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What does California get in return for $100 million in film and TV tax credits?

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The California Film Commission has selected 26 productions this year to share in the state’s $100-million film and TV tax credit program. They include 11 feature films, 13 TV series, and two made-for-TV movies. 

The winners were selected by a lottery from among 497 entrants.  

“As part of their application, they have to include a projection of how many crew they will hire, how many cast members they will hire, and how many background actors they will hire,” says Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission. 

Universal's remake of “Scarface” was one of the film productions to be selected for the credit. Its projected crew size is 250 people. 

B-E-T’s series “Being Mary Jane” also won, and is projecting 120 crew jobs.   The numbers aren't final, and a production can't claim its tax credit until it's completed and producers have sent a record of expenditures with an audit for review.

California started the tax credit program in 2009 to keep production jobs from running away. In the case of "Being Mary Jane," the production is running back - relocating to California from Atlanta, Georgia, something another tax credit winner – MTV’s “Teen Wolf” did two years ago.

"This is obviously a big deal for us because both of these are fairly large shows in terms of crew and their spending pattern is going to be large and, it’s long term," Lemisch told KPCC. 

The California Film Commission estimates the 26 projects selected this year will generate $802 million in direct spending in the state.  More than a fourth of that will be wages for below-the-line crew members.   

"It's not just a matter of paying the wages," says Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute. "You're paying for things that are built, services that are rendered, you're paying for things that support a number of other jobs." 

Most winning productions can receive tax credits for up to 20% of qualified expenditures, including below-the-line wages, equipment rental, set construction, and transportation.  But California does not factor in salaries for actors, writers, and directors when calculating a project's tax credit. 

"California made it very clear that it didn't want to be subsidizing the big ticket stars," Klowden told KPCC. 

20th Century Fox's feature film "All Summer Long:  A Beach Boys Musical" projected a budget of $38.6 million in expenditures that qualify for California's tax credit.  It was allocated $7.7 million  credit. 

A bill to expand California's film and television tax incentive program has passed the state Assembly and is awaiting consideration of the Senate appropriations committee, but its sponsors have yet to say how much money they want to add to the fund.

California Film Commission Approved Projects