Monday, December 24, 2007

House of Blues Files Trademark Infringement Suit

The well-known venue for blues music, House of Blues, has filed a $2 million trademark infringement suit against a Lousiana company for using its name without authorization.

Since 1992, House of Blues has operated numerous clubs in cities across the nation as a “Southern-style juke-joint.” Additionally, House of Blues has used its trademark in themed gaming areas at casinos, on televised poker tournament, websites, and promoting concerts.

The House of Blues learned of defendant Leonard Douglas’s Baton Rouge House of Blues in April 2007. A cease-and-desist letter was sent and there was no reply.

The complaint includes actions based on federal and state trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition.


MPAA Wins Ruling Against TorrentSpy


A US District Court ruled in favor of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in a case against the operators of TorrentSpy.com. The judge based the default judgment on tampering with evidence by the defendants.

TorrentSpy is a central location to find files distributed on the peer-to-peer network BitTorrent. The MPAA filed the suit based on the distribution without a license of its member companys’ copyrighted material on the TorrentSpy website. TorrentSpy has contended that because its servers are located in the Netherlands, it is protected by Dutch law from having to turn over server logs and other information.

In May, a US Magistrate judged had ruled that TorrentSpy must preserve server data logs held in random access memory (RAM). In the ruling on December 15th, the court found that subsequent to the ruling in May, TorrentSpy “engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to destroy evidence and have provided false testimony under oath in an effort to hide evidence of such destruction.” TorrentSpy has indicated that it destroyed the evidence in order to protect consumer privacy.

While not directly addressing the merits of the MPAA’s case, by supporting the previous ruling, the court’s decision might expose private information about website users inother civil lawsuits.


Protecting Internet Commerce

The New York Public Interest Research Organization, a group I was one of the founders of 35 years ago while a college student, has launched a new website to help computer users safeguard their privacy information and avoid internet scams.

The group awards “Screen Door,” and “Steel Door” Awards after evaluating how well websites protect their consumer’s personal information. Netflix.com and ralphlauren.com received a Steel Door awards for superior protection. Disneyshopping.com and homedepot.com received Screen Door awards for poor protection of personal information. http://www.cyberstreetsmart.org/privacy/shopping/shopping01.html

Visit the site at: http://www.cyberstreetsmart.org/index.html

Saturday, December 08, 2007

UPDATED STATE INCENTIVE INFORMATION

Here is an update of state incentive information which is listed on our website at: http://www.marklitwak.com/resources/domestic_programs.html


UPDATED 01/03/2008


ALABAMA
Incentive information: http://alabamafilm.org/filmakerincentives.htm
Film office: http://www.alabamafilm.org

Linda Swann, Film Office Director
Alabama Center for Commerce
401 Adams Avenue
Suite 616
Montgomery, AL 36104
Phone: 334-242-4195 or 334-353-0221
Fax: 334-242-2077
Email: film.office@ado.alabama.gov

Incentives:

There are no incentives available in Alabama. The exemption from sales tax and lodging tax has expired.


ALASKA
Film office: http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/oed/film/home.cfm

Alaska Film Program
P.O. Box 110804
Juneau, AK 99811-0804
Phone: 907-269-8112
Fax: 907-465-3767
Email: alaskafilm@alaska.gov

Incentives:

There is no sales tax and no income tax in Alaska.


ARIZONA
Incentive information: http://www.commerce.state.az.us/finance/motionpic.asp
Film office: http://www.commerce.state.az.us/Film/default.asp

Harry Tate, Director
Arizona Film Commission
3800 N. Central Ave. Bldg. D
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Phone: 602-771-1135
Fax: 602-280-1384
Email: harryt@azcommerce.com

Incentives:

Income Tax Credits
Provides for transferable income tax credit for costs in Arizona based on total costs paid in AZ, as follows:

• $250K - $1M gets a 20% credit.
• $1M - $7M gets a 30% credit.

The cap on the amount of tax credits a production can receive is capped at $7 million.

Additionally, AZ now offers an infrastructure credit equal to 15% of the investment.

All incentives are subject to a production company’s qualification as an exempt company, with such limitations including but not limited to employing 50% AZ residents full-time (2008-2010).

Tax credits are reserved on a first-come basis; credits still remain, and applications are now being accepted. All funds have been allocated for 2007. Applications for 2008 are now being accepted. There is $50 million available in 2008.

Transaction Privilege Tax Exemption
Machinery, equipment, other personal property, leases, rentals of lodgings, catered food and drink, and construction contracts used in the production of a motion picture are all exempt from Transaction Privilege Tax.

Use Tax Exemption
Machinery, equipment, and other tangible personal property used in the production of a motion picture are exempt from use tax.

CALIFORNIA
Film office: http://www.film.ca.gov
Amy Lemisch, Director
California Film Commission
7080 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 900
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 800-858-4749
Phone: 800-860-2960
Fax: 323-860-2972
Email: alemisch@film.ca.gov
Stefanie Coyote, Executive Director
San Francisco Film Commission
Phone: 415-554-6241
Email: film@sfgov.org
Website: www.filmsf.org

FilmL.A., Inc.
Phone: 213-977-8600
Website: www.filmlainc.com

Incentives:

Location Incentives
The California Film Commission facilitates all aspects of the filmmaking process and provides production and troubleshooting assistance. Free on-line permits for state property locations (parks, beaches, roads, prisons, etc.); no location fees for state properties; and, coordination with a network of 50 in-state film commissions providing localized support services for filmmakers.

Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption
There is no state hotel occupancy tax. Most cities or counties that impose a local hotel tax have a tax exemption for occupancies in excess of 30 days.

Sales Tax Exemption
There is a 5% sales tax exemption on production or postproduction equipment. (Exemption is taken by the seller of the equipment and passed on to the buyer at the point of purchase.) There is no sales tax on productions services.

Los Angeles
FilmL.A., Inc. coordinates permitting for the City of Los Angeles, sections of Los Angeles County and other local jurisdictions. Their Production Planning team helps productions navigate a range of location filming logistics. The City of Los Angeles waives location use fees at many frequently filmed City facilities including City Hall, city-owned office buildings and property and all public library facilities.

San Francisco
San Francisco Film Rebate program is a refund of all city costs in the city. Also, the city refunds a portion of hotel, sales tax, and all San Francisco payroll taxes. Productions with a budget of $3 million or less must shoot at least 55% of principle photography in the City of San Francisco. Productions with budgets over $3 million must shoot at least 65% of principle photography in the City of San Francisco. Per production cap is total City taxes paid.


COLORADO
Film commission: http://www.coloradofilm.org

Kevin Shand, Executive Director
Colorado Film Commission
1625 Broadway, Suite 1700
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: 303-620-4500
Fax: 303-720-4545
Email: Coloradofilm@state.co.us
Email: Kevin.shand@coloradofilm.org

Incentives:

Any production company that spends at least 75 percent of its production expenditures in Colorado on qualified local expenditures and at least 75 percent of payroll expenditures on local hires can claim an incentive payment. If the film originates in Colorado and total qualifying expenditures are at least $100,000, the incentive will be equal to 10 percent of the total qualifying expenditures. If the film does not originate in Colorado, but total qualifying expenditures are at least $1 million, the incentive will be equal to 10 percent of the total qualifying expenditures. Only $600,000 is available across all productions every year.

Hotel Occupancy Tax Rebate
Colorado hotels may offer a sales tax rebate for stays of 31 days or longer. As the rebate is discretionary, ask before booking your stay. Colorado offers no other incentive programs.


CONNECTICUT
Incentive information: http://www.cultureandtourism.org/cct/cwp/view.asp?a=2126&q=302556&CCTNAV_GID=1637

Film, Video & Media Office: http://www.ctfilm.com/
Heidi Hamilton, Director
Connecticut Film, Video & Media Office
805 Brook Street, Building 4
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Phone: 860-256-2724 or 860-256-2800
Fax: 860-256-2800
Email: george.norfleet@ct.gov

Incentives:

A 30% tax credit is available for qualified productions with expenditures over $50,000 in the following areas:

Optioning or the purchase of any intellectual property including, but not limited to, books, scripts, music or trademarks relating to the development or purchase of a script, screenplay or format, provided:

-The intellectual property was produced primarily in the state.
-75% of the qualified production based on such intellectual property in produced in the state.
-Production expenses or costs for such optioning or purchase are less than 35% of the production expenses or costs incurred in the state.

Expenditures for production of a motion picture and other costs directly associated with the production.

Expenditures for mass market distribution of a motion picture including marketing and duplication costs in any format.

In addition, state law waives the 6% sales and use tax for the purchase, rental or lease of most equipment and materials used in production. The state also provides a number of fee-free locations, and the hotel tax is waived for days numbering beyond 30. In addition, a five-year exemption on local property tax is provided on machinery and equipment used in motion picture, video and sound master recordings.

DELAWARE
Incentive information: http://dedo.delaware.gov/filmoffice/information/incentives.shtml

Nikki Boone, Liaison
Delaware Film Office
99 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19901
Phone: 302-577-6823
Email: nikki.boone@state.de.us

Incentives:

Delaware has no sales tax, personal property, or inventory taxes. Permit fees are low and generally negotiable. The state has no other incentives directly targeted toward filmmaking.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Film office: http://www.film.dc.gov

Crystal Palmer, Commissioner
Office of Motion Picture and Television Development
410 8th St. NW, 6th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 202-727-6608
Fax: 202-727-3787
Email: mptd@dc.gov
Email: crystal.palmer@dc.gov

Incentives:

A refundable grant equal to the lesser of: 10% of the qualified expenses or 100% of the sales/use tax paid to DC. To qualify, the film or television project must spend at least $500,000 and film five or more days in DC.


FLORIDA
Incentive information: http://www.filminflorida.com/ifi/incentives.asp
Film office: http://www.filminflorida.com

Paul Sirmons, Commissioner
Governor's Office of Film and Entertainment
Executive Office of the Governor
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Phone: 877-FLA-FILM (toll-free) or 850-410-4765
Fax: 850-410-4770
Email: Paul.Sirmons@myflorida.com

Susan Simms, Los Angeles Liaison
Governor's Office of Film & Entertainment
5426 Simpson Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91607
Phone: 818-508-7772
Fax: 818-508-7747
Email: filmflorida@earthlink.net

Incentives:

Financial Incentive
A qualified production is eligible for a 15% tax credit based on at least $625,000 in qualified expenditures for the entire run of the project. Production is capped at $25 million. The qualifying productions will be placed into one of two queues depending on the nature of the production. Money will be distributed, subject to appropriation, to the productions in queue and then on a first come-first serve basis.

