Santa Barbara lies a scant hundred miles or so north of Los Angeles, but the cost of housing cast and crew “outside the zone” during days-long shoots has been enough to keep film and television production companies from coming here. That’s already changing with greater tax credits offered by a state program, which holds as much as $230 million in tax credits for 2015-2016 (and $330 million each fiscal year through 2020) for “below the line” expenses — like salaries of secretaries but not stars — on productions in California, and an additional 5 percent break on those outside the Los Angeles zone.
Independent and non-independent films with a million-dollar-plus budget have until July 13-25 to file in the application period for the 20-25 percent tax credits available. Incentives for television in the new $1.5 billion program, which triples the monies available of the previous incentive program, include an application period for series, TV movies, and pilots of November 30 to December 6.
The number of jobs created is a major criteria to get into the program, said Geoff Alexander, Santa Barbara’s film commissioner, and that rather than getting a check, as some states hand out, the California program gives back on the tax end. The additional “out of the zone” tax break has already produced results, Alexander said. Currently, two independent films are scouting Santa Barbara, which hasn’t hosted a major movie production since It’s Complicated in 2009. And the TV allocations six weeks ago, he added, have HBO considering a Santa Barbara location on a proposal with a director/producer whose name we’d instantly recognize (if he could tell us who it is).