California hands out credits

27 productions to receive $100 million

California officials have tapped 27 productions to receive $100 million in tax credits in the third year of the state’s incentive program — aimed at preventing production companies from moving their projects, jobs and spending out of the Golden State.

In selections made Friday via a lottery, three TV series received the largest allocations — the second season of Bad Wolf Prods.’ TV series “Torchwood” at $8 million, which is relocating from Wales; $7.5 million for FTP’s second season of “The Protectors” and $6.9 million for FTP’s “Body of Proof,” which is relocating from Rhode Island.

The smallest amounts are $400,000 for KMR’s indie feature “Vocal Chords of Freedom,” $340,000 for Summer Break’s “The To Do List” and $310,000 for The Gardeners’ “To Believe.”

California Film Commission director Amy Lemisch stressed that the credits will be awarded only after productions are completed and noted that each application still needs to be reviewed more thoroughly to ensure the project qualifiesand the allocation amounts are likely to be adjusted. Some of the projects could possibly still wind up filming elsewhere or not at all, she added.

The number of applications submitted this year on the first day of the application period more than doubled to 176, compared with 70 applications last year.

“I think we were most impressed with the level of interest this year,” Lemisch said. “It shows that recognition for the program has really grown.”

Mark B. Johnson, whose “Suicide Kings 2” is in line to receive a $700,000 credit, told Variety that “Easy A,” which he co-produced, benefited from staying within the state by shooting in Ojai.

“The people in the community told us again and again that ‘Easy A’ was a huge help to them in terms of jobs and hotel activity, which had really been a bust,” he said.

Approved projects include studio features “Argo,” “Nina,” “To the Dogs Part 1” and “Dunderheads”; indie features “Bachelorette Party,” “Decoding Annie Parker,” “Lovelace,” “Lowdown,” “The To Do List,” “To Believe,” “Trust Me,” “Untitled Project G,” “Vocal chords of Freedom”; TV series “Franklin & Bash,” “Hail Mary,” “Justified,” “Men of a Certain Age,” “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,” “Perception,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Switched at Birth,” “The Protector,” the two relocated series and telefilm “The Metro Gardeners.”The commission estimated that the projects will spend an estimated $662 million within California — $428.6 million in qualified non-wages and $233.5 million in qualified wages, employing an estimated 3,048 cast members, 3,307 crew members and 49,778 extras/stand-ins (in “man-days”).

The State Assembly approved a bill last week for a five-year extension of California’s 2-year-old Film & Television Tax Credit Program, which has allocated $300 million in credits so far. Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes’ bill, AB 1069, received a 72-1 endorsement Tuesday and will move to the State Senate.

The program’s currently slated to end in fiscal year 2013-14, with the last credits to be allocated by July 2012. Fuentes cited state reports that the tax credits have resulted in $2.2 billion in direct production spending in California so far — with $728 million of that spent on wages for an estimated 25,700 below-the-line crew and 6,100 cast members, with an additional 172,000 individuals having received daily employment as background extras.

The Golden State’s program, approved in early 2009, 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 that Hollywood’s existing infrastructure and the desire to stay close to home have the potential to reverse more than a decade of runaway production.

The state’s five-year program covers 20% of below-the-line expenses for productions of up to $75 million. It can be sweetened to 25% of expenses for indie feature productions of up to $10 million — and for all existing TV shows that relocate to California.

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