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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 20:08

Top Production Incentives

Written by  Monica Caffaratti
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In a time where financial stability is uncertain, shopping around for the best price has become part of everyday life. No one is immune, not even the illustrious and glamorous world of movie making. However, there are still many places around the world where productions can stretch their dollars the furthest.



“Our program is based on cash rebates (not tax credits), i.e. they don’t have to be bought and sold for a fee. It is simply a check written out by the Minister of Revenue,” says Hans Franklin, Film Commissioner of the Quebec Council. “Also, there is no limit or sun-set clause, and it does not come out of an earmarked fund; it is a fiscal flow-through which means “money in, money out” (of the Treasury).”

“Here is the breakdown: 25 % Provincial basic cash-rebate rate, on all expenses in Quebec (labor, equipment, rentals, fringes, etc.); 20% Provincial labor-based cash rebate bonus, on all green-screen and VFX shots; 16% Federal cash-rebate based on all labor expenses in the country,” Franklin says, “TOTAL: up to approximately 44% !!”

“This tax credit increases (sic) were put into place last year. As of June 30th, Service production has increased by over 100%, to over $200 Million. Including domestic production Quebec is over ½ a Billion $$ in production volume!!” exclaims Franklin.


2Feat_TopIncentives_BritishColumbia_171BC07_1British Columbia

“The Production Services Tax Credit (PSTC) is a labour-based tax incentive that provides refundable tax credits to Canadian or international film and television production corporations that have incurred eligible labour costs in British Columbia,” says British Columbia Film Commissioner, Susan Croome. “The incentive package includes four specific initiatives based on the laubor paid to BC residents.” The four components are comprised of the 33 percent basic tax credit, which “encourages film and television productions in British Columbia;” the six percent regional tax credit, that “stimulates production outside of Vancouver;” the six percent distance location tax credit, which “provides an additional incentive for productions shooting in more remote locations;” and the 17.5 percent Digital Animation or Visual Effects (DAVE) tax credit, that “promotes the digital animation and visual effects industry in British Columbia,” adds Croome.


The Manitoba Film & Video Production Tax Credit offer qualifying productions a 45 percent base rate; a five percent Manitoba producer bonus, which applies on eligible salaries in which a Manitoba resident receives credit as a producer on an eligible film; a 10 percent Frequent Filming Bonus and a five percent Rural Bonus - potentially giving eligible productions tax relief totalling up to 65 percent. For producers to be eligible for the 10 percent Frequent Filming Bonus one- third of the production must be within Manitoba within a two years period. To access the rural bonus, producers must shoot at least 50 percent of their Manitoba shooting days within 35km from the centre of Winnipeg.


.           The Government of Alberta provides support to the film, television and digital media industry through the Alberta Multimedia Development Fund (AMDF), a government grant that allows productions to recoup a percentage of costs incurred in Alberta. According to Alberta Film, “Alberta will contribute between 20% - 29 % of ALL eligible expenses. This is equivalent to a 36% - 53% labour based tax credit.” Further, Alberta is the only province in Canada that doesn’t have a provincial sales tax.
According to a representative of Alberta Film, “four new grant options have recently been added to the fund to further support our creative workers and encourage more Alberta-based projects: Alberta Stories - will encourage the production of stories that are inherently Albertan in content and production;  Project and Script Development - provides Alberta producers and writers assistance in creating marketable, production-ready projects and scripts that reflect Alberta perspectives, depict Alberta images and involve Alberta talent; Export market development - offers assistance to Alberta producers in selling, marketing and creating business relationships in national and international markets; and Training and mentoring - supports job placement programs and professional development opportunities.”

“We’ve also made the fund more accessible to forward-thinking producers and have removed the requirement to have a broadcast license. This change will help encourage innovative film, television and digital media productions to originate here. These changes come in addition to the increases we made to grant percentages and the grant cap back in the spring – changes that are already resulting in increased scouting activity in our province. (Grant percentages were increased by 6 per cent, and grant caps were raised from $3 million to $5 million (within existing budget).”




Qualify productions can claim up to 50 percent in reimbursements for cost spent while filming within Tirol.


Trinidad and Tobago could be described as twins in paradise. The twin islands are located in the Caribbean Sea, on the southern tip of the Caribbean Islands. Trinidad and Tobago’s Production Expenditure Rebate Program provides cash rebates up to 30 percent for expenditures on the islands. Eligible productions with expenditures between $100,000 and $500,000 can claim a 12.5 percent rebate. Expenditures of $500,000 to $1,000,000 are eligible for a 15 percent rebate. The rebate increases to 30 percent for expenditures of $1,000,000 or more.  Eligible expenses include rental costs of local equipment and supplies; local public resource expenditures, including payment for police, fire and ambulance presence; wardrobe and props, location fees, local cast and crew labor costs; accommodations and food; and local transportation costs.


Feat_TopIncentives_Cayman_New_ImageThe Cayman Islands implemented the Cayman Island Film Commission in 2009 to develop its local film industry and to attract international productions. “We have an approval in principle for a 30% production rebate, with a hold back fee of 5% on the value of the rebate that is earmarked for Training Programmes to develop the local industry,” says Lesley-Ann, Head of Marketing for the Cayman Islands Department of Commerce and Investment. “Other concessions include duty waivers on the importation of film equipment that will go out again and a reduction in the fees for temporary work permits.”



