Where we are matters. Where we shoot our films matters, too. One of the things influencing producers on where to shoot their movies are the incentives each state or country has to offer. In an effort to attract more work to their area, many places have upped their percentages.
With Robin Bart hosting, we interviewed several different places.
While it's an American territory, Puerto Rico is about as foreign as you can get and still be on US soil. Boasting a great crew base, they have studios available for use and give a 40% incentive for local hire and expenses. There is also a 20% credit to nonresident talent. Being that they are considered foreign, the actor can take foreign tax credits. There are no caps as to what can be spent and credits can sell for as high as 90 cents on the dollar. Refund is guaranteed no longer than 90 days and they have a business affairs person on staff to help you know which expenses are deductible. Even booking with an local travel agent for your trip can get you credits. Any production over $100,000 is welcome. The application is on line and you do have to apply for a permit. $100,000 is the minimum for the production so that means you can do shorts, commercials, webisodes, etc.
Shooting in winter is no problem in the Canadian studios. Our neighbors to the north are generous, too. Saskatchewan offers a 55% credit, while Quebec gives 44%.
Suzanne Bell, of the Saskatchewan Film Commission, told us that they have no project caps and that you can earn extra credits by shooting in rural areas 50 miles outside of the city, Regina. Hiring local residents gives you another 5%. This is especially encouraged for below the line workers. These credits are highly bankable and many of the banks are supportive of the program. You can be matched with a Canadian company, if you want, but it's not necessary. Though it can help you to know what deductions you can take. I was especially interested in their development program where development money can be provided on approved scripts with Canadian content. All genres are welcome. The application is on line. Suzanne says that a production spending one million can easily retrieve $300,000 back.
For the flavor of Europe close at hand, you can do no better than Quebec or Montreal - two of North America's oldest cities. The Quebec Film and Television Council (866 320 3456) offers 44% rebate and they boast state of the art studios. Their recent movies include The Immortals and 300. They also worked on Day After Tomorrow, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Eclipse and many others. Their incentive is on a three tier basis. You get 25% back on everything you spend. Labor and services are on the 2nd level and a much larger % back for use of visual effects. They encourage you to use their green screen services. The 3rd level is the federal tax credit The credit is non transferable but it is cash back and there is no limit on the spending. It's not necessary to have Canadian content in the story.
If you are thinking of the South, you can do no better than Louisiana. One of the all time favorites - Twilight - was partially shot there. When thinking of the state, the French flavor of New Orleans comes to mind with the swamps and weeping willow trees but there is more. Most people don't know that Louisiana has mountains, national forests, and numerous tree lined lakes. Jimmy Williams of their Film Commission talked about the virgin unspoiled areas in the state which are ripe for filming. Some of the plantation homes have never been used. They have excellent studios in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. While the incentive of 30% is state wide, some parishes have additional incentives to encourage local production. There is an additional 5% for local hires. Anything spent in the state will qualify and while there is no max there is a minimum of $300,000.
Another Southern state, North Carolina has recently increased their incentives to 25%. With a variety of scenic views from the ocean to the plains and mountains and plateaus, North Carolina is ripe for the shooting. A right to work state means you can mix SAG with non SAG. There are several studios scattered across the state. Check with the state and local film commissioners for your needs
West Virigina, made popular with the film Super 8 offers a lot of Rockwellish small towns. Great for family movies, it is Everywhere USA Their incentive is 27% and slightly higher if you hire local people. The minimum spending is 25,000,which means even some shorts can apply and they have no specific requirements. The commission funds at 10 million a year. There is no studio there but plenty of great wherehouses to shoot in. In between Pitsburg and DC, it is not a right to work state, which means non union productions are welcome.
Fuji is another popular place for shooting. With both major cities as well as unscathed beach areas, it can double for a lot of different locations. Some of the films shot here were Return to the Blue Lagoon and Castaway. The Fuji dollar is competitive to the American dollar and 98% of the population speak English. Incentives have grown from 35% in 2008 to 47% now and money is easily raised from local investors. You must, however, declare yourself a Fuji corporation and have a local bank account for your expenses. Prior to starting the project, it is highly suggested that you submit your budget to see what really qualifies.
The British Isles are also a popular destination, but since they are with the European Union, they are limited to what they can give as Incentives. They have an 80% cap and you must spend at least 25% of your budget there. It's good to run your travel through a local travel agent. Because it is part of the EU, all films must pass the cultural test. One big advantage of England is that Warner Brothers has just opened a huge new studio just 14 miles from Central London.
While you are traveling, be mindful of the fact that Lufthansa, the Geman Airline, has deals for film makers and will often give you discounts on ferrying your cast and crew to your destinations. They also give discounts for filmmakers headed for festivals abroad, says Andrea Snell. For more information on this call Andrea at 310 261 0769.