn’t lose momentum. He said he believes the law “will help stem and reverse the tide of runaway productions, bringing back good paying, professional work to California and our area.”

At today’s signing, Brown said the bill will “remind the world that the Golden State is the home of the silver screen.” The benefits for employees less in the limelight will be felt, too, Brown said. “This bill helps thousands of Californians — from stage hands and set designers to electricians and delivery drivers.”

Changes found in AB 1839 — written by more than 60 Sacramento politicians — include a 5 percent tax credit for productions that venture outside of Los Angeles County, a 25 percent tax credit for movies that spend $10 million in California, and a 25 percent tax credit for TV shows that go to the Golden State during their first year of shooting. Overall, the law means an extra five years of the program and a tripling of the incentives available from $100 million per year to $330 million per year, starting in 2015­2016.

Alexander said the law could be especially beneficial for Santa Barbara County, which hasn’t seen a studio feature film since It’s Complicated five years ago. That movie — about a love triangle between Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin — filmed in Santa Barbara for three days before production was “poached” by New York, Alexander said. Production in town had been originally planned for 21 days, Alexander added, which would have pumped about $4 million — from equipment rentals, location fees, casting, governmental fees, police services, hotel bed taxes, and dining — into the area’s economy.


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