Producers choose where to shoot based on a laundry list of factors: specific locations, incentives, deep crew base, great infrastructure and even where the director or leading actor lives or likes to work. “For us, it’s a global playing field,” says Jerry Ketcham, senior VP of feature production atDisney. “When we look at a movie, we look at the entire world for opportunities on where to make it: Hungary, the Czech Republic, the U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, even Beijing. Every studio executive looks at several choices for every project because there are so many options.” With all these great options being offered to filmmakers around the world,P3 Updatecontinues its annual list of the 10 most popular locations that are best known for luring in productions.
The Incentives: The Producer Offset, administered by Screen Australia, is one of three offsets under theAustralian Screen Production Incentiveset to increase production and help the Australian industry evolve. It offers a 40-percent rebate on the qualifying spend of qualifying Australian films and a 20-percent rebate for other qualifying media. The other two offerings are the Location Offset, a 15-percent offset on the QAPE (qualifying Australian production expenditure) of a large-budget non-Australian film, and the PDV Offset, a 15-percent offset on the QAPE that relates to post, digital and visual effects production. States and territories also offer often hefty incentives.
Recent Productions:The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,Sanctum,Bait,Daybreakers,Australia,The Day the Earth Stood Still,Sunshine,Frost/Nixon,The Ruins,Fool’s Gold,Nim’s Island,X-Men Origins: Wolverineand Fox TV’s “Terra Nova.”
Why They Go: This huge country offers spectacular locations, from pristine beaches to dramatic Ayers Rock, as well as a lot of experience in moviemaking. According to one major Hollywood film producer, Australia can easily double for the U.S. in many places, and its crews are made up of very “can-do” crewmembers. “The infrastructure is pretty strong in Sydney,” he adds. “Melbourne and Brisbane depend on the timing. If you’re the first show, you’re in good shape.” Producer Ronald G. Smith (The Invasion) says he’d like to do a picture Down Under after hearing such great reviews. “They have good infrastructure and I’ve heard the crews are good,” he says. Australia has leading special-effects company calledRising Sun Pictures, which is currently creating visual effects forWarner Bros.Pictures’Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.
The Incentives: Administered by the California Film Commission, the film fund in the Golden State is an annual $100 million for larger feature films and $10 million for independent features. A below-the-line tax credit of 20 percent is available for feature films with a $1 million minimum to $75 million maximum production budget; movies of the week or miniseries with a $500,000 minimum budget; and new TV series licensed for original distribution on basic cable with $1 million minimum budget. Eligible for a 25-percent tax credit are TV series that filmed all its prior episodes outside of California and independent features with a $1 million to $10 million budget.
Recent Productions: Jack & Jill, Bad Teacher, Cinema Verite, TRON: Legacy, The Social Network, You Again, Priest, Burlesque, Inception, Due Date, The Hangover and The Dark Knight. TV shows include “Law & Order L.A.,” “Terriers,” “Men of a Certain Age,” “Dexter,” “CSI: NY,” “The Mentalist,” “The Closer,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds” and “Parenthood.”
Why They Go: “The crew base here is so deep and the stages and infrastructure are awesome,” says Dama Claire, a producer and a production executive at the Incentives Office. She notes that San Francisco offers additional incentives on payroll and hotel taxes. “People forget what an advantage it is to shoot in downtown L.A., San Diego or San Francisco.” Smith has shot in a variety of California locations –– from Santa Cruz and Mendocino to the Mojave Desert. “I would rather shoot every movie I could in California because you can’t beat Hollywood crews,” he says. “I wish our state would do more. This is where our industry is.”
The incentives: In addition to the favorable exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollar, the Canadian federal government’s Production Services Tax Credit program offers a refundable federal-tax credit equal to 16 percent of the qualifying labor paid to Canadian residents with no caps. Several provinces around the country have instituted their own labor-based and spend-based tax-incentive programs that can add up to tax credits from 37 percent to 70 percent of eligible labor in addition to tax incentives on local qualifying spend. For example, Alberta Film contributes between 20 to 29 percent of all eligible expenses, which is equivalent to a 36- to 53-percent labor-based tax credit and they don’t have any provincial sales tax; SaskFilm offers a tax credit of up to 55 percent of eligible labor on each project to attract film and TV projects to Saskatchewan; and the Quebec Film and Television Council (QFTC) boasts a 44-percent cash rebate. (For more details on incentives offered by Eastern Canada, take a look at our On Location story on page 32, and be on the lookout for our Western Canadian coverage in the February issue of P3.)
