By Jana J. Monji
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer
Prominent TV shows like “Hawkeye,” “Loki” and “Them” as well as movies like the 2021 “Black Widow” and the 2018 “Ant-Man and the Wasp” were filmed in Atlanta, but Georgia isn’t the only state offering attractive tax credits for entertainment productions anymore.
State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) hopes to lure productions back to California with the State Bill 144 that passed both houses July 15 and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The bill includes $330 million in film and TV production tax incentives in the state budget, breaking down into a $180 million increase to the current tax incentive program and $150 million for a new incentive tied to the construction of soundstages.
“California’s successful film tax credits have moved dozens of productions back to where they belong and created thousands of good-paying middle-class jobs,” Portantino said.
As a young college graduate, Portantino moved to Southern California to be part of the entertainment industry. He also noted that part of this bill is meant to “meet the demands of all of the shows that want to come back to California and the recurring TV that wants to stay in California.”
How will that help Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley? Pasadena is home to many people in the entertainment industry. Just last week, Pasadena resident Morgan Neville’s “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” was released to considerable controversy over AI issues.
Neville is an Emmy (“Best of Enemies,” 2017) and Academy Award (“Twenty Feet from Stardom,” 2013) winner. Local Renee Tajima-Peña’s five-part documentary series for PBS, “Asian Americans,” received a Peabody Award in June. The award-winning darling of “Minari,” Alan Kim, lives in South Pasadena. But it’s not only actors and directors who live in the area.
Portantino said, “A large chunk of the workforce for the entertainment industry resides in Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley and South Pasadena” and that includes a large production workforce.
According to Portantino, the construction of soundstages has not kept pace with the growth in film production, scripted TV and streaming content in California. Portantino worked with the State Building and Construction Trades Council to introduce SB 485 earlier in the year. That effort and continuing budget negotiations led to the successful passage of SB 144.
“SB 144 creates a dynamic economic development package for California’s important and historic film and television industry,” Portantino said. “
Investing in soundstage construction and the creation of studios and filming locations is a critical addition to our efforts in increasing filming in the Golden State. By investing in the expansion and modernization of studio infrastructure, we can ensure that another generation of entertainment careers will be created in California.”
Portantino noted the life cycle of a studio is about 100 years so building a new soundstage means a century of more jobs for generations of camera people, grips, electricians, writers, costume designers, caterers and makeup artists, producers and actors.
“The tradespeople who will build those soundstages live in my district,” Portantino added.
SB 144 expands the credit allocation available under the Film and Television Tax Credit 3.0, establishes a new credit for qualified motion pictures produced on a certified studio construction project and increases the credit percentage when specified diversity goals are met. Specifically, the bill increases the aggregate number of credits that may be allocated for 2021-22 and 2022-23 by $15 million, which would be exclusively available to television series that relocate to California.
It also increases the aggregate amount of credits that may be allocated for 2021-22 and 2022-23 by $75 million, exclusively available to recurring television series. These amounts are in excess of the $300 million currently allowed.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, and before Jan. 1, 2032, SB 144 also establishes a new credit in an amount equal to 20% or 25% for qualified expenditures for the production of a qualified motion picture in a certified studio construction project. To receive the credit, a taxpayer would be required to construct or renovate one or more soundstages certified by the California Film Commission. A taxpayer may also be eligible for an additional four percentage points of credit if they meet, or make a good-faith effort to meet, their stated diversity goals for above and below the line workers.
SB 144 also will increase diversity within the film and TV production workforce. It requires productions to submit a diversity work plan that includes a statement of the diversity goals for workers that are paid qualified wages, and diversity goals for individuals whose wages are excluded from qualified wages. The diversity goals are required to be broadly reflective of California’s population, in terms of race and gender.
SB 144 is part of a three-party budget agreement between the governor, the State Senate and the State Assembly. The measure is co-authored by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Marina del Rey) Chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, and Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles).