Economy Film Politics

Inland Empire Film Commission

By Sheri Davis

During this economic age, the one thing feature film productions hunt after are tax incentives. So in 2009, California started offering production tax incentives through 2014 in hopes to encourage companies to stay in the state. Recently, the California State Senate voted to extend the state’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program for one more year. The original legislation (AB 1069) which passed the State Assembly as a five-year extension (through 2020), was amended in the Senate on August 26th to provide a one-year, $100 million extension (through 2015). If signed by the governor, it will add one year to the current five-year, $500 million program. Although the film commission’s pushed for an incentive “bump” on the original bill passed in 2009 to encourage the industry to travel outside of its comfort zone of Los Angeles, it was never included. The Film Commissions in the State are hoping that when this bill gets to the Senate, that piece will be added to encourage filming all across the state.

Feature filming is still on the decline as the studios continue to search for the best incentives around the world. The incentive package that the State of California implemented in 2009 did fund lots of smaller budgeted feature films; however most of the large tentpole features are still leaving because the program is not available to films over $75 million. In light of that, The Inland Empire Film Commission (IEFC) still capture 12 features, mostly in the desert areas of San Bernardino County. Some of those features included the Green Lantern, Fast Five (aka Fast & Furious 5), Thor and Priest. The feature film Priest reported expenditures of $625,718 in the High Desert when they filmed on Soggy Dry Lake.

There were 18 television shows that found exactly what they needed in the San Bernardino County desert. Shows like Chaos, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Car Nutz, Wheels Up (for the Speed Channel), Top Gear (U.S. and U.K. versions), It’s Effin Science, Man vs Wild, Storage Wars, and The Event.

Commercial and still photography are still the two main types of production that select the region. 118 projects were shot in the area during 2010. The big attraction for the film industry is the open vistas, great light and diversity of locations.

We are in the final stages of opening existing BLM land for filming in the 1st District of San Bernardino County. We worked with Supervisor Mitzelfelt to accomplish this goal, that was started all the way back in 1999. The IEFC manages this project between the Bureau of Land Management and the County of San Bernardino.

The IEFC did numerous marketing ventures that showcased the desert at several Trade Shows in 2010. Being outside of the 30-mile zone has its challenges, but as residents and industry professionals in the valley work with the IEFC, we have developed our own local “incentive package”….hotels willing to give competitive rates, restaurants and other service providers offering incentives and, of course, the crew that is resident in the valley is always there to help.

The economy slowed down commercial production for 2010 but the High Desert still managed to hold its own with film companies electing to stay in California.

The 16th Annual California on Location Awards once again brought recognition to the High Desert with a number of the finalists who shot their projects in the desert region. The 2010 event attracted over 525 Industry professionals and was hosted by the premier awards hotel – the Beverly Hilton.

The California Film Commission’s “Power Breakfast” always gets attention as the Dumont Dunes was highlighted as one of the six photos used on the one-page flyer dedicated to the Inland Empire. This year’s breakfast was hosted by the Softiel Hotel in Beverly Hills, and 85 Studio Executives and production company owners attended.

The2010 estimated economic impact for District 1 was $8,995,500 and District 3 for 2010 was $3,765,500 for a total of $12,761,000.

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