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CA tax credit helps keep abundance of films in the Golden State

Posted at 6:43 AM, Jan 20, 2020

For his role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, actor Brad Pitt will receive a prestigious award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Wednesday.

The dramatic acting, special effects, and director Quentin Tarantino's signature graphic horror scenes were made possible in part by California tax payers.

The California Film Commission reports that Pitt's movie scored over $18 million in tax credits this year, an incentive for producing the flick in the Golden State.

San Luis Obispo County is often in Hollywood's sights as a filming destination. Movies like Destination Wedding and Murder by Numbers were filmed in SLO County.

That's just a small piece of the pie. California now dedicates $330 million each year to TV shows, independent pictures, and blockbuster films made here in the state.

The tax credit, which were first made available in 2009, originally offered a $100 million handout to Hollywood. But that figure tripled as other states like New Mexico and Louisiana started vying for attention.

"California was truly losing its signature industry," California Film Tax Credit Program Dir. Nancy Rae Stone said. "There was incredible competition around the world, states, and countries providing tax credits in order to lure away an industry that really is home grown in California. People were away from their families for five, eight years working on a TV series in Georgia or Canada or Louisiana."

Stone said markets outside California still appeal to some filmmakers, who can only receive credit toward so-called "below the line" costs, which exclude pay for marquee names.

Legislators who support California's tax credit say it not only bolsters the state's film reputation, but provides jobs to actors and crew, who then spend money in the local hospitality industry.

But opponents argue the money should be spent on curing homelessness and lack of affordable housing.

According to Stone, the tax credit program will expand this summer to include specialized training for production crews in California.