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NYC Filming Should Rise Starting in 2005

If ever a city were primed to increase its film and television production and fight runaways to Canada and other countries, New York should be the place.

After years of seeing films shot in Toronto and other environs outside the United States, the Big Apple should now be set to "bring it on" with regard to producing for the big and small screen.

Why? Because producers shooting in New York City now can benefit from tax breaks on the federal, state, and local levels -- triple incentives to keep production at home, and bring it back from other areas.

In mid-December, the New York City Council approved a new law that will provide a 5% refundable tax credit to companies filming in the city. Producers would collect the credit from the city's $12.5 million annual incentive program. Combined with state tax credits, film and TV companies would receive a total tax break of 15%.

A new federal law includes provisions for a tax deduction in the current taxable year for the entire cost of certain film and television production expenses -- up to $15 million, or $20 million for costs incurred in a low-income community or a distressed county. The law also allows for the amortization of the remaining costs over a three-year period.

Savings of millions of dollars will encourage producers to settle in NYC locations and studios, and that means creating jobs.

As soon as the city law was approved, the Screen Actors Guild noted that one of the major networks had responded immediately to the breaks: NBC announced that because of the tax incentives, it will now shoot its pilot "NY70" in New York City instead of Toronto.

SAG, Suna Smile

"As NBC's decision shows us, this bill will create significant jobs for SAG principal and background actors of every income level and give the local economy a financial boost," said Cynthia Vance, chair of SAG's national legislative committee, in a press release following NBC's announcement. "Everyone from hotel and restaurant employees to grips and gaffers benefit from keeping business here."

Stuart Match Suna, president of NYC's Silvercup Studios, echoed Vance's view in a statement of his own from the perspective of a facility owner:

"The new tax credits for New York state and New York City send a clear message to Hollywood producers that film and television shows about New York should be filmed in New York," Suna asserted. "The city is helping to strengthen a $5 billion industry and in so doing will benefit other businesses as well. The film and television industry has a multiplier of two. For every $1 million spent on a production, an additional $2 million is spent in the New York economy on ancillary services such as restaurants, retail shops, and other services, making this a win-win for New York."

Suna noted that the Fox TV drama "Jonny Zero" is filming at Silvercup and has "created 100 new jobs for New Yorkers of all backgrounds."

The new tax incentives could make NBC's and Fox's actions just the first small spark in a hotbed of production.

But don't expect Canada to take the plethora of new U.S. tax incentives lying down. The northerners have already attempted to fight the U.S. efforts.

In October, Canada's film and television industry drew battle lines on the runaway production issue. A Canadian consulting firm released a hard-nosed 45-page report accusing the U.S. industry of employing inflated statistics and scare tactics in blaming its northern neighbor for wooing productions away from the United States.

Then, in December, leaders of Ontario's film and television industry reported that they were confident they'll receive more tax incentives to bring American production back north. Leaders of Film Ontario, the region's film and television consortium, had met in early December with Ontario government officials to urge support for tax incentives.

"We left optimistic that the government is seriously considering a favorable announcement on provincial tax credits in the near future," the consortium stated in a five-page report.

New York state and city legislators -- who have expressed interest in increasing the tax incentives if the new money breaks prove effective -- had best be alert to Canada's efforts. No doubt SAG, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and other unions -- after being heavily involved in pushing for the new tax incentives -- will be eyeing the Canadian efforts and looking for ways to convince New York lawmakers to up the ante.

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