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November 2014
Issue: July 1, 2009

FIGHTING FOR PRODUCTIONS

By: Randi Altman
In an effort to curb runaway production to Canada, individual states have become more aggressive with tax incentives for producers. States that haven't typically been thought of as go-to's for shoots, such as Michigan and New Mexico, are now on the tip of producers' tongues.

Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office, says his state has been feeling the heat recently. "Since tax incentives came along it added a new level of competition for the states. Now producers first look to see where it's financially best to make their movie and then [focus on] location."
North Carolina currently has a 15 percent tax incentive. "Three years ago when it was enacted it was competitive, but over the past year with states like Georgia and Michigan upping theirs, North Carolina isn't as competitive as it used to be," he says. "Massachusetts is doing 25 percent; Louisiana is 25 — North Carolina is losing its market share."

But that might soon change for the Tar Heel State. "We have a 25 percent bill that passed the Senate and is now in the house," says Syrett.

North Carolina was home to the series Dawson's Creek for six seasons and still hosts the long-running WB show, One Tree Hill, among other productions, so they have the soundstages and a trained workforce already in place, something some states just getting involved in film and TV production are still developing.

"We're not worried about getting our incentive as high as theirs," he says. "We aren't going to 42 percent, but we do need to be at a competitive level. At 25 percent, our infrastructure will make up that extra five or 10 percent."

But North Carolina is not only competing domestically; Canada isn't counting itself out. "The Ontario industry has always operated on a balance of offering experienced crews and venues to shoot films with tax incentives and the exchange rate," offers Jordan Thistlewood, a senior CG artist/supervisor in Toronto. "The new film studios and recent government grants to Ubisoft and Starz Animation have the potential for a positive stimulus to the Toronto industry."

But recent government support of larger foreign companies — like the UK's Pinewood Studios — to work in Toronto has caused a debate. Thistlewood says it will take some time to determine whether the taxpayers' ROI is a good one. "Pinewood has the clout to bring large projects, but only if it doesn't undercut the existing studio spaces. So there is a level of production they have to encourage which has a spill-over effect into the other businesses to make good sense for the public."

Whether it's Canada, North Carolina or New Mexico, the negative is that Hollywood is facing runaway production from the inside. The positive is producers are able to shop around.