Productions with a minimum spend of $50,000 are eligible for a 40 percent refundable tax credit, across the board on Michigan expenditures. An additional two percent tax credit is available for films filming in one of Michigan’s 136 “Core Communities.”(The full list can be found on the Michigan Film Office website at For labor and crew, Michigan offers a 40 to 42 percent below the line tax credit for residents and the same for above the line tax credit regardless of domicile. Non-residents can claim a 30 percent tax credit for below the line expenditures.

Puerto Rico

Most people visit the Island of Puerto Rico to experience its magnificent beaches and relaxing atmosphere. But for those looking to get the most bang for their film buck, Puerto Rico’s 40 percent production film incentive package is one of the highest offered in the world.

The Puerto Rico Law for the Development of the Film Industry, “offers a tax credit equivalent to 40% of budget items paid to Puerto Rico entity or resident or up to 50% of the cash invested as equity in the project,” says Dr. Mariella Perez Serrano, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Puerto Rico Film Commission. “The 40% tax credit is an incentive calculated on expenditures paid to Puerto Rico residents given in the form of a transferable tax credit,” Dr. Serrano adds. “These expenses include equipment, crew, travel (if through a local travel agency), hotels, and any other local expense that may apply, be it above and/or below the line and during pre-production, production and post-production stages.”
In 2009, the film industry generated $54 million in revenue in Puerto Rico and $39 million in revenue as of May 2010. “Puerto Rico has a $15 million dollar per fiscal year cap for film tax credits,” says Dr. Serrano. “The new fiscal year begins July 1, 2010.”

“Puerto Rico’s crew base is three deep and “has camera, grip and lighting equipment to sustain various films at the same time.  Many warehouses can be converted for studio shoot,” Dr. Serrano says. “Puerto Rico is extremely versatile and adapts to all production needs,” Serrano adds.
According to Dr. Serrano, “Puerto Rico is amongst the top 5 film locations in the World… It has a variety of locations that can feature anywhere in the world and anytime in history. It has fully bilingual and experienced crews, US currency, and 365 days of warm weather.”

“Since the implementation of the program Puerto Rico’s film industry has grown at a rapid pace, more international productions have taken advantage of the variety of locations and the local crews experience, skills and professionalism have matched that of any crew in Los Angeles,” Dr. Serrano adds.


Beyond the breathtaking landscape, film productions in Alaska can take advantage of up to 44 percent in transferable tax credits. To begin with, “Alaska’s base rate is 30% on above and below the line spending – no project or salary caps and the minimum spend is only $100,000,” says Alaska Film Office Director, Dave Worrell. Add-ons to the base rate include a 10 percent tax credit for Alaska hires; a two percent tax credit for expenditures in rural areas; and an additional two percent tax credit for filming during Alaska’s off season, October through March.

Alaska’s Legislature has allocated $100 million in funds over a five year period. “So far, just under $31 million in tax credits have been pre-qualified for by productions, leaving a comfortable $69 million available for new productions,” Worrell says.

“As they say in real estate; Location, Location, Location,” says Worrell. “Alaska has a diversity of locations that is unmatched: misty fjords to glaciated peaks, tundra to sand dunes, suburban cities to quaint fishing villages; we can provide real snow under the midnight sun in July or hot springs under the aurora borealis in January. And, Alaska is fresh: it hasn’t been seen a thousand times – it’s a place where a filmmaker can know that the backdrop for their story is real, authentic and unique.”Feat_TopIncentives_AlaskaSeaward-Alaska



The Pelican State offers a generous 30 percent transferable tax incentive for in-state spends on motion pictures. An additional five percent labor incentive is available on the payroll for Louisiana residents.


Connecticut established the state tax incentive program in 2006, but as of January 1, 2010, the bill increased the minimum spend to $100,000.  For productions over $1 million are eligible for as much as a 30 percent tax credit.


The Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act offers a flat tax credit of 20 percent for eligible productions with a minimum spend of $500,000. Georgia offers an additional 10 percent are available for productions that include an imbedded animated Georgia logo on pre-approved projects.


New Mexico 

In 2003, New Mexico Governor Richardson took office and “made growing the state’s film industry a top priority,” says Pahl Shipley, Head of Publicity and Media Relations for the New Mexico Film Office. “During his administration the refundable tax credit increased to 25% and no-interest loan limit increased to $15 million (which can be 100% of a film’s budget with local hiring requirements and a negotiated percentage of back-end profits).”

In addition to the 25 percent rebate, New Mexico offers an interest free loan for up to $15 million per project on productions with a minimum spend of $2 million.

“Under Governor Richardson’s leadership and vision, New Mexico has become a leading media center and built its own experienced, competitive and sustainable film industry,” Shipley adds.


Detailed information regarding filming in Louisiana, Connecticut, Georgia and New Mexico can be found in the P3Update July 2010 issue.



“The Studio 406 incentive package was launched one year ago at the Los Angeles Film Festival.  The package brought together Montana’s tax credit incentive program, the ‘Big Sky on the Big Screen’ act and all the other myriad of incentives for filming in Montana,” says Montana Film Office Manager Sten Iversen.

“The package features additional incentives such as Montana has no sales tax, the film office provides productions with free office furniture, hotels are 18% cheaper in Montana than the national average as well as some intangible incentives such as 16 hours of great shooting light,” says Iversen.


“One of the great things about Montana’s ‘Big Sky on the Big Screen’ act is that there is no dollar amount cap to the program, so we don’t have an allotted statutory fund that runs dry.  The incentive program is administered through the Department of Revenue and the refunds come from the State’s General Fund,” says Iversen. “This method provides producers a year-round opportunity to film in Montana without the complication of determining if incentive funds are still available – the funds will be available regardless of the number of productions that shoot in the state that year.”



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