New legislation bumps credit to 30%

Looking to lure more film and TV work away from California, the state of New York has tripled its post-production tax incentive to 30% for qualifying projects.

The legislation, signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and effective immediately, is designed to draw more attention to the post incentive program, which has drawn only 19 applications since it began two years ago.

New York biz boosters see the post-production credit as under-used compared to the state’s lensing tax incentive program. State officials estimate that New York has issued more than $1 billion in credits since 2004 that have generated an estimated $7.57 billion and more than half a million jobs through below-the-line expenditures on film and TV production. But in many cases, producers still return to Hollywood or other locales for the final post work.

“New York state’s program of incentives to attract film and television productions has been a tremendous success, generating billions of dollars in economic impact and supporting hundreds of thousands of hires,” Cuomo said. “With this legislation, New York is inviting producers, directors and editors from across the nation to bring their post-production work right here.”

The move by New York comes amid a murky future for California’s smaller and younger tax credit program, which has doled out $400 million in credits since 2009 amid competing incentive programs from 40 other states and many other countries. Proposed legislation to extend the production incentive program was reduced last month from five to two years — following a report from California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office, which asserted that the program benefits are not generating enough economic activity to make up for the attendant reduction in tax revenues.

Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), who carried a bill to extend California’s program last year, told Variety that New York’s latest move underlines the aggressiveness of other states in seeking film and TV production. “This is clear evidence of how competitive the landscape is and how important it is for California to make the effort to keep this work,” he added.

Fuentes is carrying a five-year extension bill that will be heard Aug. 6 in the appropriations committee, while the two-year extension carried by Sen. Ron S. Calderon (D-Montebello) will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee two days later.

“The economic stimulus created by the film and television industry is not lost on other states like New York,” Calderon told Variety. “As other states up the ante in the competition to lure film production away from California we must stay in the race. Californians need the jobs and California needs the revenue.”

The New York legislation was approved quickly, with the bill introduced in May and approved by both houses in June. It includes an added sweetener: Projects that did not film in New York can still qualify for credits for post work done in New York.

The production credit increases from 10% to 30% in the New York metropolitan commuter region, including New York City and Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties. An additional 5% would be available for post-production expenditures in locations elsewhere in the state to encourage investment in and construction of new facilities in upstate New York.

New York also trumpeted that it had seen a record number of TV series lensing locally with 23 programs including ABC’s “Pan Am”; CBS’ “A Gifted Man,” “Unforgettable” and “Person of Interest”; and NBC’s “Smash.” That program is anchored by a 30% credit for below-the-line expenditures incurred in the state and has been renewed on an annual basis — making it easier for producers to rely on long-term budget forecasts for planning TV series.

“We’re trying to get the message out there — New York is open for business,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told Variety.

Steve Dayan, a member of the California Film Commission and organizer for Teamsters Local 399, told Variety that New York’s move should pressure California legislators to preserve below-the-line production jobs.

“The state’s incentive program is not about fat cats,” he noted. “It costs the state money when people aren’t able to work.”

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