Sales Tax and Use Exemption
Qualified motion picture, TV motion picture, TV series, commercial advertising or music video production and sound recording companies engaged in Florida may be eligible for a sales and use tax exemption on the purchase or lease of certain items used exclusively as an integral part of the production activities in Florida.

Bonuses
To help rebuild Florida as a 12-month production state, FL offers a 5% off-season bonus from June through November (hurricane season) to many productions. FL also adds a 2% bonus for family-friendly films.

Qualified Target Industry Refund
Companies creating jobs in motion picture production in Florida, excluding location filming, are eligible for a Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund. Pre-approved applicants who create jobs in Florida receive tax refunds of $3000 per new job created, and $6000 in an Enterprise Zone or Rural County. For businesses paying 150% of the average annual wage, add $1000 per job; for businesses paying 200% of the average annual salary, add $2000 per job. For more information about this program, call Enterprise Florida at 850.488.6300.

Rural & Urban Job Tax Credit Programs
Companies creating jobs in any of Florida’s 15 designated rural counties and 15 designated urban areas can qualify for tax credits from $500 to $2000 per qualified job. For more information contact the Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development at 850.487.2568.

Enterprise Zones
Business that create jobs within an enterprise zone may be eligible for additional tax credits, including a sales and use tax credit, tax refund for business machinery and equipment used in an enterprise zone, sales tax refund for building materials used in an enterprise zone, and a sales tax exemption for electrical energy used in an enterprise zone. For more information contact the Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development at 850.487.2568.


GEORGIA
Film office: http://www.filmgeorgia.org

Bill Thompson, Director
Georgia Film, Video & Music Office
285 Peachtree Center Ave., Suite 1000
Atlanta, GA 30303
Phone: 404-656-3591
Fax: 404-656-3565
Email: Film@georgia.org
Email: bthompson@georgia.org

Incentives:

Investment Tax Credit
Georgia offers a 9% investment tax credit on productions that spend at least $500K in the state in a single year. Salaries of both residential and out-of-town hires may be included in the tally (cap of $500,000 per person per production). An additional 3% credit will be awarded for all Georgia residents and for any expenditure in designated Georgia areas (typically underdeveloped areas). For companies that spend greater than $20M an additional 2% credit will be awarded. Credits are applied to Georgia tax liability. If a company has little or no tax liability in Georgia, credits may be transferred or sold to Georgia-based entities.

Sales and Use Tax Credit
Qualified film producers and qualified film production companies in George are exempt from sales and use tax on most below-the-line equipment rentals/purchases. Most below-the-line materials and service purchases are included in the exemption. Georgia state sales tax is 8%.

Qualified productions include: feature films, television movies and series, commercials, music videos and documentaries that will be distributed to areas outside of the State of Georgia.


HAWAII
Incentive information: http://www.hawaiifilmoffice.com/film/incentives-tax-credits
High Tech Investment Tax Credit information: http://www.state.hi.us/tax/a2_b2_6hi_tech.htm
Film office site: http://www.hawaiifilmoffice.com

Donne Dawson, Commissioner
Hawaii Film Office
No. 1 Capitol District Building
250 South Hotel St., 5th Floor
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: 808-586-2570
Fax: 808-586-2572
Email: info@hawaiifilmoffice.com

Incentives:

Refundable Production Tax Credits
Hawaii offers a refundable tax credit based on expenditures in Hawaii on qualified projects. The credit equals 15% of qualified production costs on Oahu and 20% on the other islands. There is an $8 million cap per production.

Qualified High Tech Business Tax Credit
The state’s high tech business investment tax credit provides a 100% return on cash investments in a "qualified high tech business" (QHTB) as state income tax credit disbursed over 5 years (35% credit in the year of investment, 25% in the following year, 20% in the second year following, then 10% each in the third and fourth year following). Qualified research activities include performing arts products such as motion pictures. The credit is designed to give investors a 100% return for their investments of up to $2 million per year per QHTB. The credit applies against Hawaii income tax liability only. The credit can be taken by individuals and corporations paying Hawaii income tax, and by banks and insurance companies against their franchise and insurance premium tax.

Moreover, if money from outside Hawaii is invested, the tax benefits can be allocated to Hawaii investors so they can obtain up to a 150% return. So for example, if a Hawaii investor put up $1,000,000 and an Arkansas investor put up $500,000, the parties could agree to allocate all the tax credits, equal to $1,500,000 to the Hawaii investor (since the Arkansas investor doesn't pay taxes in Hawaii they are worthless to him anyway). So the Hawaii investors get back a % return over 5 years. In return, the Arkansas investor could be given a greater share of the back end, or preferred recoupment.

The production entity would be required to employ, to own capital or property or maintain an office in Hawaii, to have more than 50% of its total business activities related to performing arts products and to conduct more than 75% of those activities in Hawaii. In other words, 75% of the budget needs to be spent in Hawaii. I currently represent a Hawaii company that can serve as the production entity that has received a comfort ruling from the Department of Taxation indicating that the company qualifies as a QHTB eligible for the investment tax credit.

In order to qualify, companies need to stay in business in Hawaii for at least five years, and should have some copyright ownership of the picture. There are many more details but those are the basics.

For additional information about Hawaii’s 100% high tech business investment tax credit, go to http://www.state.hi.us/tax/a2_b2_6hi_tech.htm.

Intellectual Property Royalty Exemption
An individual or QTHB’s royalty income derived from copyrights (and other intellectual property) can be excluded from gross income on its Hawaii state tax return. This exemption applies to individuals, qualified businesses, assignors, licensors and licensees.


IDAHO
Incentive information: http://www.filmidaho.org/page.aspx/250/production_incentives
Film office: http://www.filmidaho.org/

Peg Owens, Marketing Specialist
Idaho Film Bureau
700 W. State Street
Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0093
Phone: 800-942-8338 or 208-334-2470
Fax: 208-334-2631
Email: powens@idoc.state.id.us

Incentives:

Idaho offers an exemption from sales or hotel taxes on lodging stays of 30 or more days. The state offers a rebate on the 6% sales tax when $200,000 is spent on a wide variety of qualifying expenses.


ILLINOIS
Film office: http://www.commerce.state.il.us/film/

Betsy Steinberg, Managing Director
Illinois Film Office
100 W. Randolph St., 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: 312-814-7179
TDD: 800-419-0667
Email: betsy.steinberg@illinois.gov

Springfield Office
620 E. Adams
Springfield, IL 62701
Phone: 217-782-7500
TDD: 800-785-6055

Incentives:

Production Tax Credit
Illinois offers a 20% tax credit for Illinois productions during each taxable year. An additional 15% tax credit is available for wages paid to Illinois residents who reside in economically disadvantaged areas. Vendors’ Illinois labor costs may also be included in the calculation of the credit. Production companies are asked to make a good-faith effort to hire and train an ethnically diverse team. The credit is transferable one time and can be carried forward up to 5 years. The restrictions on the credit area as follows:

1) limited to the first $100K of wages paid to each employee
2) productions must spend at least $100K on wages for productions over 30 minutes and at least $50K under 30 minutes
3) tax credit has to directly contribute to the production filming in Illinois.
4) The additional credit for labor expenditures for residents of impoverished areas will only be allowed for those employees whose compensation exceeds $1,000.

Hotel Occupancy Tax Waiver
The 14.9% hotel occupancy tax will be waived after a room is occupied for 30 days. After 30 days, the initial stay will also be credited.


INDIANA
Film commission: http://www.state.in.us/film/

Leigh Durbin, Director
Indiana Film Commission
Indiana Department of Commerce
One North Capitol Avenue, Suite 700
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2288
Phone: 317-232-8829
Fax: 317-233-6887
Email: filminfo@commerce.state.in.us
Email: ldurbin@iedc.in.gov

Incentives:

Indiana offers an exemption from both sales and local innkeepers’ taxes for hotel stays of 30 days or more. The state provides certain state-owned properties free of charge.


IOWA
Film office: http://www.iowalifechanging.com/filmiowa/iaproductions.html

Tom Wheeler, Manager
Iowa Film Office
Phone: 515-242-4726
Fax: 515-242-4809
Email: filmiowa@ided.state.ia.us
Email: tom.wheeler@iowalifechanging.com

Incentives:

Tax Credit
Kansas allows a production company to apply for a non-refundable tax credit equal to 30% of in-state expenditures. Minimum expenditure to qualify is $50,000 if under 30 minutes and $100,000 if over 30 minutes. The state will fund $20 million over the next 10 years with $2 million cap per year.

This state offers a tax reimbursement of 4.9% on certain film, TV, or commercial projects. Productions must spend minimum of $200,000 per project in the state to qualify.

No hotel occupancy tax for stays in excess of 28 days.


KANSAS
Film office: http://www.filmkansas.com

Peter S. Jasso
Director
1000 S.W. Jackson Street Suite 100
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1354
Phone: (785) 296-2178
Fax: (785) 296-3490
E-mail: pjasso@kansascommerce.com

Erin M. Schroeder
Assistant Director
1000 S.W. Jackson Street, Suite 100
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1354
Phone: (785) 296-4927
Fax: (785) 296-3490
E-mail: eschroeder@kansascommerce.com

Incentives:

Tax Credit
Kansas allows a production company to apply for a non-refundable tax credit equal to 30% of in-state expenditures. Productions must spend minimum of $100,000 per project over 30min and $50,000 for projects less than 30min in the state to qualify.

Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption
No hotel occupancy tax for stays in excess of 28 days.


KENTUCKY
Incentive information: http://www.kyfilmoffice.com/taxrebateinfo.htm
Film Office: http://www.kyfilmoffice.com

Todd Cassidy, Director
Kentucky Film Office
500 Mero Street
2200 Capital Plaza Tower
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-3456
Toll Free: (800) 345-6591
Fax: (502) 564-7588
Email: todd.cassidy@ky.gov
Incentives:
This state offers a 6% sales and use tax refund for qualified production expenditures.


LOUISIANA
Incentive information: http://www.lafilm.org/incentives/index.cfm
Film office: http://www.lafilm.org

Christopher Stelly, Director of Film & Television
Office of Entertainment Industry Development
1051 North 3rd Street, Suite 173
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802
Phone: 225.342.5403
Fax: 225.342.5554
Email: led-entertainment@la.gov

Incentives:

Investor Tax Credit
Investors who are taxpayers domiciled and headquartered in Louisiana can claim an investor tax credit if they invest in a nationally distributed feature-length film, video, television program or commercial made in Louisiana in whole or in part. The credit is earned at the time of expenditure.

