California Pushes Back Announcement of Production Tax Credit Winners (EXCLUSIVE)

California’s Film Commission has moved back by a month when it will disclose the film and TV shows awarded this year’s coveted state tax credits.

The list has usually been disclosed on the same day as the lottery — set for next  Monday — in recent years but won’t be announced this year until four weeks later on July 1.

The lottery, conducted by the commission, decides which projects will receive a credit usually covering 20% of production costs if shot in California during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Out of the 380 projects submitted last year, 31 productions (including the “Entourage” film and “Pretty Little Liars”) with allocations totaling $100 million were selected and announced the same day.

However, California Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch told Variety the selections will be announced on July 1 because it is the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year. She asserted that disclosing the selections on the same day is counter-productive since initial projects can be subsequently found to not meet the requirements.

“As in previous years, we anticipate a large number of  applications on Monday, and we need to be mindful of the time needed by our small staff to manually review, process and enter information into our database,” she said. “We have determined that it is in the best interest of the program, the applicants and the media to wait until we have vetted the projects before releasing names of projects.”

“In past years, initial lottery ‘winners’ proved to be deemed ineligible and we want to avoid disseminating misinformation,” Lemich added. “Our first priority is to run an efficient program and to provide the most accurate information to the public.”

Variety had made a request to Lemisch this week under the state’s California Public Records Act for immediate access to information about the selected projects following the lottery.

In response, Lemisch turned down the request and asserted that statutory changes enacted in 2012 require that the California Film Commission post tax credit program information to its website — but specifically exempt the information contained in  applications: “Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to make the information submitted by an applicant for a tax credit under this section a public record.”

Lemisch also said that its was a mistake to disclose last year’s selections on the same day as the lottery.

“That statute was implemented when the last extension bill was enacted and went into effect in 2013,” she said. “We acted in error last June, 2013, when we gave out the names of projects prematurely.  Our goal is to correct our error, set up a protocol for this and all future years, and give ourselves more time to meticulously review the applications.”

Projects selected must start production within 180 days or forfeit the credit, which is then allocated to projects drawn from a waiting list. Due to the volatility of the industry and production schedules, however, credits often wind up not being used.

The program — smaller and less generous than rival states such as Georgia, Louisiana and New York — is aimed at retaining film and TV production in California. It is funded through the 2015-16 fiscal year with $100 million in tax credits annually.

An expansion of California’s credit program overwhelming passed the state Assembly on Wednesday, with legislation that would allow big-budget features and most one-hour TV shows to be eligible for incentives. The legislation, AB1839, passed 76-0 with the authors yet to determine how much the state will allocate each year for the incentive program.

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