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Monday, 26 November 2012 14:57

Top Places to Film in 2013

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pre_abudhabi_1At the end of each year P3 scouts the regions and production support centers that are the most committed to filming, so we can tally our list of the top ten places to film worldwide. This year’s challenge involved sorting a wide variety of global regions that offer filmmakers a host of amazing perks. Below is our final list of locations that we feel should be considered for film and television projects in 2013.

A unique T-shaped island in the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is the capital and second-largest city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the largest of the seven-member emirates. While many commercials and documentaries have recently shot in Abu Dhabi, the city welcomed two major Hollywood productions — the action drama The Kingdom (starring Jamie Foxx and directed by Peter Berg) and the summer blockbuster The Bourne Legacy (starring Jeremy Renner and directed by Academy Award-nominee Tony Gilroy) — and more films may be soon on the way.

Producers claim that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is committed to welcoming western productions to Abu Dhabi, which now offers key industry infrastructure and support. Many companies, like twofour54’s leading media and entertainment hub in the Middle East, are industry savvy and set up to enable the development of world-class Arabic media and entertainment content. These companies aim to position Abu Dhabi as a regional center of excellence in content creation across all media platforms, including film, broadcast, music, digital media, events, gaming and publishing.

Abu Dhabi should also be considered for its unique environment. The emirate offers a mix of coastal, desert, mountain, urban and suburban locations that includes massive sand dunes in the western region’s Empty Quarter desert, a rich underwater-pearl mine, remote offshore islands and a singular mountain, Jebel Hafeet. “Abu Dhabi is a hospitable, professional, First World city, [and] the government wants the world to come and work and succeed there,” says Executive Producer Steve Saeta (The Kingdom). “And with the right experience and understanding, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. I would [also] enjoy going back.”

Since the early 1900s, California is well known as the home of the motion picture industry. Hollywood’s filmmaking history has allowed California to develop the finest infrastructure for making world-class cinema, as the state houses a plethora of major film and television studios. In-state production currently has major government support as well as the assistance of Film Liaisons In California Statewide (FLICS), a non-profit organization of regional film commissions focused on promoting and supporting California’s film and television industry.

The key reason that the Golden State remains one of the world’s leading production centers is its gold standard of stunning locations and infrastructure. From Los Angeles and San Francisco to the woods of Yosemite, the desert of Palm Springs and everywhere in between, California offers a buffet of prime locations that will meet the demands of any production. The state also offers the best film and TV crews that can be found anywhere in the world. “If you have a chance [to shoot in L.A.], you often get the best people because they want to stay at home with their families,” reports Sasha Gervasi, the director of Hitchcock (starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlet Johansson). “We had an incredible crew [for our film].”

Other top-talent productions that have recently shot in California include Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix), Gangster Squad (starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), Argo (starring and directed by Ben Affleck), End of Watch (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña), This Is 40 (directed by Judd Apatow), Savages and the TV series “CSI: N.Y.,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Body of Proof,” “Justified” and “Parenthood.” More productions are sure to stay in California, thanks to the state’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program, which provides credits against income and/or sales-and-use taxes on qualified expenditures. The original five-year, $500 million program was enacted in 2009 and recently extended for an additional year (through fiscal year 2014–15), and pending legislation can extend the program another two years. The current program offers $100 million a year in tax credits to eligible projects.

Louisiana has always had a historical connection to the motion picture industry, starting in the early 20th century when Tarzan shot in the state’s southern swamps. A long list of major motion pictures has followed, including the sci-fi hit Looper (starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis), The Campaign (starring Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis), The Expendables 2, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn and Beasts of the Southern Wild, as well as top TV shows like the HBO series “Treme.” Recent productions include Killing Them Softly (starring Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini), Django Unchained (starring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio) and On the Road (starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart), just to name a few.

A variety of production studios are currently operating in Louisiana, such as Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge; Second Line Stages and Big Easy Studios in New Orleans, and StageWorks and Millennium Studios in Shreveport. The state also has adopted a major economic development tool into its incentive program, creating a clear, easy benefit that’s accessible for productions of all sizes. Louisiana’s mature and reliable credit program offers a 30-percent tax credit on eligible in-state expenditures on goods and services, plus an additional 5-percent on payroll for residents. Also, tax credits may be transferred back to the state for 85 percent of face value. With this stable and reliable tax credit program, a diverse palette of locations, greatly skilled crew base (that’s 10–11 deep) and a temperate climate, it’s no surprise that Louisiana makes P3’s top-ten list almost every year.

New South Wales is putting Australia on the production map as one of the top places to shoot, and its film-friendly policies and competitive state and federal government incentives are catching the attention of filmmakers across the globe. The state’s wide range of versatile locations range from sophisticated cityscapes (the capital city of Sydney is currently doubling for Tokyo in the new action film The Wolverine), industrial sites, beautiful beaches, remote deserts and idyllic rural vistas. “[New South Wales has] got amazing crews and stages, fantastic acting talent and extraordinary locations,” reports Rick McCallum, the producer of Red Tails and the Star Wars franchise. “You have an unbeatable combination [of] great weather, great food [and] fantastic people. What else [could] you want?”