Recent Productions: TRON: Legacy, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Case 39, Charlie St. Cloud, The Gunslinger, The A-Team,Casino Jack, Saw VII, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Hurt Locker, Watchmen and TV’s “Fringe” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
Why They Go: An English-speaking country with enough gorgeous locations to double for just about anywhere and hefty financial perks, Canada was the original destination of runaway productions and it still continues to be alluring to many filmmakers. “They also have great crews, sound stages and infrastructure,” says Location Manager Ron Carr.
The Incentives: The Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media oversees the Digital Media & Motion Picture Tax Credit that provides a sliding-scale tax credit of up to 30 percent on “qualified digital media and motion picture production, preproduction and postproduction expenses incurred in the state.” Established in 2006, the tax-credit program has been amended twice to improve incentives for productions. George Norfleet, director of the Connecticut Office of Film, Television & Digital Media, reports that recent updates to the program have lowered the percentage of Connecticut shoot days required to qualify from 50 percent to 25 percent. Postproduction projects may qualify if Connecticut spending is at least 50 percent of the post budget or if a production spends at least $1 million on postproduction in the state.
Recent Productions: We the Peeples, Rising Star, All Good Things, My Soul to Take, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Town, Everybody’s Fine, War of the Worlds, Rachel Getting Married, Camp Hope and TV’s “Are We There Yet?” and “The Big C.”
Why They Go:Connecticut offers a tremendous diversity of locations, but Location Manager Michael Nickodem says the state’s real attraction is its people. “Friendliness and enthusiasm are the norm, and the Connecticut Office of Film Television & Digital Media offers unparalleled support,” he says. “When considering where to shoot, Connecticut should be at the top of everyone’s list.” Producer Bob Salerno (A Single Man) is currently filming We Need to Talk About Kevin at Connecticut’s State Technical High School, which he calls the production’s “personal studio.” He reports, “We were able to use the one building for multiple locations and base much of the shoot from this state-owned, film-friendly location.”
Producer Matt Landin, who just shot the indie feature The Best Laid Plans in Darien, notes that the state’s tax credit is a great incentive but there’s only one reason for shooting in Connecticut. “The true reason lies even more with the incredible work and helpfulness of the Connecticut Film Office, as well as the individual town and city governments we dealt with,” he says. “Connecticut, in general, went above and beyond in their help to us, at some points even saving days of our production with their willingness and flexibility. Connecticut is truly a friend to the independent filmmaker.”
The Incentives: In 2008, Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act, boosting the state-tax credit for qualified production and postproduction expenditures by up to 30 percent. The core incentive of the Act is a 20-percent transferable tax credit for production companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 on qualified production/postproduction expenditures. These incentives are available not only for feature films, TV series, commercials and music videos, but also for game development and animation. Georgia also offers a Sales & Use Tax Exemption, which gives qualified productions an immediate point-of-purchase sales-tax exemption estimated to save productions up to 8 percent on most below-the-line materials and service purchases or rentals.
Recent Productions: More than 700 feature film and TV projects have shot in Georgia since 1972. The latest films include Due Date, Fast Five, Life as We Know It, Killers, Zombieland, The Last Song, The Joneses, Lottery Ticket and Get Low. TV shows include “The Walking Dead,” “The Glades,” “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Drop Dead Diva” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
Why They Go: Georgia is home to a wealth of spectacular locations, both urban and rural. With great weather and a film-friendly environment, the state also boasts an infrastructure with a fairly deep crew base, due to the existence of busy production companies: Turner Studios, Raleigh Studios (which took over Riverwood Studios in Atlanta) and its sister company Hollywood Rentals, and Tyler Perry Studios (which produced the blockbuster Madea movies and the recently released For Colored Girls). Claire, who is an expert on matching films with state incentives, is a booster of shooting in Georgia. “Georgia is getting big for TV series especially,” she says. “[And] it’s got good weather [with] no hurricanes.”
The Incentives: The state offers a 30-percent transferable tax credit for in-state spends related to the production of a motion picture, with no cap on how much a single production can earn. Filmmakers have the option of transferring credits to the state for 85 cents on the dollar with immediately receiving payment. There’s an additional 5-percent labor tax incentive for state-certified motion picture productions that hire Louisiana residents. The state also has great studios and stages, including StageWorks of Louisiana, Second Line Stages and Raleigh Studios/ Hollywood Rentals in Baton Rouge.
