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Tax Incentives May Help Recruit Hollywood Films

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Sonora, CA — New legislation could potentially help Tuolumne County recruit filmmakers to the area.

The County was once a hotbed for western films, but recently has been at a competitive disadvantage because neighboring states and countries like Canada have offered tax incentives to lure productions.

Things changed last week when the Governor signed the new state budget that includes incentives as part of an economic stimulus provision.

A 20 percent tax credit is now available for California feature films with a budget between $1 million – $75 million, “movies of the week” or miniseries with a $500,000 minimum budget, and new television shows licensed for distribution that have a budget greater than $1 million.

A television series that has filmed all of its prior episodes outside of California is eligible for a 25 percent tax credit, as are independent films with budgets between $1 million – $10 million that are produced by private companies.

“This is wonderful, but it is not a panacea,” says Tuolumne County Film Commissioner Jerry Day. “There’s a lot more we need to do to make Tuolumne County the power it once was in this industry.”

Day says the county needs to build a crew base, and this starts with educating the younger generation. He praises a weekend event at the Sonora Opera Hall that benefited Summerville’s Connections Visual and Performing Arts Academy and the non-profit Friends of the Tuolumne County Film Commission.

Over 100 were on hand for “Hollywood’s Big Night,” which featured live entertainment from the Connections Academy students and the showing of the 81st annual Academy Awards.

Day says it is also important for the county to have a western film set and sound stage, and the Friends of the Tuolumne County Film Commission has made this a priority. The support foundation plans to raise money to build a set similar to the one constructed in the Red Hills area for Back to the Future III. The set was later lost in a fire.

Productions that are not eligible for the new tax credits include commercials, music videos, game shows, lewd or indecent, reality shows and documentaries.

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