Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Incentives for Filmmakers: 5.42

Today I turn again to my increasingly useful inbox-- that's assistantatlas AT yahoo dot com-- for a rather interesting topic. Well, it's one I haven't covered...and after five seasons and many long months, I have covered quite a lot. Today, it's all about location, location, location.

I'd like to announce I'm no longer naive enough to think that most studio film projects won't be influenced by financial incentives. Just how big of a role they play is the debate we'll wade into today, kids. Wheee!

Here's the email I received:

I discovered your blog in the course of research for a project I am working for the Illinois state legislature regarding state incentives to filmmakers. Since you've spent a good bit more time working in the industry than I have spent reading about it, would it be possible for me to get your take on the following questions?:

1) What do filmmakers look for when choosing a location? What are the most decisive factors in deciding where to shoot outside the 30-mile zone?
2) From your perspective (and what you have heard in your circles), which states or countries are particularly attractive to producers, and does this have to do more with the location itself or with targeted incentives?
3) Can you think of any less conventional incentives (other than tax credits, cheap/free permits, etc.) that could sway filmmakers toward a particular location?
4) Is there anyone else I should talk to?

Thanks so much for your time and consideration.
Jonathan C. Eastvold, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Illinois General Assembly
Legislative Research Unit

It even had his phone number. Interesting, eh? I just had to write back:

Dear Sir,

While I'm rather surprised you've chosen to reach out to me, I must admit that I am charmed enough by your attention to answer your questions to the best of my perhaps limited ability.

1) While there are multiple types of filmmakers, I assume you're looking for bigger-budget studio productions: indie guys will mostly film where they can. The most decisive factors are the availability of tax credits, skilled crews, ease of use (which means: clear/transparent procedures easily obtainable online), and the one you can't control: suitability of the location for the project. Do be advised that this suitability one usually comes last on the list. After all, if they can make Vancouver look like "Smallville, Kansas" week after week, they could probably make Chicago stand in for Tokyo.

2) The locations with the most buzz seem to be Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Vancouver (British Columbia, generally), Mexico (especially Baja), Louisiana, with a lot of interest in India, but relatively little Hollywood filming as of yet. For the most part, tax incentives are a big factor, especially in the largest, most high-profile studio projects where the bean-counters have a lot of control. Oh Can't forget the weather. Or at least, well-loved location scouts won't.

3) Less conventional incentives? Access to cheap labor? A hot nightclub (guy movies) or shopping (chick movies environment? Oh- here's an unconventional one: legalize gay marriage...or at least, domestic partnerships. It'll boost your talent pool and the perception of Illinois as an open, creative place. Also, do more to promote home-grown
filmmakers and artists: they're much more likely to use their home state in projects.

4) (I'll spare you my people recommendations)

So feel free to wade in on any of the good research doctor's questions if you think you've got some answers. Or one of those 'thought' thingies I keep hearing so much about.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, I think that in point number 1 that you may have underestimated the indie market. While you may be correct that the people with the DV cams will shoot where they may the "indie" market is considered more than that and in fact rely heavily on incentive. There are a lot of companies out there that need to utilize these incentives in order to get pictures made. I think that your view is a studio centric one and with more and more movies coming out of the "Indie" marketplace, incentives are more and more important in financing a film than ever before.

8:26 AM

Blogger Peggy Archer said...

I got the same email, and I can't figure out why they'd send it to a juicer.

Of course I'm a proponent of keeping film production in LA - I have a swanky lifestyle to maintain, you know.

11:31 AM

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