“Size and certainty, that’s what matters,” said David Glasser today on a panel at the Produced By Conference about California’s new $330 million a year film and TV tax incentive program. “As it gets bigger we’ll be more confident we can make something here,” The Weinstein Co. COO and president told a packed house at the Sherry Lansing Theatre on the Paramount lot. “We’re Hollywood right?
“We welcome it, we’d love to make a TV show or another project here,” Glasser told me after the panel
of the Golden State’s new non-lottery determined program kicking in this year, first with TV applications this month and feature applications in July. “It’s just about finding the right fit at the right time.”
Deborah Wettstein CFO Indian Paintbrush Productions, Shirley Davis, VP physical production Alcon Entertainment and Debra Bergman, the SVP scripted for Freemantle Media joined Glasser at the panel on production incentives at the confab Saturday. Film Commissioners from Illinois, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, New Mexico, and Minnesota, among others were in attendance. Australian representatives were there also, as were their equivalents from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
The injection of new and expanded industry tax credits in California was also welcomed by Bergman who noted, “I’ve lost many shows here because of the lack of incentives.” The changes in California weren’t all sunshine for the Freemantle Media exec who expressed concerns that, with the emphasis now on job creation, relocating shows and tentpole features could eat up a lot of the available incentives, at least for the first year. “Everyone is chasing the incentives,” Bergman noted, on a state, national and international scale.
“It’s got to be a two-way street for these thing to survive long term,” Glasser remarked, addressing criticism of tax incentives that states and nations are just handing funds out to Hollywood productions with little to show for it in the end. “It’s also the trickle-down effect,” said Bergman. “You are bringing all this money in and training crew and creating jobs.”
“It’s not free money, it’s not dumb money,” Glasser asserted. “States are offering this to do their job, and it’s working. It’s a partnership and we’re going into a business with those states and countries,” he said, noting the big buildup TWC was involved in with Malaysia as it filmed Season 1 of Marco Polo there. Having spent an estimated $52 million in the Southeast Asian nation, the Netflix series is returning for Season 2, with the infrastructure it developed and other productions have used and expanded. “And we will have 400 local crew on the show,” claimed Glasser as part of working with incentivizing jurisdiction to create not just work but skills and careers.
With the generous expansion of the California Film and TV Tax Credits program officially taking effect on July 1 as well as political jockeying in various state legislatures across the country, incentives are certainly hot for producers this summer – even more so with the big drop in North Carolina, once a burgeoning hub for domestic production. More shifts are expected in Louisiana, which might introduce a cap, as well as Texas and Michigan. It all adds up for production when you consider that there are more than 40 jurisdictions with statewide and local incentives in the U.S.
“Tax incentives more than ever have become a huge part of what we have to do,” the TWC exec told the audience today. “It’s an absolute must as a part of the profitability model,” adding “you can’t do enough homework up front.” That POV was echoed by Wettstein and others on the panel. “Find the right intersection between financial consideration and creative considerations and what’s best for the film.”
“I like to call Point Break, The Attorneys because it took us so long to figure out where this movie was going to shot,” Davis said of finding what was best for the extreme sports reboot of the 1991 Kathryn Bigelow-helmed movie, set to come out later this year. “I think we shot in more countries than a Bond movie, 10 countries and 4 states,’ the Alcon VP said. “I think to do this you have to a producer and have a MBA,” she added to laughs after telling the crowd how the film based itself in incentive-rich Germany and jumped to different countries like Italy when necessary. She also noted to a even bigger laughs that the secret to success in using tax incentives to a producer’s advantage is to “have a great accountant and do not shoot in 10 countries.”
Produced By runs today and tomorrow at Paramount.