Recent Productions: Green Lantern, Battleship, Catch .44, The Mechanic, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Welcome to the Rileys, The Last Exorcism, Red, The Expendables, The Road, Jonah Hex, I Love You Phillip Morris, “Treme” and “Imagination Movers.”
Why They Go:“Louisiana is the leader of the pack,” says Claire. “Some very large films can go there because [the state’s] infrastructure and crew base have become so deep. Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans all have stages. I would say that, outside of California and New York, it’s the third-largest provider of feature films.” Producer Randall Emmett recently shot the feature film Catch .44, starring Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker, in Shreveport. “It’s very easy to film there,” he says. “You don’t have to file prior to your spend. You just start preproduction, file and your tax is retroactive, which makes it easy. And the state can double for anywhere. They have so much diversity [that] you can make it rural or urban.”
The incentives: This state offers a whopper of a tax incentive: film and TV productions, which must spend at least $50,000 in Michigan to be eligible, receive a 40-percent refundable, assignable tax credit across the board on Michigan expenditures. Productions get an extra 2 percent if they film in one of the 136 “Core Communities.” The rebate for labor and crew is 40 to 42 percent for resident below-the-line talent; 40 to 42 percent for above-the-line talent regardless of residency; and 30 percent for below-the-line non-residents. The salary cap is set at $2 million per employee per production.
Recent productions: Transformers: The Dark of the Moon, Hostel III, The Reasonable Bunch, Scream 4, The Mechanic, Trust, Cedar Rapids, Salvation Boulevard, This Must Be the Place, Real Steel, LOL: Laughing Out Loud, The Double, Conviction, Stone, The Karate Kid, and TV’s “Hung” and “Detroit 1-8-7.”
Why They Go: According to Michelle Begnoche, communications advisor at the Michigan Film Office, Michigan has doubled for Paris, Prague, Las Vegas, New York and Boston in recent films. Claire just co-produced Conviction, starring Hilary Swank, in which Michigan doubled for Massachusetts. “We were very happy to shoot in Michigan. The incentives really work,” says Claire, adding that five films at this year’s Toronto Film Festival were made in Michigan.
“This past year was an exciting one for the greater Detroit region, with DreamWorks’ $90 million Real Steel, ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7,” Scream 4, The Double, LOL, Transformers 3 and many, many more,” says Chris Baum, senior VP at Film Detroit. “With Raleigh Michigan Studios opening their $80 million, nine-stage facility in March, Michigan’s next benchmark of $500 million-plus annual spending is well within reach.” Emmett has set up a production services company in Grand Rapids. “Grand Rapids is easy to move around in, and the community has embraced film and is excited to have movies there,” says Emmett. “It’s been a good experience.”
The Incentives: According to says Rochelle Bussey of the New Mexico Film Office, the state offers a range of incentives. There’s a 25-percent tax rebate on all production expenditures, including New Mexico labor, and a 50-percent reimbursement of wages for on-the-job training of New Mexico residents for below-the-line crew positions. New Mexico will also offer loans, with participation in lieu of interest, of up to $15 million per project — which can represent 100 percent of the budget — for qualifying feature films or TV projects. Bussey also notes that New Mexico has no state sales tax.
Recent productions: Due Date, Let Me In, The Book of Eli, MacGruber, Terminator Salvation, Crazy Heart, Sunshine Cleaning, The Resident, Love Ranch, The Dry Land, Observe and Report, Away We Go and TV’s “In Plain Sight” and “Breaking Bad.”
Why They Go: New Mexico is the country’s fifth-largest state with regard to land mass, with fewer than 2 million people in the entire state. “You can shoot in the snowcapped mountain peaks in Taos one week and be in the dry, cracked earth of the Lordsburg salt flats the next,” says Bussey, noting the state has doubled for Canada, Mexico, the Midwest, Los Angeles, New York, Germany, the Middle East as well as Mars and the Moon. “It’s very diversified,” agrees Carr. “Albuquerque is a medium-sized city so you can cheat some things. The town of Las Vegas, 70 miles north of Santa Fe, is a great turn-of-the-century town and Santa Fe has an old-world feel.” Love Ranch Producer Marty Katz likes the state’s tax incentives. “It actually works better than in some other states because the talent, crew base, production equipment and production facilities infrastructure are already in place,” he says.