If the total base investment is greater than $300,000, each taxpayer can take a tax credit of up to 25% of the actual investment made by that taxpayer. If the investor pays for Louisiana payroll on the production, he is entitled to an extra 10% of the LA payroll, except for individuals receiving payment in excess of $1,000,000.

It also offers an infrastructure tax credit of 40% of the investment for the construction of new production facilities or studios.


MAINE
Incentives: http://www.filminmaine.org/
Film office: http://www.state.me.us/decd/film/

D. Lea Girardin, Director
Maine Film Office
59 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Phone: 207-624-7631
Fax: 207-287-8070
Email: filmme@earthlink.net
Email: lea.girardin@maine.gov

Incentives:

Wage Based Incentive
Maine will reimburse 12% of certified production wages paid to employees who are Maine residents and 10% paid to non-residents. No reimbursement for wages in excess of $1 million for any single person. The production must spend at least $250,000 within a 12-month period.

Income Tax Credit
Maine will credit all income taxes that would otherwise be assessed against income associated with the production on productions spending at least $250,000 within a 12-month period.

Sales Tax Exemption
Maine-based production companies and out-of-state production companies working in Maine can apply for sales tax exemptions for equipment and machinery purchases.

Fuel and Electricity Sales tax Exemption
Companies creating film, TV, video and new-media projects in Maine can be exempted from paying tax on 95% of the cost of fuel and electricity used at production sites such as film locations and studios.

Lodging Tax Reimbursement
Production companies staying in hotels for more than 28 consecutive days can apply for a lodging tax reimbursement.

Fee-Free Locations
A number of Maine public lands—including many state parks—are offered without location fees.

Surplus-Property Program
Productions may borrow—free of charge—furniture and other surplus property from the state of Maine.


MARYLAND
Incentive information: http://www.mdfilm.state.md.us/incentives.htm
Film office: http://www.mdfilm.state.md.us/

Jack Gerbes, Director
217 E. Redwood St., 9th floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 333-0044 fax
(410) 767-0067 HOTLINE
Email: jack@marylandfilm.org

Incentives:

Rebate
Maryland provides a rebate equal to 25% of the total in-state direct costs incurred while filming on location. The production must spend $500,000 in the state. There is a statewide cap of $4 million, of which $3 million still remains. Wages and salaries of residents and nonresidents qualify for this incentive.

Sales Tax Exemption
Maryland offers an exemption for its 5% sales tax for production expenditures.


MASSACHUSETTS
Film Office: http://www.mafilm.org

Nick Paleologos
Executive Director
Massachusetts Film Office
31 St. James Ave. Suite 260
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-423-1155
Email: nick@mafilm.org

Incentives:

Tax Credit
There is a 25% film tax credit on all qualified spending in the state. No caps. No limits. No pre-certification. No pre-application. Minimum spend is $50,000. Credits, once earned, may be sold to any other Massachusetts taxpayer or taken as a rebate directly from the state—whichever is more favorable to the filmmaker. State rebates are guaranteed at 90% of the value of the credit. Companies may carry tax credits forward for up to five years.

Sales Tax Exemption
Production spending in state is also sales tax free.


MICHIGAN
Film office: http://www.michigan.gov/filmoffice

Janet Lockwood, Director
Michigan Film Office
702 West Kalamazoo Street
Lansing MI 48915
Phone: 800-477-3456 or 517-373-0638
Fax: 517-241-2930.
Email: jlockwood@michigan.gov

Incentives:

Refundable Sales Tax Credit
Michigan provides a rebate of 12% ($500,000 production expenditures) to 20% (above $5 million) on in-state spending on a sliding scale. The cap is $2 million per production. The annual amount available overall is $7 million per tax year.

Following the Federal American Jobs Creation Act, investors in qualifying film and television productions may elect to immediately deduct the cost of qualifying film expenditures in the year the expenditure occurs, with the aggregate cost of the film not exceeding $15 million ($20 million in low income areas). A 9% deduction can also be applied to the net income of a qualifying production.


MINNESOTA
Incentive information: http://www.mnfilm.org/board/incentives.asp
Film Office: http://www.mnfilm.org

Lucinda Winter, Executive Director
Minnesota Film and TV Board
2446 University Ave. West
St. Paul, MN 55114
Phone: 612-332-6493
Fax: 612-332-3735
Email: Lucinda@mnfilmtv.org

Incentives:

Production Rebate
Minnesota offers a 15 percent rebate for the cost of production. At least 60% of the film must shoot in the state. Only expenses for resident cast/crew are qualified. Purchases, rentals, and services must be from local vendors to qualify.

Sales Tax
TV Commercials are exempt from the 6.5% state sales tax.

Hotel/Lodging Tax
All production personnel who stay in a hotel or other lodging under a lease agreement for 30 days or more are exempt from state lodging tax.


MISSISSIPPI
Film office: http://www.visitmississippi.org/film/

Mississippi Division of Tourism
Woolfolk State Office Building
501 West St
Jackson, MS 39201

Post Office Box 849 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3297
Hot Line: 601.359.2112
Fax: 601.359.5048
Ward Emling, Manager
Phone: 601.359.3422
Email: wemling@mississippi.org

Incentives:

Cash Rebate
Productions are entitled to a 20% of the first $1 million of local spend, sliding up to 30% of the local spend over $5 million. All local payroll included. Wages for out-of-state residents qualify for a 10% rebate. Maximum rebate of $5 million per project.

Sales Tax Exemption and Reduction
Many production materials are exempt from the state’s 7% sales and use tax. Sales and use tax on production equipment purchases are reduced by 5.5%.


MISSOURI
Incentive information: http://www.missouribusiness.net/film/incentives.asp
Film commission: http://www.missouribusiness.net/film/

Jerry Jones, Director
Missouri Film Commission
University of Missouri
165 McReynolds Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
Email: mofilm@missouri.edu

Kansas City Film Commission
Toll Free: 800-767-7700 ext 3872
www.kcfilm.com

Incentives:

Qualified film production companies can receive a state income tax credit of up to 50% of the company’s expenditures in Missouri necessary for the making of a film, not to exceed $1,000,000 in tax credits per project. The tax credit is fully assignable, that is, the entity earning the credits may apply them against state income taxes or corporate franchise taxes, or they can be sold or transferred to another state taxpayer who may then apply them to their Missouri income tax liability.

The credits can be applied when earned or carried forward for up to five additional tax periods. To qualify, the production company must spend $300,000 or more in state on expenditures necessary for the production of the film. Qualifying expenses include costs for labor, services, materials, equipment rental, lodging, food, location fees and property rental.

Note that Missouri will only grant $1.5 million in these tax credits per year. Companies must therefore apply as early in production as possible, and must apply before they have selected Missouri as the project’s location.


MONTANA
Incentive information: http://travelmontana.state.mt.us/OURPROGRAMS/Film/incentives.asp
Film office: http://montanafilm.com/

Sten Iversen, Manager
Montana Film Office
301 S Park Avenue, Helena MT 59620
Phone: 800-553-4563 (outside MT only) or 406-841-2876
Fax: 406-841-2877
Info Hotline: 406-444-3960
Email: montanafilm@visitmt.com
Email: Siversen@mt.gov

Incentives:

Rebate
Montana offers a 14% rebate based on hired Montana Labor. It applies to first $50,000 of wages per Montana resident. The state also offers 9% rebate based on qualified expenditures. The rebate includes hotel and lodging expenditures, production equipment rental, fuel costs, expendables, lumber/construction materials, vehicle rentals, and food expenditures. There is no minimum spending requirement.

No Sales Tax in Montana

Licensing Exemptions
Out-of-State commercial vehicles and equipment used exclusively in the production of motion pictures, television, or commercials are exempt from licensing requirements for 180 consecutive days. Other out-of-state commercial vehicles entering Montana require permits.

Accommodation Tax Exemption
Production Companies staying longer than 30 days at the same hotel/motel are exempt from the 7% accommodations tax.


NEBRASKA
Film office: http://www.filmnebraska.org/

Laurie Richards Nebraska Film Officer
Nebraska Film Office
301 Centennial Mall South, 4th Fl.
Lincoln, NE 68509-4666
Phone: 800-426-6505 or 402-471-3746
Fax: 402-471-3365
Email: infor@filmnebraska.org

Incentives:

Nebraska has no lodging tax after a 30-day or longer stay at the same
facility.


NEVADA
Film office: http://www.nevadafilm.com

Charles Geocaris, Director
Nevada Film Office, Las Vegas Office
555 E. Washington Ave., Suite 5400
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: 877-NEV-FILM (877-638-3456) or 702-486-2711
Hotline: 702-486-2727
Fax: 702-486-2712
Email: lvnfo@bizopp.state.nv.us

Nevada Film Office, Reno/Tahoe Office
108 East Proctor Street
Carson City, NV 89701-4240
Phone: 800-336-1600 or 775-687-1814
Hotline: 775-687-4901
Fax: 775-687-4497
E-mail: ccnfo@bizopp.state.nv.us

Incentives:

Hotel Tax
Nevada reduces the hotel tax rate after 30 days.

Permits
Permits in Nevada are FREE.

Corporate and Income Tax
Nevada has no corporate or personal income tax.


NEW HAMPSHIRE
Film office: http://www.nh.gov/film

Mathew Newton, Film Specialist
The New Hampshire Film Office
20 Park Street
Concord NH 03301
Phone: 603-271-2220
Fax: 603-271-3163
Email: film@nh.gov

Incentives:

New Hampshire does not levy sales tax, personal income tax, use tax, property tax on machinery or equipment, or capital gains tax. New Hampshire also has no filming permit requirements.


NEW JERSEY
Incentive information: Click on “Filming Regulations & Guidelines” on the Commission home page.
Film Commission: http://www.njfilm.org/

Joseph Friedman, Executive Director
New Jersey Motion Picture & Film Commission
153 Halsey Street - 5th Floor
P.O. Box 47023
Newark, New Jersey 07101
Phone: 973-648-6279
Fax: 973-648-7350
Email: NJFILM@njfilm.org

Incentives:

Tax Credit
New Jersey offers a 20% tax credit for qualified production expenses if at least 60% of the total expenses of a project are spent in New Jersey, exclusive of post-production costs.

Loan Guarantee
Productions can be eligible to receive loan guarantees from the state of up to 30% of the bank financing, or $1.5M, whichever is less. The criteria for eligibility are at least ½ of the costs must be spent in NJ, at least 70% of the shooting days in NJ; the prevailing wages for workers and the project must possess performance bonds.

Room Tax Exemption
Productions that rent hotel rooms for 90 or more consecutive days during production are eligible for a refund of room taxes.

Sales Tax Exemption
NJ offers a 6% sales tax exemption when purchasing or renting certain tangible properties used in the production of a motion picture or video. Companies must fill out an Exempt Use Certificate to be eligible for the sales tax exemption.


NEW MEXICO
Incentive information: http://www.nmfilm.com/filming/incentives/
Film office: http://www.nmfilm.com/

Lisa Strout, Director
New Mexico Film Office
418 Montezuma Ave.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Phone: 800-545-9871 or 505-476-5600
Fax: 505-476-5601
Email: film@nmfilm.com
Incentives:

Tax Incentive Programs
Productions must choose either the 25% rebate program or the nontaxable transaction certificate program for any given expenditure.

Tax Rebate Program
New Mexico offers a 25% tax rebate on all direct production expenditures including labor that are subject to taxation by the state of New Mexico. There is no minimum spend required, no cap, and no sunset clause. Requirements: no obscene materials, credits must acknowledge filmed in NM, production must agree to pay all financial obligations incurred by film production company, production must publish notice in local newspapers notifying the public the need to file creditor claims, production shall agree that outstanding obligations are not waived should a creditor file late, production must agree to delay filing for rebate until the film office certifies that all requirements are met and production shall enter into an agreement accepting all these terms.

Nontaxable Transaction Certificates
New Mexico offers a sales tax exemption at the point of sale.

Film Investment Program
NM offers a 0% loan, with backend participation in lieu of interest, for up to $15M per project (which can represent 100% of the budget) for qualifying feature films or television projects (animation included). Requirements: film must not contain excessive or gratuitous violence, sexual content, hard language, drug abuse, culturally sensitive material or a combination; at least 85% of the film must be shot in NM; a guarantor for the principal amount of the loan must be in place; a signed distribution contract must be in place; and 60% of the below-the-line payroll and body count must be allocated to NM residents.

Talent Cap
NM has instituted a $5 million talent cap, which equates to $20 million in actor salaries. This is a maximum rebate of $5 million for all eligible talent per production qualifying for the NM rebate. This is not per person, but for all talent (including stunts) combined.

Film Crew Advancement Program
New Mexico offers a 50% reimbursement of wages for on-the-job training of New Mexico residents in advanced below-the-line crew positions. New Mexican Supervisors and Keys have the opportunity to hire and mentor qualifying NM crew in advanced positions for this program.

Production Facilities
Albuquerque Studios, an 8-stage facility is located 5 minutes from the Albuquerque airport, and offers Hollywood-type services, including 70,000 sq. feet of mill and construction space, plus a welding shop and offices.


NEW YORK
Incentive information: http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/html/incentives/incentives_home.shtml
Film office: http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/html/index/index.shtml

Katherine Oliver, Commissioner
The Mayor's Office of Film
Theatre & Broadcasting
1697 Broadway Suite 602
New York, New York 10019
Email: info@film.nyc.gov

Pat Kaufman, Executive Director
New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & TV Development
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Phone: 212-803-2330
Email: nyfilm@empire.state.ny.usFilm
Email: pkaufman@empire.state.ny.us
Office: http://www.nylovesfilm.com

Incentives:

Tax Credit
Producers can obtain a 10% refundable tax credit from NY State (max per year for all films is $25 million) and a 5% (max per year for all films is $12.5 million) refundable tax credit from NY City on certain expenses. Below-the-line costs are eligible for the credit if a) the production shoots on a set or stage at a qualified facility, and b) at least 75% of the total facility related expenses are born at qualified facilities. Location and other costs are eligible if either a) at least 75% of the location shooting is done in NYC, or b) the production spends at least $3 million on facility related costs.

Marketing Credit
New York offers a marketing credit for film and television productions that complete 75% of their work in NYC. Outdoor media valued at 1% of NYC production costs will be offered to participating productions for co-branded advertising related to the “Made in NY” production. Examples of advertising using this credit include bus shelters and broadcasting on New York City Media Group Assets. In exchange for the Marketing Credit, productions must make a “cultural donation” to a not-for-profit cultural institution of their choice of .01% of NYC production costs.

"Made in NY"
Available to bona fide productions shooting in the City, the "Made in NY" discount card provides discounts and special offers when presented to participating vendors, including hotels, airlines, car rental and messenger services, banking services, production services and more. New York also offers productions a “Made in NY” logo for films shooting 75% of their movie in NY, a “Made in NY” premiere, and concierge services to introduce out of state productions to New York’s unique locations.

State Only Incentives:
Empire State Film Production Credit gives qualified productions a full refundable tax credit of 10% on most below-the-line costs, including crew salaries, equipment, processing, materials, background talent, etc. Credit is also applicable to preproduction, production, and post-production done in New York State. It includes crew and equipment even if brought in from outside the state. This credit can be applied against New York State taxes.


NORTH CAROLINA
Incentive information: http://www.ncfilm.com/film_incentives_benefits.asp
Film office: http://www.ncfilm.com/

Aaron Syrett, Director
North Carolina Film Office
301 North Wilmington St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: 919-733-9900
Fax: 919-715-0151

Production Hotline: 800-232-9227
Los Angeles Office: 310 246-0076
Email: asyrett@nccommerce.com

Incentives:

Tax Rebate
North Carolina now offers a refundable credit (paid directly by the state, after corporate tax returns have been filed) of 13.97% for all amounts spent in state and labor and services used in the state. The actual credit of 15% is subject to state corporate income tax of 6.9%, reducing the effective credit to 13.97%. Cast and crew need not be state residents, as long as state taxes are paid on their earnings.

Production companies must spend $250,000 in NC equal to 15% of in state spending for goods, services, and labor. The maximum tax credit is $7.5 million (for a feature film).

Spending for goods purchased or leased from a North Carolina business, including food, fuel, airline tickets are eligible for the tax credit, as well as spending for services, including compensation as wages, regardless of whether money is paid to residents or non-residents. Everything must be performed in North Carolina.

Qualifying expenses claimed as a credit cannot also be claimed as a deduction under the state’s tax code. Taxable income must be adjusted to conform.

Sales and use Tax Discount
The State’s 1% Sales and Use Tax for film-related purchases and rentals remains in effect, adding to the savings of filming in North Carolina.


NORTH DAKOTA
Film office: https://www.ndtourism.com/industry/media-links/

North Dakota Tourism Division
Century Center
1600 E. Century Ave. Suite 2
PO Box 2057
Bismarck, N.D. 58502-2057
800-435-5663
701-328-2525
Fax: 701-328-4878

Incentives:

Lodging Tax Exemption
Hotel stays over 30 days are exempt from all lodging taxes.


OHIO
Film commission: http://www.discoverohio.com

Christina Grozik
Director, Ohio Film Office
Division of Travel and Tourism
77 S High St
Columbus, Ohio 43216-1001
Phone: 614-644-5156
Email: cgrozik@odod.state.oh.us

Incentives:

This state refunds the room tax for hotel stays exceeding 30 days.


OKLAHOMA
Incentive information: http://www.oklahomafilm.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=3&tabid=6
Film office: http://www.otrd.state.ok.us/filmcommission/

Jill Simpson, Director
Oklahoma Film and Music Office Film
2015 N. Robinson, Suite 600
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Phone: 1-800-766-3456
In Oklahoma City: 405-230-8440
Fax: 405-230-8640
Email: jill@oklahomafilm.org

Incentives:

Rebate
Oklahoma provides a 15% rebate on qualified expenses if 50% or more of the below-the-line crew is from Oklahoma (10% for 25%-50% of local crew and 5% if below 25% local crew). The residency requirement is waived for budgets above $30 million. Minimum budget is $2 million of which $1.25 million must be spent in Oklahoma. $5 million have been allocated for this program.

Tax Credit for Oklahoma Film & Music Projects
Oklahoma gives state taxpayers who invest in film or music projects produced in Oklahoma a 25% income tax credit on profits made when those profits are reinvested in another film or music project produced in Oklahoma. Credit cannot exceed Oklahoma taxpayer's liability. Credit is non-assignable and non-transferable

Point of Purchase Tax Exemption
Oklahoma offers to qualified productions on sales taxes paid for property or services to be used in productions. There is no minimum budget or expenditure requirement to take advantage of this incentive. The state’s current sales tax is 4.5%. Local taxes, which vary from city to city and county to county, average between 3% and 4%. The POP tax exemption cannot be used in conjunction with the 15% rebate.


OREGON
Film office: http://www.oregonfilm.org/

Steve Oster, Executive Director
Oregon Film & Video Office
One World Trade Center
121 SW Salmon Suite 1205
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 229-5832
Email: shoot@oregonfilm.org

Kayla Thames-Berge, LA Representative
Phone: 323-656-0889

Incentives:

Goods/Services Rebate
20% Rebate on all goods/services paid to Oregon vendors. No per production cap, included any cost related to production as long as it is paid to an Oregon-based company.

Payroll Rebate
16.2% Rebate on all production payroll for work done in Oregon. No per production cap, covers all employees, including both Oregon and non-Oregon residents, for whom Oregon withholding applies.

No Sales Tax
No sales tax in the state of Oregon.

Fee-free State Parks
231 state parks covering 96,000 acres of fantastic Oregon scenery, including 362 miles of Pacific shoreline, all fee-free for film productions.

Lodging Tax Waiver
Lodging taxes waived for rooms held longer than 30 days.


PENNSYLVANIA
Incentive information: http://www.filminpa.com/filminpa/econIncentives.jsp
Film Office: http://www.filminpa.com/filminpa/index.jsp

Jane Saul
Pennsylvania Film Office
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225
Phone: 717-783-3456
Fax: 717-787-0687
Email: jsaul@state.pa.us

Incentives:

Tax Credit
Pennsylvania offers a 25% transferable tax credit. Max available per year is $75 million. In order to qualify for the grant, 60 percent of the total production expenses must be incurred in Pennsylvania.

Film Grant
Pennsylvania provides up to a 20 percent Film Production Grant for film production expenses incurred in PA. In order to qualify for the grant, 60 percent of the total production expenses must be incurred in Pennsylvania. No more than $5 million per year can be awarded.

State Property Free
PA also offers free use of state owned property.


