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On Location: Plenty of entries but few winners in California film tax credit lottery

June 6, 2011 |  5:13 pm

Filmmakers apparently can't get enough of California's film tax credits.

The state's annual lottery to determine who gets a piece of $100 million in tax breaks drew 176 applicants -- more than double the number who applied for the money last year. The state began accepting applications June 1 for the program, which allows filmmakers to receive a tax credit equivalent to 20% to 25% of qualified production expenses.

Because of limited funds, however, the vast majority already have walked away empty-handed. The 
California Film Commission, which administers the program, said 27 projects qualified for the funding, down from 32 last year. The money is doled out by lottery, except for TV series that received credits last year and automatically get priority for funding.Justified2

The approved projects for the fiscal year that begins July 1 were mostly independent features and recurring TV series such as "Rizzoli & Isles," which was approved for a $6.8-million credit; and "Justified," which got a $4.7-million credit, according to the California Film Commission.

Also in line to receive film tax credits are two series that relocated to California from elsewhere: the ABC crime drama "Body of Proof," which filmed its first season in Rhode Island earlier this year and received a $6.9-million tax credit for the coming fiscal year; and "Torchwood," the BBC America sci-fi series that moved to L.A. from Wales this year. The show  received an $8-million credit.

Why the surge in applications?  Perhaps more filmmakers are giving California a second look as states such as New Mexico and Michigan plan big cuts in their programs. Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, thinks not. She posits another theory:

"More people are familiar with the program and understand how it works and felt it was an efficient program," Lemisch said. "They said 'let's go for it.'"

-- Richard Verrier


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On Location: ABC's 'Body of Proof' TV drama moving to L.A. from Rhode Island

Photo credit: Timothy Olyphant stars in "Justified" on FX. Credit: Prashant Gupta / FX