Film Incentives That Aren't Tax Credits
"Whale Rider" was funded in part by the New Zealand Film Commission, and went on to become a worldwide critical and commercial hit.
When people talk about film incentives, most of the time, they're talking about tax credits. But there are other means by which governments stimulate local production, such as workforce training programs, and grants and loans to filmmakers.
New York City recently established a new pilot workforce training program, the Independent Film Training Grant Initiative, to support local independent film production. The program offers grants to NYC-based production companies of up to $25,000 per film project for hiring eligible freelance workers to assume greater on-set responsibilities. The end goal is to build a cadre of well-trained, skilled NYC-based crew members that can work on future productions in NYC.
Each production company can only claim a grant for one film project with a budget of under $3 million. A total of $150,000 in federal workforce training funds have been allocated toward this program, which will be administered by IFP, along with its affiliated Producers Group and the NYC Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting.
New Mexico also has a workforce training program, the Film Crew Advancement Program, jointly administered by the New Mexico Film Office and IATSE Local 480. Productions that hire pre-approved resident crew trainees are eligible for a 50% wage reimbursement from the state. A "trainee" is a crew member who has never worked at the craft level for which he or she is being hired. Trainees are assigned experienced mentors, and those not already members of IATSE Local 480 must join within thirty days of hire to remain on a production and qualify for the program.
New Mexico also offers 0% production loans to eligible feature films and TV projects made in the state, up to $15 million per project. The project must be rated PG-13 or lower (with some exceptions), at least 85% of the film must be shot in New Mexico, 60% of below-the-line hires must be New Mexico residents, and a distribution plan and an investment grade guarantor for the principal loan amount must be in place.
Wow, all that plus a refundable tax credit of up to 20%! No wonder 7 new feature films knocked on New Mexico's door last week (though Hurricane Katrina was no doubt a factor in this deluge).
Back on the East Coast, New Jersey has a Film Production Assistance Program that guarantees loans through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which encourages third party lenders to finance projects they might not ordinarily finance. Loan guarantees must be the lesser of 30% of the bank financing cost of the project, or $1.5 million. Productions must spend at least 50% of their budget and shoot 70% of their film in New Jersey to qualify.
Outside of the U.S., New Zealand is known for its well established film financing and marketing programs, which include loans, grants, and equity financing, plus access to major film markets. "Whale Rider" and Peter Jackson's early films were among the many beneficiaries of New Zealand's financing programs.
Never to be outdone, the Brits just launched their own film financing program to make "identifiably British low-budget films." The UK Film Council is creating two mini-studios, Warp X and Qwerty Film, in conjunction with TV company FilmFour. The companies will get £3 million a year to develop, finance, and distribute UK films. Warp X has also raised another £5 million from other investors, so it has £8 million to spend on 8-10 productions over the next 3 years. Qwerty is also working on getting additional funding.
And I betcha didn't know (unless you've been reading this blog from the start) that Hawaii has its own Television & Film Development Special Fund, established by the Legislature in 2000 to provide grants and loans to local filmmakers. But the thing is, it's never had any actual money in it--not for lack of trying though: along with last year's bill to up the refundable tax credit amount, there was a bill requesting an appropriation for this special fund. Neither bill passed.
>> NYC Announces Funding For Independent Film Production [IFP New York, 9/27/05]
>> Film Council introduces 'mini-studios' [Time Out, 8/15/05]
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