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Monday, 16 January 2012 06:00

Film Commissioners at AFM

Written by  James Thompson
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The American Film Market (AFM) was filled with film commissioners from various parts of the world eager to present their locales. Many film commissions exhibited at the event, participated in “Industry Conversations,” and attended a small, private “Location Expo” gathering where commissioners could brag about their jurisdictions to attendees. Michigan Film Office Director Carrie Jones promoted her state and announced that Michigan will be offering a new financial perk in 2012 that will provide $25 million in incentives. “We’ve got great locations, skilled workforce and world-class infrastructure,” said Jones.

“We’re excited to be here and to have people think about our state.” The AFM also offered sessions on North American and International Production Incentives. Here’s a recap of some of the locales that participated and what they had to say about filming in their regions.

North America

Puerto Rico promoted their yearly allocation of $50 million in tax credits representing $125 million of the capacity of payments to Puerto Rico residents. There are no caps and any compensation paid to an actor qualifies. Shooting in Puerto Rico is now more bankable because rather than the government issuing a license, it now issues a grant in the form of a contract. Plus, instead of withstanding a government audit, production companies are free to select an auditor under the consent of the film commission to verify their expenses.

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For Canada, Saskatchewan promoted the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit Program, which has a base credit at 45 percent of eligible salaries. The region also offers a Rural Bonus whereby if you film 50 percent of your principle photography within 25 miles of Saskatchewan’s two major cities, you get a 5-percent bonus on all Saskatchewan expenses. There’s also a 5-percent Key Bonus available if you hire six Saskatchewan residents out of ten below-the-line positions. “Our economy is, I would say, one of the most robust in our country,” said SaskFilm’s Susanne Bell (pictured top right.)

Canadian neighbor Quebec offers a three-tier system that starts with a 25-percent tax credit on everything you spend in the province. Plus, it has a visual-effects, green-screen and visual-animation end-to-end focus that allows a 20-percent credit on labor. Lastly, there’s a federal tax credit of 16 percent on labor. “If you add that all up, it can go up to about 44 percent in Quebec,” said Hans Fraikin of the Quebec Film and Television Council.

West Virginia boasts a 27-percent base transferable-tax credit that goes up to 31 percent if you hire 10 or more West Virginians as part of your crew. Jamie Cope of the West Virginia Film Office (above center) also promoted another incentive: the “Any Town, USA” appeal that West Virginia offers to filmmakers. “If you’ve got something that will work in a small town environment, we probably have what you are looking for,” said Cope.

For productions shooting further south, Louisiana offers a 30-percent base on anything spent in the state. “There's an additional 5 percent for Louisiana hires,” says Jimmy Williams of the Alexandria/Pineville Area (Louisiana) Convention & Visitors Bureau.

International

afm_hugovilla_mexianfilmcommissionerMexico offers a direct financial reimbursement of up to 17.5 percent of money spent in the country. “The first thing that our compound in Mexico has to offer is a very deep crew base of well proven and professional talent pool [of] technicians as well as artists,” said Hugo Villa (pictured left) of the Mexico Film Commission. “We are a bunch of film professionals ... and we know what you need to know in order to make films.”

In Brazil, the government doesn’t offer any immediate tax incentive, but there’s a grant available for approximately $700,000 for two to four individual projects. “[This] is ideal for independent films,” said Daniel Dreifuss of the Rio Film Commission. “That money is available and it’s non-repayable.”

In January 2012, Croatia will offer a tax rebate of 20 percent for film and television productions made in the country. And, according to Hrvoje Hribar with the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, the other big news is that Croatia will join the European Union in 2013.

India has long been a busy production hub. Its infrastructure includes state-of-the-art studios and many projects continue to come out of the country — more than 1,000 films were made in India last year. The AFM gave India an opportunity to push for more co-production projects in the future.

Over the years, Fiji has steadily increased its tax-incentive offerings. In 2004, it offered a 15-percent film rebate that jumped to 35 percent in 2008 — and now it’s up to 47 percent. “That’s based on qualifying Fiji productions expenditures,” said Florence Swamy (pictured below) of the Fiji Audio Visual Commission. “Whatever you pay out of a Fiji bank account qualifies as a Fiji production expenditure, including wage to crews bought in.” Swamy also reiterated that Fiji has a strong history of filmmaking and hosted 13 productions last year. img_0417

In the U.K., the British tax rebate offers a 25-percent cash rebate on expenditures under 20 million pounds (approximately $30 million) and a 20-percent cash rebate on expenditures over 20 million pounds. Both are capped at 80 percent. The only restriction involves “used or consumed” elements. “[This means that] you have to use and consume the person, place or thing on U.K. soil,” said Andy Weltman of the British Film Commission. The Commission also introduced the new Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, a full-production facility situated on a 100-acre backlot located just outside of London.

The Thai Trade Center’s Somcanae Yordpram promoted the fact that the low cost for housing and labor is a major incentive for filming in Thailand. The country also held a prestigious party at the J.W. Marriott in Santa Monica. “Thailand: Where Films Come Alive” featured Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi as well as other government officials who introduced locations and filming opportunities in Thailand.

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