Last month, Governor Jerry Brown went all the way to Hollywood to sign AB 1839, by Assembly Members Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Raul J. Bocanegra (D-Los Angeles). The new legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, triples funding for the state’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program. Funding for the new program will be $230 million in fiscal year 2015-16, and $330 million for each of the following four fiscal years.
“I am pleased that Governor Brown signed this important legislation that will make California more competitive with other states and other countries for film and television production,” said Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare).
“More productions being filmed in California mean more jobs being created, more economic activity being generated and more tax revenue coming into the state. This bipartisan legislation is an example of what is possible when Republicans and Democrats work together to do what’s best for our state and our economy.”
“Over the last 20 years, our California has lost much of its film and television production work, and with it the solid technical and creative jobs that our industry provides,” said Warner Bros. Pictures President of Worldwide Physical Production Steve Papazian. “(AB 1839) is a catalyst to grow those positions for the thousands of current and future crew members who want to work here and for the myriad small businesses that supply and support our industry every day.”
When other states, such as New York, Louisiana and Michigan started offering tax breaks, California lost two-thirds of its production of regular episodic television, according to Eric Coyne, Tulare County film commissioner & tourism manager, who explained why it was important that the new legislation stay in place for five years.
“If you’re doing a movie, it could take two to five years to get the financing and get the talent, timing and weather lined up,” he said. “If it was subject to annual renewal, you’re not going to make a business plan, not knowing what the business climate will be like next year. With five years, it gives a chance for Disney to plan a ‘tentpole,’ a $100+ million film, and know that something will be there.”
Coyne said that North Carolina recently ended a similar tax break. “When North Carolina started theirs, one of the first films they attracted was ‘Forrest Gump,” he said. “They built an entire industry. They were getting TV series. When you get TV series, that’s when you build a studio. That’s when people move to whatever location with their families. When you do a typical TV show, you’ve got 250 workers plus families – 1,000 people. Then you get into support, caterers, post-production. Pretty soon you get into an enormous amount of jobs.”
Coyne is the main salesman for film locations in Tulare County.
“Tulare County visually can be anything except an urban metropolis,” he said. “You can count on one hand the number of five-story buildings in the county, but if you can get past that, if you don’t need that skyscraper landscape, if you don’t need a bay bridge and don’t need an ocean, we can do it. If you need desert: Alpaugh. You’d be surprised how many movies are shot over there. The first one comes to mind is ‘Son-In-Law.”
Coyne noted that Highway 198 provided the setting for a scene in “Forest Gump.” (A long list of films with scenes filmed in Tulare County, which includes “Stagecoach,” “Hulk” and “Casino,” is at www.filmtularecounty.com.) The county has also provided settings for music videos, most recently for R3hab & Trevor Guthrie and Oscarcito, and for commercials, including an Office Depot commercial run during a Super Bowl.
“We played Montana,” said Coyne about the commercial, which was filmed two weeks before it aired. “We had a little snow and they had 20 feet – plus you had to go to Montana.”
Coyne works to accommodate the needs of those filming in the county, providing catering and local restaurant information, power generators, helping to negotiate good rates on cars, and suggesting filming locations, such as a farm for a Wal-Mart commercial or locations for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van web commercial that was filmed late last month on a motocross raceway at DT1 MX Park in Tulare.
“They also wanted a winding road so I told them about Old Stage Road,” he said. “If you went out there and you looked at it, you’d say, ‘I’ve seen this before.’ Car commercials, tire commercials, motorcycle commercials. This is one of the top dozen most filmed places for car commercials. They come here and we’re famous for it, a beautiful windy road with beautiful scenic cows and oak trees.”
When Aveda, a company that prides itself on “connecting beauty, environment and well-being,” wanted a nature setting, they decided to film among the redwoods in Balch Park – after learning that their fees were going directly to the park. They brought 48 people to the county for a four-hour shoot.
“They’re very image conscious,” said Coyne. “No bottled water on set. They wanted mineral water poured out of glasses that could be rewashed. OK, I’ve got a caterer that will do that, delivered and set up on linen tablecloths and no paper towels, in the middle of the forest.”
Coyne’s duties unfortunately cut short his comments. He suddenly needed to get a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow the Aflac Duck into a local national park. Filming of a new Aflac commercial was scheduled for late last week.