PUERTO RICO
Incentive information: http://www.puertoricofilm.com/incentives/
Film office: http://www.puertoricofilm.com

Cristina Caraballo
Marketing Manager
Deputy Film Commissioner
PUERTO RICO FILM COMMISSION
355 FD Roosevelt Ave. Suite 106
Hato Rey, PR 00918
Phone: (787) 758-4747 x2250
Fax: (787) 756-5706
Email: ccaraballo@puertoricofilm.com

Postal Address:
P.O. Box 362350
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936-2350

Incentives:

Tax Credit
Transferable investment tax credits of 40% are available to investors in film projects licensed with the Puerto Rico Film Commissioner.

Requirements:
• License fee (1% of the total budget).
• Endorsement by Department of Treasury.
• Not less than 50% of the principal photography must take place in Puerto Rico.
• Total tax credit will equal 40% of budget items paid to Puerto Rican residents up to 50% of the cash invested as equity in the project.
• Maximum of $15 million per year.

Tax credits may be sold and purchased. The full value of the tax credit against one’s income tax liability can be used by anyone owning the credit. A market exists for these transactions and the tax credits are generally sold at a discount of 8-12%.

Other
Hotel rooms are available tax free to personnel engaged in production work. Income is subject to a flat 7% tax rate. Dividends or income distributions are 100% tax exempt. Personal property and real estate are 90% exempt from municipal and state taxes. Income is 100% exempt from municipal excise taxes. Net income from the rental of real estate dedicated exclusively to the exploitation of an infrastructure project is subject to a flat 7% tax rate.


RHODE ISLAND
Incentive information: http://www.film.ri.gov/taxcredit.html
Film Office: http://www.film.ri.gov/index2.html

Steven Feinberg, Director
Rhode Island Film & Television Office
One Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908
Phone: 401-222-3456
Fax: 401-222-3018
Hotline: 401-222-6666
Email: steven@arts.ri.gov

Incentives:

Transferable Tax Credit
Rhode Island offers a 25% tax credit for all Rhode Island spending. There are no caps. It also includes salaries for people working on the ground, in RI. The film/TV commercial/video game production must be filmed primarily in the state of Rhode Island and have a minimum budget of $300,000. A majority of the film must be shot on the ground in Rhode Island. No salary cap expenditures.


SOUTH CAROLINA
Incentive information: http://www.scfilmoffice.com/incentives.html
Film office: http://www.scfilmoffice.com

Jeff Monks
Commissioner
803.737.0492
Email: jmonks@sccommerce.com

Incentives:

Cash Rebate
If a production company spends over $1,000,000, it qualifies for:

• 30% rebate on South Carolina goods and services used for production.
• 20% rebate of local crew and cast wages subject to SC withholding tax (10% for those out-of-state). Max of $3,500 per person and salaries exceeding $1 million are excluded.

Sales, Use, and Accommodation Tax Exemption
A production company that spends $250,000 or more in SC within a consecutive 12-month period can be relieved of paying state and local sales and use and accommodation tax in connection with the production of the film.

Grants
The South Carolina Film Commission has established a grant fund for the promotion of collaborative production and educational efforts between state institutions of higher learning and motion picture related entities.

Indigenous Production Incentives
Production companies that invest >$500,000 in year in SC are eligible for an income tax credit equal to 10% of investment made in SC.
• Investors in development and/or production of a film may claim an income tax credit of up to 20% of the taxpayer’s cash investment up to $100,000. Credits may not reduce tax liability by more than 50% for any given year. Unused credits may be carried forward 15 years.
• Investors in production facilities may claim an income tax credit of up to 20% of the taxpayer’s cash investment up to $5,000,000 total credits claimed by all investors. Credits may not reduce tax liability by more than 50% for any given year. Unused credits may be carried forward 15 years.


SOUTH DAKOTA
Incentive information: http://www.filmsd.com/filming/default.aspx?id=16
Film Office: http://www.filmsd.com/

Lesa Jarding, Film & Media Rep.
South Dakota Film Office
711 E. Wells Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
Phone: 605.773.3301
Email: filmsd@state.sd.us
Email: lesa.jarding@state.sd.us

Incentives:

Sales/Use Tax Refund
For expenditures above $250,000, South Dakota will refund any sales/use taxes paid (including out-of-state taxes).

Lodging Tax Exemption
This state exempts state and city tax on lodging stays for 28 consecutive days.

South Dakota has no corporate or personal income tax.


TENNESSEE
Incentive information: http://www.state.tn.us/film/incentives.htm
Film office: http://www.state.tn.us/film/

Perry Gibson, Executive Director
Tennessee Film & Music Commission
312 8th Avenue North
Tennessee Tower, 9th Floor
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
Direct: 615-741-FILM
Toll free: 1-877-818-3456
Fax: 615-741-5554
Hotline: 615-532-2770
Email: tn.film@state.tn.us
Email: perry.gibson@state.tn.us
Email: Nathan.lux@state.tn.us

Incentives:

Production Rebate #1
13% of qualified expenses; 2% added if 25% of the crew is from Tennessee. Another 2% is offered if the company spends at least $20,000 in post production, to acquire music written by a resident or to record music in Tennessee. Additionally, a 15% rebate of qualified expenses is offered if the production company is headquartered in Tennessee. Out-of-state salaries do not qualify.

Production Rebate #2
15% refunded on necessary expenses. Production Company must be headquartered in Tennessee. Minimum expenditures of $1,000,000.

Hotel Tax Exemption
Production Companies are eligible for a refund of Hotel Tax after a room has been occupied for thirty consecutive days. The Hotel Tax is then waived from Day 31 on.

In addition, Sales Tax will not be applied to rooms rented to the same person for a period of ninety continuous days or more. Sales Tax is therefore waived from Day 91 on.

Income Tax
There is no state tax or local income tax in Tennessee.

Ground Transportation Waivers
All truck permits, fees and fuel taxes can be waived except in the case of overweight and/or over-sized vehicles.

Free Locations
State-owned buildings and land are available to filmmakers free of charge. No state filming fees.


TEXAS
Incentive information: http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/film/incentives
Film Office: http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/film

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 13246
Austin, TX 78711

Street Address:
Bob Hudgins, Director
1100 San Jacinto, Suite 3.410
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: 512-463-9200
Fax: 512- 63-4114
Email: film@governor.state.tx.us

Incentives:

Grants
The state of Texas provides grants, similar to rebates, of 5% for all spending done in-state on a “moving image project,” up to $2 million for feature films, $2.5 million for television programs, $200,000 for TV commercials, and $250,000 for video games. Among other restrictions: at least 70% of the production crew, actors, and extras must be Texas residents, and at least 80% of the project must be filmed in Texas to qualify and only transactions with local vendors qualify. Minimum spending is $1 million for a film or television program, or $100,000 for a commercial or series of commercials.

If at least 25% of production (shoot days) is completed in an “Underused Area,” a project will be eligible to receive an additional grant of 1.25% of the project’s total Texas spend for work done in that area.

On most projects shot in Texas, the production company is 100% exempt from state and local sales tax on much of what is rented or purchased in the form of an upfront exemption.

Productions shooting for more than 30 days are also exempt from the 6% lodging tax on hotel rooms. In addition, the state refunds sales tax paid on fuel that is used off-road (think generators and boats).


UTAH
Incentive information: http://film.utah.gov/film_incentives/index.html
Film office: http://film.utah.gov

Marshall Moore, Director
Utah Film Commission
Council Hall/Capitol Hill
300 North State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
800.453.8824 toll free / 801.538.8740
Fax: 801.538.1397
Email: mdmoore@utah.gov

Incentives:

Rebate
Utah offers a 15 percent rebate to film productions of every dollar spent in Utah. The production must spend $1 million in-state. Wages paid to non-residents do not count. $2 million (out of $4 million) is still available for 2008.

Hotel Room Rates
Utah waives 4.25% lodging tax and the sales tax is waived on rooms where the stay is 30 days or longer.


VERMONT
Incentive information: http://www.vermontfilm.com/filmingvt/taxes.html
Film office: http://www.vermontfilm.com

Joe Bookchin, Executive Director
P.O. Box 129
10 Baldwin Street
Montpelier, VT 05601-0129
Hot Line: 802-828-3680
Telephone: 802-828-3618
Fax: 802-828-2221
Email Address: vermontfilm@vermontfilm.com

Incentives:

Sales Tax Exemption
Vermont offers Sales & Use Tax Exemptions on the purchase or rental of goods and services used in the making of a motion picture. The goods and services must appear in the film or be used directly in making the print. State sales tax is 5%.

Hotel Tax Exemption
Companies that book in advance and stay in a hotel for 31 days or more are exempt from hotel tax.

Income Tax
For the time that non-resident performers are working in-state, income taxes are assessed at whichever rate is lower, i.e., if the performer is a resident of a state that does not charge income tax, then they will owe no Vermont income tax. If the performer is a resident of a state that assesses a higher income tax than Vermont, they will owe the lower Vermont income tax on their wages earned.


VIRGINIA
Incentive information: http://www.film.virginia.org/VirginiatheFilmOffice/Incentives.htm
Film office: http://www.film.virginia.org

Rita McClenny, Film Commissioner
Virginia Film Office
901 East Byrd Street
Richmond, VA 23219-4048
Phone: 800-854-6233 or 804-545-5530
Fax: 804-545-5531
Hotline: 800-641-0810
Email: vafilm@virginia.org
Email: rmcclenny@virginia.org

Incentives:

Governor’s Discretionary Rebate
A performance-based incentive provides cash rebate at the Governor’s discretion taking into consideration length of filming, job creation, trainees hired, goods and services purchased.

Sales Tax Exemption
Virginia offers Sales & Use Tax Exemptions that are offered at the point of sale (rather than as a rebate). Production items exempted include production facilities, cameras and related equipment, and editing, dubbing and sound equipment. Tangible personal property and some production and crew services are also exempted.

Hotel Tax Exemption
Companies that stay in a hotel for more than 90 consecutive days are eligible for a 3.5% lodging tax rebate. Filming in most state-owned buildings can be done free of charge.

History Film Fund
Virginia created a fund to utilize filmed projects to showcase Virginia's significant contributions to the history of the United States. To qualify, projects must be from an established company with a proven track record of production, have a Virginia history theme, be filmed in the Commonwealth and primarily use a Virginia crew.

Government buildings are offered as locations for no fee.