Many star-driven films are calling New South Wales home, including Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire), Two Mothers (starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright), Felony (starring Joel Edgerton and Tom Wilkinson) and Mental (starring Toni Collette). Other productions include the Aussie box-office hit The Sapphires, Happy Feet Two, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D and Lego: The Piece of Resistance. And Sydney is hosting postproduction work for the films The Railway Man (starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth) and Tracks (starring Mia Wasikowska).
New South Wales is home to the most comprehensive production facilities offered in Australia. A large number of production companies currently offer a variety of services, including more than 1,000 film-and-TV-related businesses, ensuring no need for outside vendors or other support services. While Sydney is the home of Fox Studios Australia, a world-class studio complex, there are also new studios in the city of Broken Hill, which is situated in the New South Wales outback to provide easy access to the state’s iconic desert locations.

The New South Wales government offers incentives to approved productions that shoot throughout the state, such as the Film & Television Industry Attraction Fund. Created to attract “footloose” projects, the Attraction fund is discretionary and its incentives are provided in the form of rebates, which are generally formulated as a percentage of qualifying New South Wales production expenditures. The incentive is determined on a case-by-case basis and takes into account demonstrable benefits, including job creation, skills development and technology transfer. Combined with the 40-percent Producer Offset rebate for film and television projects, the 16.5-percent Location Offset and the 30-percent PDV Offset (for post, digital and visual effects production), these government incentives have made New South Wales one of the world’s most competitive destinations in the industry.

More than 250 films are shot in the state of New York every year, according to the New York State Governors Office of Motion Picture and Television Development. This has allowed New York to develop one of the finest infrastructures, which includes several major studio facilities. Additionally, all of New York’s major guilds and unions have pioneered progressive contracts and policies designed to encourage independent and low-budget filmmaking. And the fact that New York now offers enticing production incentives ensures that the state won’t overlooked, as film and television productions are drawn in like moths to a flame.

Recent New York shoots include Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis (starring Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan), The Place Beyond the Pines (starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes), Can a Song Save Your Life? (starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley), The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (starring Robin Williams and Mila Kunis), Noah (starring Russell Crowe, Emma Watson and Jennifer Connolly), Very Good Girls (starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen) and Steven Soderbergh’s The Bitter Pill (starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Channing Tatum). These big-budget film projects and many major TV series have cited New York’s tax credit program as a leading factor in the decision to shoot in various areas of the Empire State. New York currently offers tax credits for in-state TV and film production and postproduction. The New York State Film Production Credit is a fully refundable 30-percent tax credit on qualified costs incurred by productions in the state. And New York has recently increased its postproduction credit from 30 percent to 35 percent, which is creating even more buzz in the industry.

pre_newzealand_2NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is a base for some of the world’s most sophisticated, large-scale international productions, and it’s the destination of choice for some of the world’s best filmmakers. Thanks to a series of big-budget features, such as King Kong, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy and Avatar, the skill level of New Zealand crewmembers is incredibly high, as these demanding productions provided the perfect training ground for nurturing top talent. And you’ll find these highly experienced crews across the country in diverse, accessible locations. New Zealand also offers outstanding post, visual and digital effects facilities. Auckland and Wellington both provide world-class studio and production spaces with easy access to nearby stunning locations. While Auckland has Auckland Film Studios and Studio West, Wellington offers Stone Street Studios and Park Road Post. The latter provides a home base for Filmmaker Peter Jackson while his collaborator Sir Richard Taylor heads up the internationally renowned Weta Workshop, which is near the Oscar-winning company Weta Digital.

Southern New Zealand is the epitome of film friendly while offering pristine alpine landscapes, stunning year-round glaciers, majestic fjords and rocky crags, as well as waterfalls, rivers, beaches, farms, vineyards and historic towns. The south also houses Film Otago Southland, a collaboration of six regions in the lower half of New Zealand’s South Island that covers the film offices of Film Queenstown and Film Dunedin, as well as the districts of Central Otago, Clutha, Waitaki and Southland. Film Otago Southland has a long history of handling large-scale international TV commercials and feature films, and, over the past three decades, it has grown into a world-class production location with fantastic infrastructure. Based in Queenstown, Film Otago Southland has access to a full array of camera/lighting/grip equipment, SPFX, art departments, catering vehicles (suited for rugged terrain) and specialized helicopter mounts — and all services are locally based, removing any time and cost issues.

During the winter, Queenstown is the perfect place for productions requiring snow. There are ski fields providing road access into the mountains and to the user-friendly facilities in Snow Farm, a nearby ski area. The relatively low elevation of New Zealand’s mountains presents major advantages for filmmakers, as crewmembers are not afflicted by altitude issues; accessibility is fast; and helicopters don’t fly at their elevation thresholds, which heightens safety margins. New Zealand’s financial perks are led by Large-Budget Screen Production Grants of 15 percent for films or TV series with a Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE) of $NZ15 million or more — and there’s no cap on the grant or a limit to yearly funding. This is a cash grant and with fast processing (usually within three months of application).

