Economy Film General

How does the Inland Empire Film commission Make it so easy?

By Sheri Davis – Director

The High Desert still remains the number one desert location for the Film Industry in California. Why you ask? It is really a simple answer – terrific light, diversity of locations (from a mountain community to the vast sand dunes at Dumont) as well as experienced crew and service providers. Also, the film industry gets ease of permitting with the Inland Empire Film Commission which serves as the One Stop Permit Agency for the County of San Bernardino, the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. How does the Film Commission make it so easy? They have some very important partners whose support is key to successful filming in the High Desert. The Barstow Bureau of Land Management leadership and staff deserve a medal for their excellence in assisting filming. This office is exemplary and should be the role model for other BLM field offices. County Supervisor Lovingood from the First District and Supervisor Rutherford from the Third District are very supportive partners to the film commission and are great proponents of filming in their districts.

Filming Update For 2014

Feature Films: 11 feature films selected locations from El Mirage Dry Lake to the Dumont Dunes. The pattern of studio features shooting out of state for most of their production continued through 2014 as they secure incentives, both in other states and other nations. Some of the smaller films shot were “Nothing Like Romance” shot in Oro Grande, “The Executer,” shot in Yermo, and “Zeroville,” shot at the Barstow Drive-in. We are very hopeful that the new incentive bill AB1839 that passed allowing $330 million a year for five (5) years to be used as an incentive to keep filming in California. This renewal and revision of the State Film Incentive program bumps the 20% incentive to 25% for films shooting outside the 30-mile zone around Hollywood (more details below). Hopefully, this will encourage production to come to the High Desert.

Reality Television: Reality TV still enjoys filming in the High Desert region with 14 shows such as “Top Gear,” Jay Leno’s untitled new show, “Masterchef,” “Sand Master,” “Die Trying: Gates of Hell,” “Storage Wars,” and “IQ Challenge,” to name just a few of the shows.

Commercials: 56 commercials selected locations in the High Desert. The dry lakes in the county still attract the largest numbers of commercials with El Mirage Dry Lake leading with 17 commercials. Here are a few commercials that did NOT involve the automobile industry: GE, Icon Health, Water Future, 7 Jeans, Megane-ichiba sunglasses. Other dry lakes like Soggy, Silurian, Lucerne, Rabbit and Coyote also attracted their fair share of commercials like Blacklist Olympics, Golden Girls, Pokémon Master Recruiter, USA Network Series Promo for “Dig,” American Eagle and California Lottery. Then, of course, we had many of the car agencies return for that special desert look…Subaru, Lamborghini, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Hyundai, and Dodge Viper, among many other products. The locations ranged from communities like Yermo to Baker, from Barstow to Wrightwood, from Lucerne Valley to Trona. Watch for these commercials and enjoy your locations being introduced to the world.

Still Photography: Still photographers still consider the High Desert lighting and diversity to be perfect for their requirements. 62 still photography shoots for both national and international products like Gala Paris, Macy’s, Prestige Magazine, Nissan Frontier, Lexus, Top Gear Clothing, American Eagle, Show Me Your Mumu, ESPN Magazine, Engelbert Strauss Workwear, Arch Motorcycles, W Magazine, Urban Outfitters and Grip (a German TV car magazine) are some the highlights.

Music Videos: The region enjoyed a huge increase in music videos over the previous year. There were 35 music videos shot throughout the High Desert. Have you ever wondered about all of the music videos that you have seen and thought look like your area. Well, here are just a few for your viewing pleasure – just go to the URLs below and enjoy a music video shot in your region.

Student Production: 19 film school projects discovered the High Desert region. Some of the larger film schools that used our region were Chapman University, University of California Irvine, New York Film Academy, Art Center College of Design, Loyola Marymount University and Columbia College.

Documentaries, Short films, Web Series: 51 other productions selected varied locations in the High Desert such as a market in Trona, the Barstow Hospital, as well as various locations in Newberry Springs and Daggett. However, 38 of the productions were shot on land managed by the Barstow Bureau of Land Management which includes El Mirage Dry Lake, Johnson Valley and the Dumont Dunes.

