Only one of the 10 films nominated for best picture at tonight’s Producers Guild Awards was shot in Los Angeles, and it didn’t receive any of the state’s film tax incentives.
“This was only the third time in over 30 films that I’ve shot in L.A.,” said La La Land producer Marc Platt, speaking Saturday morning at the PGA Awards nominees’ breakfast. “It was a joy to be able to come home at night to my family.” Ironically, the film that’s favored to win tonight and at the Oscars, shot here without use of any of the state’s $330 million in tax credits, according to the California Film Commission list of approved films.
Despite California’s $330 million annual tax incentives program, feature film work hasn’t been flooding back into Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, I’ve only shot one film in L.A., and that was 17 years ago, and none since,” said producer Simon Kinberg, whose Deadpool was shot in Vancouver.
Tax credits continue to draw films to states that offer them, even though the films are set elsewhere. Hidden Figures, which is set in Cape Canaveral, Florida – which has abandoned its film incentives program – was shot in Atlanta, Georgia, which offers generous tax credits. Even so, the very low budget Moonlight managed to film in Miami without any tax credits at all.
Hacksaw Ridge is the World War II drama that’s set in Okinawa, but it was filmed in Australia with Aussie tax incentives. Producer Bill Mechanic described how smoke machines were used to obscure the battlefield’s eucalyptus trees, which don’t grow in Japan.
Arrival, though set in Montana – which doesn’t offer tax rebates – was filmed outside of Montreal, which does. And Hell or High Water was filmed in New Mexico, “Where they have a tax rebate,” noted producer Julie Yorn. Fences, meanwhile was shot in Pennsylvania with the help of tax credits.
Money, budgets and tax credits aside, many of the producers spoke eloquently about the joy of filmmaking. Fences producer Todd Black described the joy of watching Denzel Washington read all of the roles during the film’s development, and Platt recalled the last day of filming on La La Land. With the sun setting in Pasadena, director Damien Chazelle was still trying to get a few last improvised hand-held camera shots of stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. “On that last day, the sun was going down, but he couldn’t put the camera down. I said, ‘Damien, I think the movie is over.’ And he looked at me with his big puppy dog eyes and I took the camera from him – and everyone applauded.”