WASHINGTON
Incentive information: www.washingtonfilmworks.org
Film office: http://www.filmwashington.com

Suzy Kellett, Director
Washington State Film Office
2001 6th Ave., Suite 2600
Seattle, WA 98121
Phone: 206-256-6151
Fax: 206-256-6154
Email: wafilm@cted.wa.gov
Email: suzyk@cted.wa.gov

Amy Dee, Executive Director
WashingtonFilmWorks
1218 Third Avenue, Suite 1515
Seattle, WA 98101
Phone: 206-461-5809
Fax: 206-264-0667
Email: amy@washingtonfilmworks.org
www.washingtonfilmworks.org

Incentives:

Washington State Competitiveness Fund
Productions with in-state film related expenditures are eligible for rebates up to 20%, with a $1 million cap per production. The minimum budget is $500,000 for feature films, $300,000 for television productions, and $250,000 for commercials.

Tax Breaks
Washington offers a state sales tax exemption on rental equipment and the purchase of services. There is no state income tax. Production companies can receive a refund on local, state, and special use taxes on rental vehicles used in production. Permitting in Seattle is $25 per day including city owned property. Vendor discounts may be available to productions with budgets between $500,000 and $3 million.

Lodging Tax Exemption
There is also a lodging tax exemption available for stays of 30 or more consecutive days. The production must contract the stay before arrival.


WEST VIRGINIA
Incentives Information: http://www.wvfilm.com/incentives.htm
Film Office: http://www.wvfilm.com

Pamela Haynes, Director
West Virginia Film Office
90 MacCorkle Avenue, SW
South Charleston, WV 25303
Phone Toll Free: 1.866.6WV-FILM, US and parts of eastern Canada
Phone: 304-558-2200, ext. 382
Fax: 304-558-1662
Email: phaynes@wvfilm.com

Incentives:

Tax Credit
West Virginia offers a 27% non-refundable, non-transferable income tax credit on all direct production expenditures. There’s a 4% bonus for resident labor.

Tax Exemptions
West Virginia also offers sales tax exemptions on direct-use purchases and rentals, as well as state and local tax exemptions on hotel stays in excess of 30 days.


WISCONSIN
Incentives Information: http://www.filmwisconsin.net/Incentives/WhatTheyAre.asp
Film office: http://www.filmwisconsin.org/

Scott Robbe, Executive Director
FILM WISCONSIN
"Where Art & Commerce Meet"
648 N. Plankinton Ave - Suite 425
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Office Phone: 414 287 4251
Mobile: 608 338 6665
Email: FilmWisconsin@gmail.com
Email: scottrobbe@gmail.com

Incentives:

Film Production Services Credit
Wisconsin offers a refundable income tax credit equal to 25% of in-state qualified production expenditures (not including wages). Also there’s a nonrefundable income tax credit equal to 25% of the first $25,000 in wages paid to residents for in-state service (not including the wages paid to the tow highest paid employees). Also there’s a nonrefundable income tax credit equal to the sales and use taxes paid on purchases of personal property and taxable services.

Film Production Investment Credit
Wisconsin offers an investment tax credit that can be claimed for investing in Wisconsin based productions. For the first three years of doing business in Wisconsin, the credit is equal to 15% of purchasing personal property and 15% to purchase or remodel real property.

A comprehensive sales and use tax exemption for machinery, equipment and services used in production and post -production. A 0% tax for all film and television services contracted by out of state production companies.


WYOMING
Incentive information: www.filmwyoming.com/incentive
Film office: http://www.wyomingfilm.org

Michelle Howard, Manager
Wyoming Film Office
1520 Etchepare Circle
Cheyenne, WY 82007
Phone: 307-777-3400
Toll Free: 800-458-6657
FAX: 307-777-2877
Email: info@wyomingfilm.com
Email: michell.howard@visitwyo.gov

Incentives:

Cash Rebate
Wyoming offers up to 15% cash rebate of qualified production costs. Minimum in-state spending is $500,000.

Lodging Tax Waiver
Wyoming waives the lodging tax for stay in excess of 30 days.


ARRANGED TO PREMIERE IN NEW YORK December 14.

Congratulations to our client filmmaker Stefan Schaefer whose feature Arranged opens Friday, Dec. 14that the Quad Cinema in Manhattan. Two young women — one an Orthodox Jew, the other Muslim — meet and become friends as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common, not least of which is that they are both going through arranged marriages.

For more info on the film, including the trailer, reviews go to: http://www.arrangedthemovie.com/

For info on the Quad Cinema, showtimes, and to purchase tickets in advance go to:
http://www.quadcinema.com

Stefan will be attending Q&A sessions with actors following the 7:30 shows on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 14thand 15th), as well as the Sunday showing at 3:00.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Jeff Goldblum's "Pittsburgh" Mockumentary Withstands Stagehand's Request for A Temporary Restraining Order

Stagehand Debbie Sue Croyle appeared briefly in Jeff Goldblum's "Pittsburgh" mockumentary. She sued claiming she did not sign a release and was humiliated by statements made by Goldblum in her brief scene.

Croyle asked for $4 million in damage as well as the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Croyle had agreed to sign the release in consideration for a monetary donation by the producers to a charity. One of the producers made such a donation on the day the lawsuit was filed.

Croyle argued that this was too late, but the defendants argued that no deadline was ever agreed upon. U.S. District Court Judge David Cercone denied the request for a TRO because he believed her lawsuit was unlikely to succeed. After viewing the scene, the judge was not persuaded she was likely to win a suit based on injury to her reputation.

The TRO would have forced the producers to delete the scene, stop selling DVDs, and prevent the film from being broadcast on television.



Film Producer Arrested for "Art Department Work" Done to Create Bogus Foreign Pre-Sale Distribution Agreements


Gary Hoswam has been arrested for bank fraud based on using bogus contracts with foreign sales distributors to borrow money.

The FBI alleges that Hoswam faked ten foreign pre-sale distribution agreements for the film "Going Back" in order to secure $4.8 million in loans from Comerica Bank. At the time, Hoswam was the CEO of Greenlight Films where he helped produce dozens of projects, including, "Global Heresy," "Ignition," and the TV show "The Tudors." In 1999 and 2000, Hoswam worked with Harel Goldstein of Hilltop Entertainment and another man to secure financing for six films. According to the FBI, false foreign pre-sale distribution contracts were created using whiteout and cutting and pasting information from genuine contracts. In 2007, Goldstein signed a plea agreement. He told the FBI that Howsam said some "art department work" would be necessary in the negotiations with Comerica. Goldstein later wore a wire to a meeting with Hoswam in order to gather evidence against him. Comerica has also filed a civil suit against Hoswam. Hoswam is out on a $500,000 bail and has been placed under house arrest in Los Angeles.

Fourth Circuit Court Affirms that Haute Diggity Dog May Continue to Sell "Chewy Vuitton" Line of Dog Products

Huate Diggity Dog (HDD) sells dog toys and dog beds that parody famous trademarks, including those of Louis Vuitton Malletier (LVM). HDD's products include "Chewy Vuitton," "Chewnel No. 5," "Furcedes," and "Sniffany & Co." The "Chewy Vuitton" products had interlocking letters similar to the LVM's famous trademark and also had colors similar to LVM products.

LVM sued HDD for trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and copyright violations. The District Court granted HDD's motion for summary judgment on all three theories resulting in the case being dismissed. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court's conclusions on all three counts. The Fourth Circuit adopted a different line of reasoning on the trademark dilution claim.

Both Courts agreed that the "Chewy Vuitton" products constituted a parody of LVM's products. Consumers would "recognize a humorous association with the Vuitton mark, without likely confusing" anyone that the product was an LVM product. The Courts also agreed that there was no copyright violation since HDD's use of copyright was a fair use and non-infringing. In addressing the trademark dilution issue, the District Court found that LVM had failed to state a cause of action because HDD's parody was not likely to dilute the LVM trademark.

The Fourth Circuit agreed with the conclusion, but differed in its reasoning. It found that because LVM's trademark was so strong and because HDD's products clearly and intentionally communicated that they are parodies, there is no basis for finding a dilution by blurring claim against HDD.

The opinion can be read at: http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/062267.P.pdf

ON LINE COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION BEGINS

Registration online is now possible for $35 as part of a beta test of the Copyright Office's web-based registration program. To participate, fill out the Request Form at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/beta-request.html.


RISKY BUSINESS COMES TO TUPELO


Mark will be bringing his one day Risky Business seminar to Tupelo, Mississippi on Friday, November 30, 2007. Those who attend this comprehensive all day seminar will learn how independent films are financed and distributed.

Topics include organizing your company, raising financing via pre-sales, debt and limited partnerships, negotiating tactics, principal terms of the acquisition/distribution agreement, cross-collateralization and creative accounting. Particular attention is paid to how producers and filmmakers can protect their interests by watering down warranties, getting added to the E& O policy, using lab access letter to retain possession of the negative, and utilizing termination and arbitration clauses.

This seminar is being organized by the Tupelo Mississippi Film Commission and is co-sponsored by Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau; Tupelo Film Commission; BancorpSouth; MS Film Office; MS Arts Commission; and Gardner-Watson Ice House. More info at: More info at: http://www.tupelo.net/filmfest/pages/MarkLitwak.html

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

RISKY BUSINESS COMES TO TUPELO

Mark will be bringing his one day Risky Business seminar to Tupelo, Mississippi on Friday, November 30, 2007.

Those who attend this comprehensive all day seminar will learn how independent films are financed and distributed.

Topics include organizing your company, raising financing via pre-sales, debt and limited partnerships, negotiating tactics, principal terms of the acquisition/distribution agreement, cross-collateralization and creative accounting. Particular attention is paid to how producers and filmmakers can protect their interests by watering down warranties, getting added to the E& O policy, using lab access letter to retain possession of the negative, and utilizing termination and arbitration clauses.

This seminar is being organized by the Tupelo Mississippi Film Commission and is co-sponsored by Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau; Tupelo Film Commission; BancorpSouth; MS Film Office; MS Arts Commission; and Gardner-Watson Ice House.

More info at: http://www.tupelo.net/filmfest/pages/MarkLitwak.html

Cost of the seminar is General - $65 • Attorneys - $175.00
Lunch is included. Attorneys receive

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON REGISTRATION AND SPECIAL EVENTS CALL 1-800-533-0611 or 662-841-6521or email prasberry@tupelo.net

Pennsylvania Changes its Film Incentives

Pennsylvania changed its film incentive program by passing Act 55 which creates the Creativity in Focus: The Pennsylvania Film Production Tax Credit Program, effective July 1. The new program provides a 25 percent film production tax credit for film production expenses incurred in the commonwealth.

The tax credit is available for feature films, television films, television pilots, episodes of a television series or commercials intended for national distribution. In order to qualify for the program, 60 percent of the total production expenses must be incurred in Pennsylvania. No more than $75 million per year can be awarded. Filmmakers interested in taking advantage of the tax credit program should contact the PA Film Office. More information is available at http://www.filminpa.com/.

