‘Nightcrawler,’ Expanded California Film Tax Credit Draws Optimism

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Optimism abounded Wednesday over the expanded California Film Tax Credit program, with producers of Jake Gyllenhaal starrer “Nightcrawler” touting the benefits of shooting in Los Angeles.

“L.A. looks great, and there’s a commercial benefit to having a film that looks great,” said writer-director Dan Gilroy at the California Film Commission’s 10th annual breakfast, attended by about 200 at the Sofitel Hotel.

Producer Jennifer Fox noted that the film, shot in fall 2013, provoked an enthusiastic response from cast and crew about working locally. “This is a film where people had to take a pay cut; they wouldn’t have done that if they’d had to have left town,” she said.

“Nightcrawler,” made for $8 million with a $2.3 million tax credit from the state, grossed over $32 million in the U.S. Gilroy won Spirit Awards for script and first feature and was nominated for an Oscar in the original screenplay category.

The breakfast took place with the commission in the midst of implementing new rules for the state’s tax credit program, which has more than tripled in size to $330 million annually. It now covers big-budget features and replaces a lottery with a jobs ratio program as the key factor in determining which projects are selected.

California has allocated $800 million in production tax credits over the past six years, noted the commission’s exec director, Amy Lemisch. “Our phones are ringing non-stop,” she added.

“Nightcrawler” producer David Lancaster noted that his film had not been originally selected in 2013 as one of the 31 selected out of 380 applicants.

“The lottery system is over, thank goodness,” he added. “It would be exciting to shoot more in California.”

Lancaster and Fox both said they wanted to shoot in Los Angeles because of the story’s setting, but admitted that they had been prepared to shoot in Louisiana because of budgetary considerations. “The movie would not have had the authenticity if we had shot in Louisiana,” Fox said.

“I think the expanded program is going to be a real shot in the arm for production in the state,” said commission chairman Steve Dayan following the meeting. “We’ve got to start thinking about going to Sacramento in two or three years with our hats in hand to ask to extend and expand the film tax credit.”

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