Film & TV tax credits have created $2 billion in CA spending

Touting the state’s 18-month-old film incentive program, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asserted that its $300 million in tax credits has created $2 billion in direct spending in California.

Schwarzenegger, in an announcement Friday, said the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program allocated $200 million in tax credits to 77 projects last year with 30 more projects set to receive $100 million in credits. The $2 billion figure includes $736 million in wages to crew members, according to data compiled by the state’s film commission.

The commission, which administers the credits, also said the 77 first-year projects will result in the hiring of 18,200 crew members, 4,000 cast members and more than 100,000 extras. Those projects include 51 features, seven TV series and 14 telepics.

“This is exactly why I fought so hard for tax credits in last year’s budget,” the governor said. “It is the private sector that will bring California’s economy back, and our tax incentives are clearly helping employers along the way. That’s why it’s important that we continue to be a partner to employers and not a roadblock.”

The Golden State’s program, approved early last year, is significantly smaller and not as sweet as many others with a maximum 25% credit and a total of $500 million in credits over five years. But state officials have contended the presence of Hollywood’s existing infrastructure and the desire to stay close to home has the potential to reverse more than a decade of runaway production.

Friday’s announcement included an endorsement of the program by director Kevin Smith.

“For three years, I’ve been trying to make ‘Red State,'” Smith said. “It wasn’t until my project qualified for the tax credit program that the flick fast-tracked into reality. A film it seemed would never get made is now lensing right here in California.”

Friday’s announcement also noted that the 30 projects approved for the program’s second year, which ends June 30, have exhausted the fiscal year funding with the remaining applicants added to a waitlist. The 30 productions include 19 features, eight TV series and three made-for-television movies.

The Golden State’s program provides that productions not receive their tax credit certificates until they have completed post-production. The tax credits do not become effective before 2011.

Permitting agency FilmLA announced two weeks ago that off-lot feature production in the Los Angeles area rose 11.5% during the second quarter compared to last year, thanks to the state’s incentive program.

The agency said on-location feature production totaled 1,542 days — including 423 days that came from projects that received the California Film and Television Tax Credit.

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