According to many in-the-know production professionals, North Carolina should not be overlooked as a key film location. The state is going full-speed ahead, welcoming an impressive lineup of big-name productions, including You Are Here (written/directed by “Mad Men” Creator Matthew Weiner), We’re the Millers (starring Jennifer Aniston), The Hunger Games, Iron Man 3, Showtime’s Emmy-winning “Homeland” and NBC’s “Revolution.”

With a 25-percent fully refundable tax credit and no annualized cap, the state is continually considered for upcoming film and TV projects. Other state perks include North Carolina EUE Screen Gems, which resides in Wilmington and offers a total of 150,000 square feet of studio stage space on a 50-acre film and TV production complex with ten soundstages, two special-effects water tanks and 30,000 square feet of office space. And the North Carolina Film Office has built a model film commission which now works in tandem with six affiliate offices that are both publicly and privately maintained, and all are certified by the Association of Film Commissioners International.

It seems that big-budget films will always find a way to shoot in the ever-popular United Kingdom, including the latest James Bond film Skyfall (starring Daniel Craig), The Counselor (directed by Ridley Scott and starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Cameron Diaz), Maleficent (starring Angelina Jolie), Les Misérables (starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway), The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman, just to name a few. “The U.K. film industry has proved itself to be vital to the economy, and that is something which should be celebrated, and of which we should be very proud,” says Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission. “As home to some of the world’s most sought-after filmmaking talent, first-class infrastructure and facilities, and the crucial competitive tax relief, the U.K. industry looks set to continue this success in the years ahead.”

The United Kingdom currently offers a 20- to 25-percent refundable tax credit. For films with a total core expenditure of £20 million or less, the film production company can claim a rebate of up to 25 percent of U.K.-qualifying film production expenditure. For films with a total core expenditure of more than £20 million, the production company can claim a rebate of up to 20 percent, and there’s no cap on the amount that can be claimed. The British government also recently announced a tax-credit program for high-end television production. Effective on April 1, 2013, this inclusion of TV projects as qualified U.K. productions will strongly impact television production across the pond.

Utah is consistently successful in attracting studio feature films, commercials, TV movies and series to its beautifully unique landscapes. The state offers scenic diversity throughout the state and locales that are unlike anywhere else on the planet, like the red rock country of Southern Utah and Bonneville Salt Flats of Northwestern Utah. Within an hour of Salt Lake City, productions can find deserts, mountains, big cities, small towns, lakes and rivers. (And Salt Lake City is just a 90-minute flight from Los Angeles.)

Utah offers 800 working crewmembers (with three “A” production crews) and two full-service grip/electric companies that are all conveniently located in Salt Lake City. The state also has six film schools for up-and-coming filmmakers as well as numerous talent agencies representing hundreds of local actors and actresses. Utah’s other production incentives include an ongoing 15-to-25-percent fully refundable tax credit and a film commission that will go above and beyond the call of duty to turn any shoot into a great experience. Some of the recent productions that have benefited from Utah’s local assets include John Carter, 127 Hours, Darling Companion, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and The Mistle-Tones, as well as the upcoming films After Earth (directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Will Smith) and The Lone Ranger (starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer).

Close in proximity to Los Angeles, British Columbia offers cast and crewmembers that are just as experienced and highly skilled as their Hollywood counterparts. The competitive province also has world-class infrastructure; the capacity to crew 40 productions simultaneously; award-winning expertise in visual effects, digital animation and digital media; and cutting-edge postproduction facilities, such as Disney/Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Digital Domain, Rainmaker Entertainment and Technicolor. B.C.’s over 1 million square feet of studio facilities offer state-of-the-art soundstages equipped with leading-edge technology, digital green/blue screens and all the latest production equipment needed to make any production an exceptional experience. The western province is also home to leading legal and accounting firms.

Another advantage of shooting in B.C. is that it offers diverse locations, including the northern hinterland, heartland deserts, coastal rainforests and the Pacific Ocean. The province’s gritty urban streets and wintry mountain environments are all within a 20-minute drive and the range of available settings make British Columbia very cost effective from a location perspective. The British Columbia Film Commission is supported by a dedicated network of regional film commissions and film liaisons that streamline the process when productions shoot in different areas of the province. And with film-friendly communities, minimal permit fees, inexpensive infrastructure, generous regional tax incentives and a wide range of spectacular shooting opportunities, filming outside of Metro Vancouver can match any project’s creative and budgetary needs.

British Columbia’s provincial and federal governments are highly supportive of the film industry and offer competitive, reliable and bankable incentive programs. Such perks make it clear why the province welcomes hundreds of film productions each year, such as The Cabin in the Woods, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Watchmen and the upcoming Superman movie Man of Steel. TV productions have also taken a liking to B.C., including “The X Files,” “Sanctuary,” “Smallville,” “Fringe” and the new shows “Once Upon a Time” and “Arrow.” Foreign and domestic productions in British Columbia can access a variety of tax credit programs that can be combined for exceptional savings (if eligibility requirements are met). The Film Commission’s Community Affairs office works proactively with the filming community, residential and business owners, and government agencies to ensure that B.C. remains a supportive production center. Local governments and regional authorities throughout the province offer full support, and many have developed helpful production guidelines in partnership with the Film Commission.
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