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Analysis : California film incentives a ‘failure’ and need a revamp

It’s no secret that California is losing productions year-on-year to other countries and states with better incentives. The home of entertainment needs to radically overhaul its state subsidies or the drain will continue on a painful scale.

Hollywood, the beacon of creativity and blockbuster films in the US has been on a steady decline, and because it’s more expensive to shoot locally, there’s no reason why a film producer should spend millions more on a production in the state when he/she can go to Canada, the UK or China for a better deal. It’s not just incentives for big budget movies that aren’t sufficient, it’s the post production houses that are also not getting sufficient relief that would keep workers in the state.

It was only this week that Kansas and Maryland finally backtracked on cutting incentives when they realized the tax breaks were boosting inward investment. A recent report also showed that current incentives generated $1.9 billion in spending over 3 years. This is incredible but it’s really not strong enough.

What people outside the film industry tend to forget is that filmmaking provides numerous benefits to state coffers beyond the initial production. This means that even once the production is finished, there’s a marketing tool for the state that can be used for decades. There are millions of DVDs around the world being watched and re-watched again and again. We may be consuming new releases differently i.e via digital distribution, but there are still over 6 billion people who are not.

There are audiences being connected to places like Los Angeles and San Francisco through film that inspire them to go and visit. It puts cities on the map, it gets people excited about places and cultures. I can’t think of a better marketing tool for California than a blockbuster movie. On top of that, despite the massive bootlegging taking place in developing countries like India and China, people still love those stories and are affected by them. As the wealth of those nations increases, so will the demand for travel to foreign destinations such as Hollywood.

Thanks to the UK’s incentives, a lot of people are benefiting from a creative boom, but it would be selfish of me not to help my colleagues in Hollywood by making this point, and I feel that more can be done. This is a really important issue for the state, and there’s no progress in resolving it at all. It is the same for TV productions and low budget movies. Where’s the help? I don’t see it and people are tired of losing.

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