The Incentives: The New Zealand Film Office estimates that the country’s production costs are 20-percent cheaper than Australia’s and 32 percent cheaper than Canada’s, after any tax incentives or rebate schemes in those territories are taken into account and prior to the effect of New Zealand’s tax exemption for large-budget film grants. The New Zealand government’s large-budget film grants (including large-budget screen production grants and postproduction, digital and visual effects grants) are valued at 15 percent of qualifying expenditures. And then there’s the favorable exchange rate: The New Zealand dollar is worth $.65 to USD$.80.
Recent Productions: The Hobbit, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Halo, The Wind in the Willows, 17 Days of Winter, Yogi Bear, Ice, The Warrior’s Way, District 9, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Lovely Bones.
Why They Go: Can you say “Middle Earth”? This small country is home to The Lord of the Rings franchise as well as being the stomping ground of Director Peter Jackson and his acclaimed visual-effects facility WETA. “The good thing about New Zealand is that it’s a small country but has almost every terrain and climate you could ask for … and good infrastructure,” says Location Manager Carr, who looks forward to shooting there sometime soon. A leading Hollywood film executive agrees, saying that the country “can handle big movies” and “WETA can make intricate costumes and great visual effects.”
According to Prime Minister John Key, new labor laws will be introduced to Parliament to support the film industry in the region. The New Zealand government will give the feature film The Hobbit a $15 million tax rebate and offset $10 million of Warner Bros.’ marketing costs. In exchange, the studio will promote New Zealand as a film production and tourism destination. Key reports that the film’s marketing will be worth “tens of millions” to New Zealand, as it will safeguard work for thousands and “put New Zealand on the world stage.”
The Incentives: Utah currently offers three incentives. The Motion Picture Incentive Fund is a 20-percent post-performance rebate of dollars spent in the state. There’s also a 20-percent tax credit and, for productions under $1 million, a 15-percent cash-rebate incentive. The Sales and Use Tax Exemption covers TV, video and film equipment, and the Transient Room Tax offers a rebate on hotel accommodations. Utah lawmakers are seeking to improve their state’s film incentive program in an attempt to be more competitive with rival states. While the finer details of the draft legislation are still being worked on, the goal is to increase the incentive to 25 percent. Changes to the existing Utah incentive program can’t be approved until the next legislative session begins in January 2011.
Recent Productions: Darling Companion, The Tree of Life, John Carter of Mars, Guns, Girls and Gambling, Down and Dirty Pictures, 127 Hours, Age of the Dragons, The Wayshower and the TV shows “Nitro Circus,” “Bully Beatdown” and “Bullrun.”
Why They Go: According to Claire, as a right-to-work state, Utah will always attract “unique” projects. “It was home, previously, of all the Disney High School Musical films,” she notes. Claire personally suggested that Filmmaker Danny Boyle’s production of 127 Hours go to Utah because of the state’s spectacular mountains and new incentives program. Carr loves shooting in Utah. “It has great infrastructure and great small towns like Provo and Springdale that can double for 1950s towns,” he says. “The place also isn’t overshot. I did a film there recently and 23 days of shooting only cost $10,000 for locations. Honestly, it’s my favorite place to film, especially if you’re doing an indie film.”
Puerto Rico is currently working its way into the top 10 by introducing legislation that, if passed, would expand the country’s current 40-percent production tax credit to include payments to non-resident talent at a reduced rate of 20 percent. The minimum-spend requirement for all eligible projects has been reduced to $100,000, and for short films the minimum-spend requirement is only $50,000. The current annual cap of $15 million would increase to $50 million. Principal photography requirements would be eliminated under the proposed legislation, and there are no per project caps or caps on payments made to individuals. The legislation also expands the list of eligible projects to include feature and short films, documentaries, TV programs (including series, miniseries and pilots), music videos, commercials, video games, recorded live events and original sound track recordings.
It’s easy to see why these locations are seen as the best of the best for production worldwide. All offer a “win-win” combination of great financial perks, ease of filming and versatile scenery so filmmakers can find a home that perfectly suits their production needs. “There’s no one-size-fits-all incentive, [so] go and visit,” says Claire. “That said, don’t film your incentive –– make your movie.”