The US is the new Bulgaria. Or at least that is what US film commissioners and consultants like to say when they pitch their territory to cost-conscious producers.
The line appears to be working on US producers, who are choosing to shoot in the US after years of favoring alternative production centers such as Canada, the UK, Germany and, among other Eastern European hotspots, Bulgaria. Now US commissioners are aiming at producers from the rest of the world, who in the past have often viewed the US as a difficult and expensive location.
Incentive programs alone have gone some of the way towards making the US as attractive as Bulgaria and its rivals. The 40 or so US states that now offer incentives to film and TV producers include Louisiana and New Mexico, whose well-tested programs are among the most used in the country; Michigan, which recently introduced an enticing 40% tax rebate; New York, which just hiked its tax credit to 30%; Connecticut (offering a 30% tax credit); Massachusetts (25%); Rhode Island (25%); South Carolina (20% on wages and 30% on goods and services), and 20% here in Washington State on feature films costing more than $500,000.
However, as reported in today’s New York Times, these kinds of programs are causing jitters in state legislatures as a result of there dwindling coffers, thanks in part to the economic downturn. Its hard for us to be too critical of these kinds of programs as our own start-to-finish program was the beneficiary of this kind of program just this year with our currently in post-production feature The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle.
It is an interesting debate though, particularly when you realize that increased production in states outside of California and New York brings increased job opportunities and enriches our local film ecology. However at the same time, this isn’t too different from the situation on Wall Street when you think about it. Should states be helping finance large scale studio films like the one referenced in the Times article? It’s a hard question to ask, and one that I’d be very curious to hear wheres others fall on this matter. I’m also certain that we’ll be hearing more about it as the economic crisis worsens over the coming year.