California Film Commission Releases Annual Progress Report for Film, TV Tax Credit Program

California Film Commission Logo
California Film Commission Logo

The California Film Commission released its annual progress report, stating that overall in-state spending by projects in California’s Film & TV Tax Credit Program grew by more than $200 million, from $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion, during the fiscal year of 2021-2022. The estimated total spending for the first 2 1/2 years of the 3.0 Tax Credit Program will top $6.2 billion.

The report also found projected spending by projects entering the tax credit program during the first half of the current fiscal year (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023) is already on track to reach $1.6 billion, suggesting the growth trend will continue.

“California’s iconic film industry continues to create opportunity and drive economic growth throughout our state,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “Today’s report from the California Film Commission affirms the tax credit program continues to produce outstanding results and foster diversity and inclusion for a workforce that better reflects our vibrant communities.”

Data in the 45-page report covers the economic impact of projects in the third iteration of California’s tax credit program dubbed “Program 3.0,” which runs through June 2025. It provides an in-depth overview of the first two-and-a-half years of Program 3.0 by examining tax credit projects (feature films and TV series) in terms of overall production spending, employment and workforce training. The report also examines the impact of global competition for soundstage development and visual effects.

“The competition today is global, so it’s wonderful to see our state’s commitment to maintaining our status as the world’s film and TV production capital,” said California Film Commission Executive Director Colleen Bell. “The tax credit program is an incredibly effective tool, and today’s report confirms it’s working precisely as intended.”

Direct spending by projects in Program 3.0 includes:

Qualified Spending – defined as wages paid to below-the-line workers and payments to in-state vendors, and
Non-Qualified Spending – defined as all other spending (e.g., payments to above-the-line individuals such as writers, directors, actors and producers).

Only the qualified portion of each project’s budget is eligible for tax credits under California’s uniquely targeted incentive program.

Qualified spending for the second fiscal year of Program 3.0 held steady year-to-year at an estimated $1.4 billion. The first half of the current (third) fiscal year has reached an estimated $1 billion in qualified spending.

Aggregate qualified spending by tax credit projects through the first two-and-a-half years of Program 3.0 is projected to reach an estimated $4.2 billion – yielding $2 billion in unqualified (i.e. unincentivized) spending across the state. These figures are based on tax credit allocations of $265 million for fiscal year-one, $277 million for fiscal year-two and $184 million for the first half of fiscal year-three.

In addition to data on production spending, other key findings and highlights in the report cover:

IN-STATE EMPLOYMENT

The 106 approved projects selected for year-two of Program 3.0 are on track to employ a combined 8,135 crew, 4,111 cast and 79,248 background actors/stand-ins (the latter measured in “man-days”) during 2,421 filming days in California. Projects selected for the first half of fiscal year-three are on track to employ 4,497 crew, 1,141 cast and 50,458 background actors/stand-ins during 1,297 filming days. In aggregate, the first two-and-a-half years of Program 3.0 are on track to employ a total of 18,736 crew, 9,833 cast and 204,700 background actors/stand-ins with 5,900 filming days.

Note productions in the tax credit program also generate non-incentivized post-production jobs and revenue for VFX artists, sound editors, sound mixers, musicians and other workers/vendors.

WORKFORCE TRAINING, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Program 3.0 includes several new and ongoing initiatives to promote workforce training, diversity and inclusion. The Career Readiness requirement (continued from Program 2.0) mandates all tax credit projects participate in learning and training programs for students based in California. Working in collaboration with the California Department of Education and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office, tax credit projects have fulfilled the requirement by hiring students for paid internships, welcoming faculty members for externships, hosting workshops/panels and staging professional skills tours.

During the height of the pandemic, in-person experiences such as internships, externships, and professional skills tours were suspended. In total, 33 projects in Program 3.0 have completed the Career Readiness requirement, with $169,653 contributed in aggregate to either California Community Colleges or the California Department of Education.

New for Program 3.0 is the Career Pathways Program that targets individuals from underserved communities. It is funded directly by tax credit projects and works with partner training programs across the state.

Since 2020, training providers ManifestWorks, Hollywood CPR, and IATSE Local 695’s SVOP Y-16A Training Program have helped achieve Career Pathways Program goals. A total of 141 individuals have participated in the program: 30 with Hollywood CPR, 39 with ManifestWorks, and 17 with SVOP – all during year-two of Program 3.0.

RELOCATING TV SERIES

During its second fiscal year, Program 3.0 welcomed two relocating TV series from Vancouver and Georgia. The first half of the current (third) fiscal year brings two additional relocating series from New Orleans and Florida. To date, a total of 27 TV series have relocated to California under different iterations of the state’s tax credit program.

BIG-BUDGET FILMS

During its second fiscal year, Program 3.0 welcomed five films with budgets greater than $60 million that are on track to bring an estimated $738 million in direct in-state spending. Projects include Atlas, Beverly Hills Cop 4, and Unfrosted. The first half of the current fiscal year brings an additional four big-budget film projects, including Joker: Folie a Deux and The Thomas Crown Affair. To date, Program 3.0 has welcomed 11 big-budget films – or half of the 22 feature films accepted into the program thus far.

The full Tax Credit Program Progress Report is available on the California Film Commission’s website.

About California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program:

In 2014, the California legislature passed a bill that more than tripled the size of the state’s film and television production incentive, from $100 million to $330 million annually. Aimed at retaining and attracting production jobs and economic activity across the state, the California Film and TV Tax Credit

Program 2.0 also extended eligibility to include a range of project types (big-budget feature films, TV pilots and 1-hr. TV series for any distribution outlet) that were excluded from the state’s first-generation tax credit program. Program 2.0 also introduced a “jobs ratio” ranking system to select projects based on “qualified” spending (e.g., wages paid to below-the-line workers and payments made to in-state vendors). To spur production statewide, an additional five percent tax credit was made available to non-independent projects that shoot outside the Los Angeles 30-Mile Studio Zone or that have qualified expenditures for visual effects or music scoring/track recording. The five-year Program 2.0 went into effect on July 1, 2015 and wrapped its fifth and final fiscal year (2019/20) on June 30, 2020.

The third generation of the California Film and TV Tax Credit Program (dubbed “Program 3.0”) was launched on July 1, 2020. New provisions include a pilot skills training program to help individuals from underserved communities gain access to career opportunities. Program 3.0 also adds provisions requiring projects to have a written policy for addressing unlawful harassment and enhanced reporting of above and below-the-line cast and crew employment diversity data.

More information about California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program 3.0, including application procedures, eligibility, and guidelines, can be found at Film.Co.Gov.

Recent Changes Following Passage of Senate Bill 144

Signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on July 21, SB 144 has several key provisions including an additional $15 million per year (for two years) increase in tax credits reserved specifically for relocating TV series, bringing total annual funding for relocating series to $71.1 million (up from $56.1 million). In addition, the criteria to qualify as a relocating TV series has been relaxed to include series that filmed their pilot episode out-of-state (the tax credit program previously required relocating series to film an entire season out-of-state).