Da Vinci Code Copyright Lawsuit Dismissed.

Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment against John Dunn, the Massachusetts author of “The Vatican Boys,” who claimed that Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code" infringed his copyright.

Writer John Dunn sought $400 million in damages from Dan Brown, his publisher and the three movie studios that distributed the motion picture based on Dan Brown’s book.

Dunn claimed numerous similarities between his novel and "The Da Vinci Code." He claimed they were similar in themes, characters, setting, storyline, plot points, and concept.

The defendants asserted that they never read Dunn's book before "The Da Vinci Code" was published, and that the two works were distinctly different.

Judge Posner noted the differences in many of the key characters, describing Dunn's attempt to liken the two central female characters as "absurd" and the villain in "The Da Vinci Code" with a character in Dunn's book as "patently ridiculous."

"Far from being similar the characters, plot devices, settings, pacing, tone and the theme of the two books are entirely different," the judge said in dismissing the case. Dunn v. Brown et al., No. 06-30134, 2007 WL 2828869 (D. Mass. Sept. 28, 2007). Intellectual Property Litigation Reporter, Volume 14, Issue 13 10/04/2007


GREETINGS FROM THE SHORE


Congratulations to our client filmmaker Greg Chwerchak whose film Greetings From The Shore premiered at the Montreal Film Festival. The movie is a coming-of-age romance starring an ensemble cast including David Fumero (“One Life to Live”), Paul Sorvino ("Goodfellas"), Jay O. Sanders ("Half Nelson"), and Kim Shaw in a debut performance.

The film has been added as a "Special Screening" to the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival on Fri, October 26, 2007.

Cuttin Da Mustard

Congratulations to the filmmakers behind Cuttin Da Mustard which was the closing night film of the Pan African Film Festival and winner of the Festival Choice Award for Best Feature.

The film was also shown at the Malibu Celebration of Film and The International Black Film Festival of Nashville. It will next be shown at the American Black Film Festival on October 26, 2007. The picture stars Brandon T. Jackson (Roll Bounce, host for Up Close and Personal Tour ), who is a lead in the $125 million dollar Dreamworks movie Tropic Thunder which also stars Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and Nick Nolte.

Cuttin Da Mustard also stars Keshia Knight Pulliam (Beauty Shop, The Gospel, The Cosby Show), Wesley Jonathan (Divine Intervention, Queen of Media, Steppin: The Movie), Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3, Tony Nominee for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Piano Lesson), Adrienne Bailon (The Cheetah Girls, The Cheetah Girls 2), Sinbad (Jingle All the Way, Houseguest, and First Kid), Kym Whitley (The Perfect Man, The Salon, Next Friday), Debra Wilson (City Girls, Scary Movie 4, Ice Age 2), Chico Benymon (Ali), and Lil’ Zane (Finding Forrester, Dr. Dolittle 2). The Picture was directed by Reed R. McCants, and produced by Neema Barnette, Daisy Lawrence and Thomas Karl.


10th Annual Method FEST set for March 27 - April 3, 2008 in Calabasas, Calif

The 10th anniversary The Method Fest independent film festival, coming off the success of opening night film, "Waitress," has set its 2008 dates for March 27 - April 3, 2008 in Calabasas, Calif. The Method Fest also had several other recently released films including "Jimbabyne," "Lonely Hearts," and "Fido," plus others including "Black Irish" with upcoming release dates.
The Method Fest, the only film festival in the U.S. that puts its focus on acting, is looking for character and story-driven films featuring strong performances.

The Method Fest features American and international feature films and short films and is named after "The Method" school of acting, which revolutionized the approach in acting, particularly in film.

Deadlines for film submissions for the 10th annual The Method Fest are December 15 (early) and January 31, 2008 (late deadline). Entry fees are $40 (early) and $50 (late) for features; $30 (early) and $40 (late) for short films; student entries are $25. Screen formats accepted are 35 mm, BetaCam SP, DigiBetaCam and HDCam.

For film submission information call (310) 535-9230 or visit the festival web site at http://www.methodfest.com/ You can also register through http://www.withoutabox.com/

Monday, September 03, 2007

ANOTHER BORAT LAWSUIT

Ellen Johnston, a worshipper portrayed in a crowd at a church meeting claims the producers of the 20th Century Fox motion picture "Borat" deceived her into believing that she was participating in a religious documentary. She has asked a federal court to let her proceed with her invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the producers of the film. She says she never signed a release to appear in the film, and that the producers invaded her privacy by filming her without her consent while praising the Lord. In the scene, Sacha Baron Cohen's character pretends to speak in tongues.

"She is not identified by name, does not speak on film and is seen doing what several others in the same scene are doing," according to the producers. "The plaintiff was aware the meeting was being filmed and does not claim that her image, as it appears in the film, is altered in any way." Johnston, however, says the filming took place in an interior setting where she had an "expectation" of privacy.

The case raises some interesting issues. A person's right to privacy has to be balanced against others’ First Amendment rights to freely express themselves. Filmmakers and journalists can generally film subjects in open public view without their permission. However, if Mike Wallace and his "60 Minutes" camera crew, for example, placed a hidden camera in a department store dressing room that would be considered an invasion of privacy. In this situation the subjects would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The defendants had asked the court to dismiss the suit in June, asserting that the Plaintiff did not have a valid cause of action. The suit seeks $100,000 in compensatory and $500,000 in punitive damages. Johnston v. One America Productions Inc. et al., No. 07-42, response filed (N.D. Miss., Delta Div. July 3, 2007).

This is the second time the producers have been sued by subjects portrayed in the film. Last year two fraternity brothers from the University of South Carolina filed a lawsuit alleging that they were duped into making racist and sexist remarks. They asked for an injunction stopping the DVD release of the film. The court denied the request. Doe v. One Am. Prods., No. SC091723, motion denied (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles County Dec. 11, 2006).


ICM AGENT ED LIMATO FREE TO DEPART

Legendary talent agent Ed Limato has prevailed in JAMS arbitration proceeding freeing him from his contract with ICM and permitting him to take his clients with him.

Limato worked for ICM for several decades and has represented top drawer stars like Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn, Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere and Steve Martin. Limato's attorney argued that the ICM employment contract violated the California labor law section 2855 which limits personal services to no more than seven years.

Actress Olivia de Havilland was one of the first to contest long term contracts after she declined to accept the parts offered to her. Consequently, Warner Bros. suspended her and extended her contract beyond seven years. When her seven-year contract expired, the studio claimed she was still under contract because of the suspensions. The court ruled in her favor, reducing the power the studios had exercised over performers. This ruling was an important factor in increasing the clout of actors and their agents. De Haviland v. Warner Bros. Pictures, 67 Cal. App. 2d 225, 153 P. 2d 983 (1944).


NEW WEBSITE UPDATES

We have added new sections on forming your company with checklists and chart comparing the differences between corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships. http://www.marklitwak.com/resources/

Friday, July 27, 2007

FANTASY SPORTS LEAGUES NOT GAMBLING

In a recent court decision, U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh ruled that payments for entry fees to participate in ESPN’s premium fantasy sports league are not wagers or bets, and thus does not constitute illegal gambling.

A fantasy sport is a game where fantasy owners build a team that competes against other fantasy owners based on the statistics generated by individual players or teams of a professional sport. In more competitive fantasy sports leagues, participants pay a fee to sign up or “purchase” a team, and prizes are awarded to winning teams’ managers at the end of the season.

Agreeing with the defendant, Viacom Inc., Judge Cavanaugh held “entry fees do not constitute bets or wagers where they are paid unconditionally for the privilege of participating in a contest, and the prize is for an amount…that is guaranteed to be won by one of the contestants.”

Moreover, “courts throughout the country have long recognized that it would be patently absurd to hold that the combination of an entry fee and a prize equals gambling.” Under such a definition, scores of normal contests would be considered unlawful gambling.

Cavanaugh noted that “the element of risk necessary to constitute betting or wagering is missing.” It is estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that 16 million adults in the U.S., from the ages 18 to 55, play fantasy sports. Humphrey v. Viacom Inc. et al., No. 06-2768 WL 1797648 (D. N.J. June 20, 2007).

UPDATES TO WEBSITE


Our website, Entertainment Law Resources (www.marklitwak.com) has been updated with additional checklists for Errors and Omissions insurance, Corporate and LLC formation, template lab access letter, sample producer delivery list and other information.

MAN COULD GET UP TO 3 YEARS IN PRISON FOR POSTING PIRATED TV EPISODES

A criminal complaint handed down in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California could send a 24 year old Chicago man to prison for three years for uploading to the Internet pirated episodes of the television series “24.” The episodes were uploaded to LiveDigital.com almost a week before their premiere.

Producer Twentieth Century Fox issued a statement thanking federal prosecutors for investigating the matter. United States v. Romero, No. 07-848, complaint filed (C.D. Cal. June 1, 2007).

METHOD FEST 10TH ANNIVERSARY


The 10th annual Method Fest independent film festival is currently accepting entries for the 2008 festival, March 27 – April 3, in Calabasas, Calif. The Method Fest is dedicated to showcasing breakout acting performances in story and character-driven independent feature and short films.

In only 9 years The Method fest has launched over 85 films into the marketplace (theatrical releases, DVD/video distribution, and TV deals). The submission deadlines are: Early Deadline - December 15, 2007; Late Entry Deadline – January 31, 2008. You can contact Method Fest at www.methodfest.com or call them at (310) 535-9230.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

SOUTH CENTRAL FARM DOCUMENTARY SEEKS COMPLETION FUNDS

Congratulations to our client, Sheila A. Laffey, President of Echo Mountain Productions on the completion of principal photography on her new documentary South Central Farm which tells the heartbreaking true story of the plight of a community of poor urban farmers and their supporters in South Central Los Angeles.

Given a barren plot of vacant land, after the L.A. riots in Watts, this group of dedicated individuals and families turned a concrete desert into an urban oasis. They created the largest urban garden in the country that fed a community of 350 families in need, as well as those who visited their markets, and sheltered birds and other wildlife, only to have it taken away from them and destroyed. The issue remains in the courts.

The film examines the environmental, health and social advantages of urban farms, their ability to create safe, sustainable environments for families, and produce nutritious and plentiful food sources to inner city communities in greatest need, as well as to many visitors. Social and cultural benefits shown include multi-generational and ethnic dynamics, spontaneous learning situations, free child care, mentoring and fostering of indigenous values of the commons and land stewardship. Environmental benefits include diversification of the seed bank, re-charging of the local aquifer, less urban runoff and cleaner air.

