California’s newly named film commissioner is thinking big.
Colleen Bell wants to expand the state’s production tax credit program beyond its current annual allocation of $330 million — which was tripled in size in 2014 to compete effectively with New York and Georgia, then extended a year ago to 2025 with a credit of up to 25% of qualified expenditures spent in California.
Feature films covered under the program have included “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Captain Marvel,” “Bumblebee,” “Space Jam 2” and “Sherlock Holmes 3.” Earlier this year, Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” became the 16th television series to relocate to California, joining “Good Girls,” “You,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Legion,” “Ballers” and “Veep.” The state ditched the lottery approach several years ago and selects projects based on a jobs-creation formula.
“We may not provide the largest incentives but we provide the most value in terms of workforce, locations, weather and progressive, inclusive policies,” she told Variety. “We need to continue to expand and we need to eliminate barriers and market California as the premiere destination it is.”
Bell, who was named by Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace Amy Lemisch in the post in May, said she’s in “listening mode” and “salesperson mode” to find out what’s working and what the barriers are.
“We want to come up with a comprehensive approach with the Governors office,” she added. “There’s an overall belief the program needs to be expanded. The most emotionally charged conversations I’ve had so far come from people who have to leave the state and their families in order to keep working.”
Bell was noncommittal as to whether she supports California Assembly Bill 1442, which would add $100 million in credits annually for productions that leave a state that’s implementing fetal heartbeat anti-abortion legislation. Georgia has approved such a bill, which goes into effect next year if it survives a court challenge. Disney and Netflix have threatened to stop producing in Georgia if that happens.
AB1442, introduced by Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Los Angeles), is currently in the State Senate’s governance and finance committee, and is likely set for hearing by the third week of August. The proposed legislation has received support from labor unions and the chair and vice-chair of the Women’s Caucus, Sen. Connie Leyva and Assemblywoman Monique Limon, respectively.
Bell said it’s up to producers to decide whether to shoot in Georgia but added, “Our progressive and inclusive approach is a great asset.”
Bell served as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 2014 to 2017 under President Obama. She held several positions at Bell-Phillip Television Productions, including producer from 2012 to 2014, director of special projects from 2006 to 2012, and associate producer and script supervisor from 1991 to 2003. Bell was also a producer on “The Bold and the Beautiful” from 1991 and 2015.
Steve Dayan, a member and former chairman of the California Film Commission, gives Bell high marks for far. He’s the secretary-treasurer of Hollywood Local 399 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters.
“She has a good track record and she’s very politically connected,” Dayan said. “I think she’s going to do a good job. There’s a lot of opportunity in California right now to expand production.”