Location is one of the kings when it comes to filmmaking but while many filmmakers look for the best incentives, they also have to consider other factors in their location hunt. What is the crew base like? What facilities are available at the location? And one of the key factors in thinking about incentives is the tax credit versus actual rebate issue. This soft money can be the difference between an investor signing on and not.
The rebate means actual monies back to the producer or in some cases directly to the investor, while the tax credit means you must sell the credits at 90 cents on the dollar, if you are lucky, to some local business.
At the recent AFCI Location Expo held at the LA Convention Center cities, states and countries vied for attention.
There used to be a time when California was king when it came to locations for shooting film and why not, we have beautiful beaches, mountains, deserts and everything in between. But California Film Commission and the Governor have, in their infinite wisdom, decided to limit the amount of incentive funds they will offer filmmakers. Now one must compete in a lottery, which greatly limits the number of productions that can benefit, and the tax credit is only between 20-25%. Nevertheless, the communities of Santa Clarita/Newhall, Ventura, Long Beach, Filmore, Monterey, and San Francisco were all present with booths extolling the wonders of filming in their area.
Even New York, which used to be a distant second, now offers a 30% tax credit.
The Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina and North Carolina seemed to offer the best rates currently (if their locations suited your need) in both credits and location services. South Carolina boasted that they return the money within 45 days of filing and they offer their own accountant services to help you. Several have newly built studios to assist the filmmaker.
Then, too, there were the foreign offices like Jordan, Korea, Finland, France, New Zealand, Australia, Fuiji, British Virigin Islands and US Virgin Islands and South Africa. Some cities, also had their own booths like Prague and Mexico City.
Each of the countries and states have their own requirements. Some require a certain residency time or length of production, while others insist that you join forces with a local production office. Others have a minimum amount that will qualify you for incentives. (The least I found was $50,000. Those some places, those with lower incentives, had no minimum budget required.) Still others only give credits on local hires and local purchases.
Also at the event were Air Hollywood. Since the tightening of security after 911, airports are notoriously difficult to film at. Air Hollywood not only sets up a realistic plane for you to film on, but will also set up air port terminals and provide stock footage, as well.
Looking for places to put your crew on location? Oakwood Apartments and Suites were there, as were Motel 6, Hyatt and several other hotel chains. Of these, Motel 6 seemed to be the widest spread in location and offer the best discount rates for crew housing.
So you don't feel so adrift in the sea of numbers, Tax Credits LLC, Cast and Crew Entertainment Services, Ease Entertainment Services, and The Incentives Office were there to help you plow through your choices. Each of them had separate offerings as well, including insurance, payroll and procurement services. I, personally, would choose one of them to assist me since there are so many variables to consider when deciding where to shoot. Incentives do vary yearly and some states have caps on the amount they will give out, so it's best to check with the experts.