The film focuses on people growing their own source of food at the farm, as well as celebrity tree sitters such as Daryl Hannah, Joan Baez and Julia Butterfly Hill, and other supporters such as Martin Sheen and Willie Nelson who brought international attention to the issue. Supporters include Bonnie Raitt, Jodie Evans and James Cromwell and Environmental Media Fund.

Additional completion funding is needed to meet the distribution deadline of July 1 for the Natural Heroes PBS series which wants to air the film in its upcoming third season if the film is completed by July 1.

The International Documentary Association (IDA) is the fiscal sponsor of the Documentary. Donations over $200 that donors wish to be tax deductible can be mad payable to IDA and sent to Echo Mountain Productions for forwarding to IDA. IDA will send a letter to donors acknowledging the not for profit donation. Donations under $200 or donations for more that do not need to be tax deductible can by made payable and sent to Echo Mountain Productions, 1301 17th St., #101, Santa Monica, CA 90404. A trailer and budget are available upon request. For more info contact Sheila at 310-45304272; echoprod@adelphia.net.

BORROWING AGAINST PRE-SALE AGREEMENTS

One method that independents have used to finance films is to borrow the money to produce the film by using pre-sale agreements as collateral.

In a pre-sale agreement, a buyer licenses or pre-buys movie distribution rights for a territory before the film has been produced. The deal works something like this: Filmmaker Henry, or his sales agent, approaches Distributor Juan to sign a contract to buy the right to distribute Henry's next film. Henry gives Juan a copy of the script and tells him the names of the principal cast members.

Juan has distributed several of Henry's films in the past. He paid $50,000 for the right to distribute Henry's last film in Spain. The film did reasonably well and Juan feels confident, based on Henry's track record, the script, and the proposed cast, that his next film should also do well in Spain. Juan is willing to license Henry's next film sight unseen before it has been produced. By buying distribution rights to the film now, Juan is obtaining an advantage over competitors who might bid for it. Moreover, Juan may be able to negotiate a lower license fee than what he would pay if the film were sold on the open market. So Juan signs a contract agreeing to buy Spanish distribution rights to the film. Juan does not have to pay (except if a deposit is required) until completion and delivery of the film to him.

Henry now takes this contract, and a dozen similar contracts with buyers to the bank. Henry asks the bank to lend him money to make the movie with the distribution contracts as collateral. Henry is "banking the paper." The bank will not lend Henry the full face value of the contracts, but instead will discount the paper and lend a smaller sum. So if the contracts provide for a cumulative total of $1,000,000 in license fees, the bank might lend Henry $800,000.

Henry uses the loan from the bank to produce his film. When the movie is completed, he delivers it to the companies that have already licensed it. They in turn pay their license fees to Henry's bank to retire Henry's loan. The bank receives repayment of its loan plus interest. The buyers receive the right to distribute the film in their territory. Henry can now license the film in territories that remain unsold. From these revenues Henry makes his profit.

Juan's commitment to purchase the film must be unequivocal, and his company financially secure, so that a bank is willing to lend Henry money on the strength of Juan's promise and ability to pay. If the contract merely states that the buyer will review and consider purchasing the film, this commitment is not strong enough to borrow against. Banks want to be assured that the buyer will accept delivery of the film as long as it meets certain technical standards, even if artistically the film is a disappointment. The bank will also want to know that Juan's company is fiscally solid and likely to be in business when it comes time for it to pay the license fee. If Juan's company has been in business for many years, and if the company has substantial assets on its balance sheet, the bank will usually lend against the contract.

In some circumstances banks are willing lend more than the face value of the contracts. This is called gap financing, and since the bank is assuming a greater risk of not being repaid its loan, higher fees are charged. Gap financing is helpful if the filmmaker is unable to secure enough pre-sales to cover the loan. The bank lends more than the amount of pre-sales based on its belief that the gap will be covered when unsold territories are licensed. Before agreeing to supply gap financing, the bank will carefully review the existing pre-sales, and extrapolate from those sales an estimate as to what other territories might fetch. The estimate is based on the bank's experience that a film licensed to Italy for $150,000, usually fetches $100,000 in Spain. Of course, there is no guarantee that when the film is completed that a Spanish buyer will license the film, so the Bank wants to see projected revenue that is at least twice the amount of any gap. This ensures that even if some territories remain unsold, the gap is likely to be covered. Moreover, the bank will rely on the reputation and track record of the sales agent and/or producer in judging whether these estimates are realistic. Banks may decline to lend funds based on projections from a sales agent with a history of overly optimistic projections.

The bank often insists on a completion bond to ensure that the filmmaker has sufficient funds to finish the film. Banks are not willing to take much risk. They know that Juan's commitment to buy Henry's film is contingent on delivery of a completed film. But what if Henry goes over budget and cannot finish the film? If Henry doesn't deliver the film, Juan is not obligated to pay for it, and the bank is not repaid its loan.

To avoid this risk, the bank wants a completion guarantor, a type of insurance company, to agree to put up any money needed to complete the film should it go over budget. Before issuing a bond , a completion guarantor will carefully review the proposed budget and the track record of key production personnel. Unless the completion guarantor is confident that the film can be brought in on budget, no completion bond will issue.

First-time filmmakers may find it difficult to finance their films based on pre-sales. With no track record of successful films to their credit, they may not be able to persuade a distributor to pre-buy their work. How does the distributor know that the filmmaker can produce something their audiences will want to see? Of course, if the other elements are strong, the distributor may be persuaded to take that risk. For example, even though the filmmaker may be a first-timer, if the script is from an acclaimed writer, and several big name actors will participate, the overall package may be attractive.

Nowadays it is very difficult to finance a film completely through pre-sales. There are many completed films available for acquisition, and a distributor needs a compelling reason to take the extra risk present when one licenses a film that does not yet exist. There is much less risk in licensing a film that has been completed, because you know exactly what you are buying even if you don't know how popular it will be with the public. Consequently, independent films today are often financed with a combination of pre-sales, equity investors and various production incentives offered by states and nations. This article is based on an excerpt from Risky Business, Financing and Distributing Independent Films, by Mark Litwak, published by Silman-James Press (2004).

REGISTERING YOUR SCRIPT OR FILM WITH THE COPYRIGHT OFFICE

If the motion picture is finished, you should register it and the underlying script by sending in Form PA with a cassette of the finished film and an attached synopsis describing the film. If you are still at the script stage, you can register the script now and register the film when complete.
In either case, closely follow the instructions on Form PA. The following guide addresses those sections that applicants often find confusing when registering scripts or motion pictures. Remember to complete all applicable sections of the form, not just those discussed below.

Registering a Script

Under #1, Nature Of This Work, you could write "Screenplay for Motion Picture."

Under #2, "Name of Author": Note that if a screenplay has been written for you or your company, in other words, if you hired someone to write the screenplay, then it may be a work-made-for-hire. In this case, you or your company is the copyright holder and should be listed under "Name of Author."

On the other hand, if a writer has created the screenplay on his own, and he is then selling it to you, the writer would be the author. If this writer has already registered their script with the Copyright Office, you should not register it again, but merely record the transfer (assignment) of the copyright to you. The copyright should be assigned to you or your company with a written contract, and a short form copyright assignment recorded with the Copyright Office.

Under "Nature of Authorship," you should give a brief general description of the author's contribution to the work. If the author wrote the entire script you might write: "Entire Text." If you are claiming copyright to something less than the entire script, describe your contribution, for example, "Editorial Revisions."

Registering a Completed Film

Under #1, "Nature of This Work," write: "Motion Picture."

Under #2, "Name of Author": Usually this will be the name of the Production Company or entity that hired everybody who made the motion picture. If this is project was entirely a work made for hire, check "Yes" under "Was this contribution to the work a 'work made for hire'."

Under "Nature of Authorship," write in "Screenplay and adaptation as motion picture."
If this motion picture was not at all a work for hire, fill in the name of the person(s) who made the motion picture, and check "No" under "Was this contribution to the work a 'work made for hire'."

Under "Nature of Authorship," write in "Screenplay and adaptation as motion picture."
If this motion picture was partly a work for hire, and partly not, you'll need to fill in a space for each part. For example, if your production company made the motion picture as a work for hire but bought a completed screenplay from a writer who was its author, then you would fill out two spaces:

In one space, you could fill in the writer's name as author, check NO under to the question of whether it was a "work made for hire," and fill in "Screenplay" or "Script" in "Nature of Authorship."

In another space, you could fill in the production company's name, check YES indicating it is a "work made for hire," and fill in "All other cinematographic material" under Nature of Authorship."

Under section 5, if the motion picture contains a substantial amount of previously registered material, answer "Yes," to the first question and check the box indicating the reason for this registration. Include the registration number and year of the previously registered material.
Fill out #6a & b only if the work has a significant amount of previously registered, previously published, or public domain material.

Under #6a, "Derivative Work or Compilation," you could write in "Previously registered screenplay."

Under #6b, "Material Added to This Work," write "Motion Picture."
You are required to deposit a copy of your film within 3 months of publication. If you do not, you may be subject to fines and penalties.

In General

Complete #4, "Copyright Claimants," even if the Claimant is the same as the Author. The Claimant is the person or company that has legally acquired the copyright. It will be either the Author or the entity to which the copyright has been transferred. When the Claimant is not the Author, you need to describe under "Transfer" how the copyright was obtained by the Claimant. You could state, for example, "by written assignment."

Don't forget to include a copy of your script or film when you send in your registration form.You need to sign Form PA and send it in with a check for $45 payable to "Register of Copyrights." Retain a photocopy of everything you send the Copyright Office including the completed Form PA and your cover letter. It is a good idea to send your package by certified mail.

If you would like to put your attorney's name under "Correspondence" so that he/she can answer any questions the Copyright Office may have, you may do so. In this event, you should send your attorney a photocopy of the form and your cover letter so he/she will have a record of what you have submitted.

Mail to:Library of CongressCopyright Office101 Independence Ave., S.E. Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

Copyright circulars and forms are available from the Forms and Publications Hotline, (202) 707-9100 (leave a recorded message requesting the documents you want mailed to you), or on the Copyright Office website, http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=afuwkbcab.0.yun9mbcab.8f8tz4bab.630&ts=S0261&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.copyright.gov%2F. The website also offers extensive copyright information. Circular 45 specifically addresses copyright registration for motion pictures. To speak to an information specialist, call (202) 707-3000.