California Senate Approves Film Credit Boost for Diverse Hiring

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Courtesy of Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

The California Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that encourages film and TV productions to diversify the entertainment workforce.

The bill creates an incentive for productions to hire the graduates of a new training program. The program, called the Career Pathways Training Program, is expected to launch in the coming year, with the aim of bringing in film workers from underrepresented communities.

The bill, SB 611, has the support of Hollywood studios and labor groups. It passed 39-0, and now heads to the Assembly.

“Everybody would like to see more diversity in Hollywood,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Ben Allen. “This is ultimately about democratizing TV and film production. We know there’s incredibly talented young people from lots of different backgrounds.”

The California Film Commission reported demographic data last December for projects funded by the state tax credit from 2015-20. The data showed just 13% of workers in the industry were Latino, 6% were Black and 3% were Asian American.

SB 611 would modify the film and TV tax credit, which provides $330 million a year in subsidies to California-based productions. Under the program, productions that receive the credit can claim up to 20% or 25% of their qualified expenses.

The bill would allow productions to claim an additional 20% on the amount paid to any graduates of the new program. The Motion Picture Association and a coalition of Hollywood unions wrote letters in support of the bill.

The bill does not increase the $330 million cap on the tax credit. Gov. Gavin Newsom previously proposed a one-time increase to $360 million for the coming fiscal year, as the state looks to jumpstart the economic recovery.

The Career Pathways Training Program was enacted as part of the latest iteration of the state’s film and TV credit, which went into effect last year. The program is funded by recipients of the tax credit.

The goal of the program is to recruit students from underserved communities and to broaden the talent pool available to productions.

“It’s not just about race, it’s also about socio-economics,” Allen said.

In order to claim the extra 20% credit, productions must have filed a workforce development plan that commits to increasing diversity in hiring. Graduates of the training program must also be employed in at least 60% of the departments of the production.