EXCLUSIVE: Nearly a month ahead of schedule, phones all over town today were ringing with news of which TV projects received some of the $82.8 million allocated in tax credits from the Golden State. An official announcement is expected tomorrow, we’ve learned. That release from the California Film Commission was sitting in Gov. Jerry Brown’s office awaiting a final signoff until late today. Once that happens, the CFC will reveal all the TV projects that received tax credits in this round plus the last lottery draw. The CFC originally had intended to make the recipients public on July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year and when the funds become available.
Sources say that the new online application process and the California Film Commission’s culling of the 37 projects that applied under the first round of the new non-lottery system last month proved so unexpectedly streamlined that the state entity wrapped things up weeks ahead of schedule. Hotel, the fifth season of American Horror Story, is among of the successful applicants as a relocating series, we’ve learned. After shooting its first two seasons in California, AHS moved to Louisiana to benefit from that state’s lucrative tax credits program for its third and fourth cycle before coming back west to start production on Hotel next month.
That production schedule is right in line with the eligibility requirements of California’s now-expanded program, which deems only projects that start on or after July 1 eligible to apply. A total of 16 TV series, three miniseries projects, four MOWs and eight pilots submitted for the first round of the new program during the May 11-17 application period. Unlike the randomness of the previous lottery-determined program, applicants’ projects now are assessed primarily under the job-creation criteria Sacramento politicians put in place last summer and that were given regulatory approval this spring.
Under the now-$330 million-a-year program of the widely supported and multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act that Brown signed into law on September 18, TV production got a big boost from what was parceled out under the previous $100 million total annual incentives. Not only was the lottery system kicked to the curb under the new five-year program, but network pilots were added to the mix with allocations for that category plus new series, renewed series, miniseries and MOWs being set at $55.2 million for the first round of applications that were accepted last month by the California Film Commission. An often-grandfathered staple of the lottery system, relocated series from other states and Canada now get $27.6 million this year. With fiscal 2015-16 serving as a transition year to burn off the last of the $100 million program and tap into about $220 million in new funding, fiscal 2016-17 will see the full TV category allocated $132 million. TV projects will get that amount every year until 2020, when the current program is set to expire.
The first round of feature and indie film applications will run from July 13-25. There will be $48.3 million for feature films and $6.9 million for independent projects available, with films with budgets of over $75 million now eligible under the program.