CA Film and TV Tax Credit Gets Major Boost

With much fanfare from the local entertainment industry, Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 1839 into law at a ceremony outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Sept. 18. Photo: Courtesy IATSE Local 600

With much fanfare from the local entertainment industry, Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 1839 into law at a ceremony outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Sept. 18. Photo: Courtesy IATSE Local 600

Entertainment workers up and down the state celebrate Gov. Brown signing into law AB 1839

by Linda A. Rapka

On Sept. 18, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1839, a bill that strengthens our state’s film and TV tax credit program to bring more entertainment jobs back to California.

This effort has been years in the making. Local 47 and the Recording Musicians Association of Los Angeles worked closely with SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters, DGA and others to form a coalition to lobby and pass this important legislation.

The California Film & Television Production Alliance — a coalition of guilds, unions, producers, small businesses, studios, and associations throughout the state that have worked together for more than a decade to promote, improve, and enhance film and television production in the state of California — commend the governor and a band of state legislators who helped push the expansion, extension and improvement of California’s film and television production incentive program.

The legislation boosts the existing program’s $100-million cap to $330 million per year for five years, more than tripling the current annual allocation, beginning fiscal year 2015–16. It also replaces the current flawed and arbitrary lottery system with a more competitive and accountable system that ranks applicants according to net new jobs created and overall positive economic impacts for the entire state.

“I’ve heard from so many people during my time in office who have told me about their families being torn apart because of production fleeing the state, and how this program will give stability to families, certainty to small businesses, and help our communities thrive,” said bill co-author Assemblymember Mike Gatto. “I am grateful for all the help from those involved in this legislation, particularly my co-author Assemblymember Bocanegra, Governor Brown, Speaker Atkins, Senate pro Tem Kevin de León, and all of the hardworking people who stood up for middle-class jobs.”

Musicians are happy about language included in the legislation that will increase the credit for qualified expenditures relating to music scoring and music track recording. Further, the bill will urge Congress and the International Trade Commission to investigate aggressively and impose sanctions and tariffs on elements of production, including music scoring, visual effects and virtual photography, protected by the Tariff Act, to combat unfair and illegal competition from international parties.

“AB 1839 is an excellent start,” said Local 47 musician Clifford Tasner. “New York has had a generous film tax rebate program for a few years and they scored one more film there last year than we in Los Angeles did. And New York musicians are also AFM. They work on the same contract and receive the same secondary markets money we do. There are those who suggest that if we give up our benefits, more scoring work will return to L.A., but there’s no proof of that. But New York is proof that if the state provides financial incentives for filmmakers, more productions will score there. What I hope we see next year is the passage of Adrin Nazarian’s bill to provide money specifically for post production. That will be a real boon for musicians that we can bank on.”

The expansion California’s tax incentive program is supported by Listen Up!, a national campaign of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada endorsed by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti that works to combat the outsourcing of film music jobs from North America. “We must act to ensure musicians’ work is valued by all companies at the same professional standard as other cast and crew, and the passage of AB 1839 will greatly aid in this pursuit,” said AFM President Ray Hair.
“This legislation will keep the cameras rolling in California and strengthen our position as the entertainment capital of the world,” said Senate President pro Tem-elect Kevin de León. “We’re bringing Californians who are working away from their families in Georgia and Louisiana back to California where they belong.”