Where one films their feature (or short, or commercial) can have significant affect on the over all story. Budget considerations always come into play in choosing where the filmmaker will shoot. Despite the overwhelming fact that California has a great climate (one of the reasons the movie industry started here), great above the line talent (actors, writers, directors and producers) and superior below the line talent (as lighting and sound designers, grips, line producers, and others), much of California's hold on the industry has lessened. Many of us thought that when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor things would change. After all, an actor, himself, he knew the value of stopping run away production. But he did not do anything to help our industry and the incentives offered for filmmakers to keep their production in California are often outweighed by the great tax rebates and credits given to us by other locations.
For that reason alone, the AFCI (Association of Film Commissioners) Location Show, held Thursday, Friday and Saturday - June 27-29, 2013, at the L A Convention Center, should have been packed -- but it wasn't. Besides being that, there were far less exhibitors this year than in past years. Despite that, I picked up quite a few tips from various booths about the perks and incentives offered by the many states and countries that were represented.
As far as good deals go for within the US, Alaska, with its (up to) 58% tax credit --one of the most aggressive in the country - beats them all. Of course, you have to like snow and long winter nights. Maybe that is one of the reason that horror has found a home there. Then, there is always the summer when the light lasts longer than you would expect. There is no sound stage there but they do have a small studio for post productions and plenty of good crew.
Michigan probably came in next with a possible 35% credit and of course, Louisiana has always been a favorite with filmmakers. Both those states have their own studio and crews available. Going into the rural and untapped areas, will give you a bigger discount. Florida, which is a right to work state, meaning that you can mix both union and non union crew and talent (though you might have trouble if you are a bigger budget picture than if you are an independent) has a sliding scale rebate depending on your budget. Centrally located, Ohio made a big pitch with 25-35%. "We want your business so bad that sometimes we can get you locations for free. People are just tickled to have you filming in our state." Illinois gives a hefty 30% while Mississippi gives 25-30% and if you hire a vet, they will give you an extra 5%. They, too, have a sound stage.
Georgia, which does a lot of filming offers 30% above and below line for all in state work. Their excellent studios are often used for Turner Broadcasting.
The US Virigin Islands, which they do not offer a set rebate, will work with production companies on a 1:1 basis, sometimes paying for hotel rooms for the crews. "Ours is soft money.
Each state has its own rules and some will only cover below the line costs, while others, as long as you are spending money in that state or country, will credit you for those expenditures. Some of the states have a minimum that you need to have in your budget and went as low as $50,000 to as high as 1 million and others didn't care about your budget but would cap the amount of tax credit you received.
Canada, too, was big at the show with Vancouver - a popular place for filming as it can look like many other cities - offers 45% on all labor below the line and has two levels of incentives. The first is if you are coming in alone and the second is if you have a local partner. Don't forget to consider Ontario, the Yukon, or Alberta, either.
I discovered places that I had never heard of as Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, which is controlled by Spain. They offer a 38% but you have to work with a local co-production and go through the Spanish film commission to get permission. I also learned about Tbilsi in the State of Georgia formerly part of the Soviet Union.
South Korea, which states they have studios, take care of all expenses up to 30%.
Trinidad and Tobago offer between 35-50% and Fiji, which also needs a local co production offers 47%.
Morocco offers two big studios - the Atlas and CLA.
While Portugal doesn't have a tax incentive program yet, their private company Ready to Shoot, offers all sorts of assistance from location scouting, crew, hotel, casting, etc. It's also a VAT free country.
If you are in doubt of where you want to go, you might check with the Location Guide, which lists everything in the one book. The price of the book is $130 and it comes out yearly. The Location Manager's Guild can tell you where in L A you can shoot if you want it to look like Saint Louis -- or any other similar need either in the States or overseas.
And companies like Entertainment Partners, and Cast and Crew or the Tax Incentives, Inc. will guide you on what place is most reasonable for your budget and the location look that you want.
Hotel chains as Motel Six, Marriot and Oakwood were present and told me that they give discounts depending on the size of the crew and the length of stay.
Don't forget that despite the draw backs of filming in California, most of the state parks are free to film in and you have to, when choosing a place outside of Los Angeles, consider the cost of transportation and housing for your crew and your talent.