King of the Hammers: Each year a film crew comes out to record the actions at one of the biggest desert racing events in the Nation called “King of the Hammers.” This is a 5-day event that always selects Johnson Valley, is filled with races, vehicle rock climbing, etc., and has an audience of over 25,000 people attending. We want to thank the Barstow Bureau of Land Management for their support of this important race to Lucerne Valley and the desert region.

Johnson Valley Update

Tony Perry, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, in an article on May 9, 2014, reported on the final decision for the use of Johnson Valley by the U.S. Marines and the OHV community.

“After nearly a decade-long dispute between the Marine Corps and off-road vehicle enthusiasts over a rocky patch of desert west of the base at Twentynine Palms has ended in a compromise brokered by Congress. Neither side got everything they wanted in the tussle over the nearly 200,000 acres of forbidding Johnson Valley — a place of rugged beauty that off-roaders say is virtually without peer for their sport. The Marines say the same about their training needs.

As included in the 2014 defense bill signed by President Obama, approximately 43,000 acres of Johnson Valley will be for recreational use only, 79,000 acres will be for the Marine Corps, and 53,000 acres will be shared between the off-roaders and the Marines.”

Johnson Valley

The Inland Empire Film Commission is not certain at this time how these decisions will impact filming.

California Tax Incentive Update

California Film and Television Tax Incentive Expanded and Extended 20-25% Credit

The California Film & Television Job Retention and Promotion Act, signed by Governor Brown in September, 2014, expands and improves California’s Film and TV incentives. The California Film Commission is currently developing regulations and other procedures to administer the newly expanded film and TV tax credit program.

Key Changes from Prior Program

  • Increases tax credit program funding to $330 million per fiscal year; extended for 5 years
  • Expands eligibility to big-budget feature films, 1-hr TV series (for any distribution outlet) and TV pilots
  • Eliminates budget caps for studio and independent films
  • Replaces current lottery with a ranking system based on jobs and other criteria
  • Provides for multiple allocation periods throughout the year

Additional 5% Credit Uplift (Maximum credit = 25%)

  • Filming outside the Los Angeles zone + 5%
  • Music scoring/music tracking recording expenditures + 5%
  • Visual effects expenditures + 5%

Eligible Productions

  • Feature Films: $1 million minimum budget; while there is no maximum budget cap, credit allocation applies only to the first $100 million in qualified expenditures
  • Movies-of-the-Week and Miniseries: $500,000 minimum budget
  • New Television Series for any distribution outlet: $1 million minimum budget per episode (at least 40 minutes per episode, scripted only)
  • TV Pilots: $1 million minimum budget
  • Television Series, without regard to episode length, that filmed their prior season outside California; $1 million minimum budget
  • Independent Films: $1 million minimum budget; while there is no budget cap, credits apply only to the first $10 million of qualified expenditures (only independent projects may sell their tax credits)

New Selection Criteria

Productions will be ranked from highest to lowest based upon a jobs ratio and other criteria against “like” projects (TV ranked against TV, indie projects against indie, etc.). The CA Film Commission will award tax credits to those productions in each category with the highest ranking. The new program provides four separate funding “pots” for these categories : TV series and TV pilots / independent projects / non-indie feature films / and relocating TV series.

Key Dates

Final Lottery – Original tax credit program eligibility – APRIL 2015

  • Productions may not begin principal photography before July 1, 2015

New Program: First application period – May 2015 (TV only) / Summer 2015 (feature films)

  • Projects selected by new ranking system
  • Productions may not begin principal photography before July 1, 2015

Courtesy of the California Film Commission

High Desert Film Alliance

The High Desert Film Alliance, which is active and meets monthly in the region, has new Co-Chairs – Joshua and Tiffany Addante. With this new leadership, they are looking into expanding their internet exposure in hopes of being available to assist more productions as they come into the region. The alliance has also changed their monthly meetings to the 2nd Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Marriot Courtyard in Hesperia. If you are interested in attending to find out more about the alliance, or if you are a film professional living in the High Desert and would like to network with other professionals, please feel free to come. Please RSVP to info@filminlandempire. com so we can save you a seat. Menu will be available for those of you who would enjoy dining during the meeting.

The Inland Empire Film Commission wants to take this opportunity to thank Phyllis Overall for her years as Chairman of the High Desert Film Alliance. Her dedication and energy for film production in the High Desert is unequaled and she will be missed.

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