NYS Tax Incentives For Filming Still Lack Funding

A couple of weeks ago, the NY Post sounded the alarm about New York State’s tax incentives for film productions drying up.  Governor Paterson has said that he’s not going to make a decision about the program’s future until April.  This has already cost New York City its entire pilot filming season and leaves many New York-based TV shows scrambling to figure out what to do.

The February 6th article in the NY Post spelled things out pretty clearly:

Since the program began, the state and city combined have issued $690 million in tax credits and have collected $2.7 billion in taxes from movie and TV productions, according to a study by Ernst & Young.

The study also found that during 2007, New York’s movie and TV industry created 7,031 jobs directly – and an additional 12,481 indirectly.

After reading the NY Post article, a film worker and a political aid started a Facebook page and an online petition addressed to Gov. Patterson, asking him to fund the tax incentives.  So far, about 11,000 people have signed the petition.

Filming In Brooklyn spoke on the phone with one of the petition’s creators, Alex Zablocki, aid to New York State Senator Andrew Lanza and candidate for New York City Public Advocate.  The petition’s co-creator, Derek Yip, works in the film industry.  Mr. Zablocki’s friend Anthony Pizzuto, who owns an independent film company in Staten Island, put up a website to support their campaign to help save New York’s film industry.

“I’ve been doing all I can, staying up until two in the morning sometimes and printing out these petitions and mailing them to the governor’s office, spending my own money” Mr. Zablocki told FIB (the tracking numbers are on his campaign website).The governor has to decide whether or not he will put money into this fund so that it can continue”

According to Mr. Zablocki: “You can actually see that it’s not just centered in Manhattan.  It actually affects smaller communities in Queens and Brooklyn, all over New York City, so it has a micro and a macro impact.  What if the studio in Queens stops filming, how does that affect the neighborhood around them, the delis and the restaurants.   So to not fund this thing is just beyond me.  I can’t see how they could just walk away from this and say there’s not enough money.  If they can increase money for Medicaid and social programs, they could put the money into this program to keep people employed.  Especially at a time like this, when the economy is reeling.  This is not the time to be playing with fire like this.  It’s a shame.”

Mr. Zablocki continued, “Eventually what’s going to happen is, like all things, other states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Ohio, I think Quebec just did it last week, they’re going to raise their incentives to try to compete.  You don’t have a place to go?  We’ll give you everything you want.  Because it is such a successful program.”

Now more than ever, in this harsh economy, smart decisions need to be made, and made quickly.  Since this program funds itself, I asked Mr. Zablocki if he knew why the governor was waiting so long to make a decision.  He was as confused as I was. “The state legislature could always put a line into the budget and say ‘I think this program is important, let’s fund it.’  I think what’s happening right now is there’s so many issues in New York State regarding money problems that this is probably not on anyone’s radar screen.  This is such a downstate issue…a lot of the upstate senators and assemblypeople are not too in tune to what’s going on yet.”

Well, they need to tune in fast.  According to an article on Variety‘s website yesterday titled Golden State vs. Empire State, New York’s biggest competition may be a lot farther than New Jersey.  “California’s program, which goes into effect July 1, will likely strike at the heart of the New York production industry. Even though California’s tax credit rates are far below those in some other states — Michigan offers a whopping 42% credit — the presence of Hollywood’s existing infrastructure and the desire to stay close to home has the potential to reverse more than a decade of runaway production.”

The website of the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development still lists the tax credit applications, with no mention of the program’s current suspention.  Empire State Development, which administers the tax credit through the Governor’s Office, gave FIB this statement:

In 2008, New York State’s film and television production tax credit was raised to 30% of qualified costs, which was three times larger than the credit it replaced.  More than 125 projects (feature films, television pilots and television series) have taken advantage of the increase in the tax credit program.  Due to the program’s enormous success, the allocated funds for this tax credit incentive have now been exhausted.

The State continues to receive applications for film and television tax credits, which will be placed in a queue should additional funding be made available to applicants qualified under the law and regulations of the program.

New York City will continue to accept applications for the NYC Made in NY five percent credit.

The New York State Film Production Credit is administered by the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, a branch of Empire State Development.

So what can you do to help keep film industry jobs in New York City?  You can go to the online petition and sign it.  You can join the Facebook group.  You can go to the Save NY TV and Film website and get help contacting your state representatives.  Let them know that this tax incentive program is good for New York.

Originally posted on Filming In Brooklyn

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