Production in the Golden State may still be in a state of stasis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the money pipeline is flowing strong, as the more than $40 million in tax credits that California allocated today made very clear.
With just days left on Program 2.0 of the state’s $330 million annual film and television tax incentive scheme left before Program 3.0 kicks in with the dawn of the new fiscal year on July 1, 12 features got the nod this time round. The lucky dozen not only divvied up the dough, but also represented perhaps the greatest variation in allocations since then Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a significant expansion of the program back in 2014.
Including a likely straight to VOD sequel to 1998’s Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan’s stoner cult fave Half Baked, plus Disney/Fox’s Florida 1992-set Lady of the House drama, here is the complete list of all 12 features conditionally approved for this big screen round and the amount they received in incentives.
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From a reapplication award for Amazon’s Untitled Lucy and Desi Project from Aaron Sorkin and set to star Cate Blanchett as the legendary and well-loved comedian to the Cali-filmed Hong Kong set action flick Little America from Michael Bay and starring Sylvester Stallone, standard Hollywood efforts were well represented in this latest announcement from the California Film Commission. At the same time, the transgender teen drama Moonshadow, plus the Iranian based and immigration themed The Test and the Asian family focused Ashes to Oceans, both from eOne Features, feature much broader storytelling than we’ve seen on the whole from the CFC administered program.
“As a project with many trans and other gender non-confirming creative team members, cast and crew, it was essential for Moonshadow production to be based in a progressive state,” EP Jude Harris said Monday. “California’s tax credit program is making it possible for us to generate jobs and production spending here at home while working in a supportive environment.”
With that in mind, the primary thrust of the big and small screen incentives since 2014 has been job creation – a fact all the more acute with Hollywood out of work because of COVI-19.
To that end, the CFC estimates that the projects chosen for this latest and delayed round will employee just under 550 cast and over 1740 crew members. The state also judges that thousands of “background actors/stand-ins” will be getting jobs out of these films, but that seems hard to believe with the necessities of social distancing and other coronavirus preventative measures surely to become the norm for a while once Hollywood really does reopen. Besides that, the features are projected by the CFC to deliver around $225 million in below-the-line pay checks and spending to California vendors.
Now, if it seems like a while since the last time you heard about now financially strapped California handing out lucrative tax credits – you’re right.
The projects made public today were from the 54 films that digitally sent in their applications in the March 9 – 13 time period AKA just before the Golden State and studio rich L.A. County went into lockdown. Under normal circumstances, these allocations would have been revealed in April, but were held back by the CFC until a reopening of Hollywood was at least visible on the horizon – as the case now, though confirmed cases of COVID-19 are terrifyingly hitting new records in the region.
So, for you policy wonks out there, that means that the 180-day start date requirement for projects to receive their incentives is still in place. At the same time, films and TV series can now apply for a force majeure delay if the start of production is delayed due to the pandemic – as was surely the case for most of the film awarded tax credits in this latest round.
Even as the state grapples with a more than $50 billion deficit out of the coronavirus crisis and the economic havoc that it caused as well the current plan is for applications and allocations to shift back into a more regular pattern – unless events require otherwise.
The revised Program 3.0, which has designated opportunity pathways for underrepresented communities and stronger anti-harassment requirements, saw its first application period for TV projects last week. Those who put their offerings forth from June 22 – 24 should hear in the next three weeks if they were successful. The CFC is aiming to make the decisions available around July 20.
The first feature film application period of Program 3.0 will run from July 13 – 14, with an announcement unveiled on August 17 – by which the industry may truly be up and on set again, maybe.