CA Commercial Tax Credit Bill Still Alive in Sacramento

The Association of International Commercial Producers (AICP) has updated its membership about efforts to pass SB 370, the Golden State Commercial Tax Credit Program. After meeting with members of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee in Sacramento, the organization remains confident that commercial production is recognized by lawmakers “as a statewide economic generator of revenue and employment for California.”

One remaining impediment to passing commercial tax credit legislation is the question of where the money would come from. Proponents are seeking $15 million in annual funding for the credit program. There are three possibilities for obtaining those funds:

  1. Take the $15 million out of the existing $100 million already allocated to the film tax credit. This is the least likely to fly in Sacramento or Hollywood, as it would tap the already limited funds available to productions seeking the film tax credit.
  2. Add $15 million to the $100 million cap, and roll the two credit programs together.
  3. Find a separate funding source for the $15 million, and make the commercial tax credit a standalone program.

Based on talks with the senate committee, the AICP has identified the third option as the way to move forward, having agreed with labor unions and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) “to seek a standalone tax credit that reflects the unique business model and nature of our industry.”

To bolster its case, the AICP is seeking letters of support for SB 370 from member companies. Forty-three member companies submitted letters that helped get the legislation written initially; the association says additional submissions will help strengthen the economic argument for a commercial tax credit in California. Particularly of interest are anecdotes about commercial production that has been taken out of state due to tax credits elsewhere.

The AICP has provided a draft letter here. If you want to submit a letter, you can print it on company letterhead and send it to:

The Honorable Ted Lieu
State Capitol, Room 4061
Sacramento, CA 95814

The association also requests that you send a PDF copy of letters to davidp@aicp.com.

SAG-AFTRA Reaches Commercial Pact with Industry

Following over 7 weeks of talks, SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee reached a tentative agreement Saturday on terms for successor agreements to the television and radio commercials contracts. The deal is subject to approval by the SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors later this month, then a ratification vote by the membership.

“These contracts provide our members with the solid foundation they need to sustain their careers and families,” said SAG-AFTRA National Co-President and Negotiating Committee National Chair Roberta Reardon. “I am very grateful to our negotiating committee which came together and worked as one to ensure a strong contract for their sisters and brothers who work in the commercials area.”

“These negotiations have been a positive and productive continuation of our longtime partnership with commercial performers and their representatives,” said Douglas J. Wood, lead negotiator for the Joint Policy Committee which represents ad agencies and national advertisers. “I am pleased to have achieved these important industry gains in key areas and I want to thank my colleague and JPC Counsel Stacy Marcus and the other members of our negotiating team.”

The formal talks, which wrapped up in the early-morning hours of Saturday, April 6 in New York, had begun February 14. Though SAG and AFTRA just merged one year ago, they have traditionally negotiated the commercials agreement side by side.

SAG-AFTRA said no details would be released until the National Board of Directors’ review at their April 20-21 meeting.

5 Things You Need To Know When Hiring a Camera Crew

Camera CrewSeasoned HD video producers know that the best way to ensure a successful shoot is to surround themselves with a reliable, experienced freelance camera crew. But hiring camera crews for productions locally or internationally can be a challenge, with shrinking production budgets and timeframes, plus more competition than ever for top end talent behind the camera.

So how do you find and secure the best camera crew for your projects, time and again? Here are a few basic tips for hiring a camera crew for your next project.

  1. Get a Reference or Three. Ask potential camera crew members not only for a demo of their work, but for references from their last three clients. You’ll want to be assured that the crew you choose are not only creatively and technically competent, but are professional in every aspect of their service – including communications and client interaction.
  2. Hire Locally. If you’re shooting overseas, recognize the inherent issues with time zones, cultures, and the speed of doing business. We often think about travel and working conditions only in the context of what we experience in our own town or country. But each location has its own set of challenges. Getting from here to there looks simple on a map, but can take far more time on mountain roads versus superhighways. Getting shooting permits is a little trickier in Morocco than in Michigan. A well-vetted local camera crew that knows the terrain, permitting regulations and local customs is a must.
  3. You Get What You Pay For. Budget worst case scenario for freelance camera crew rates. Freelance camera crews are working for different producers each day at rates that are sometimes determined by program complexity, length of assignment, and their own availability and interest. While you want to get the best value from the freelancers you choose, don’t tie your hands in the budget stage by lowballing rates.
  4. Happy Crew, Happy You. Treat your crews well on the job. Make sure that you plan for breaks and meals during your shoot – especially if you are shooting on a long day or in difficult circumstances. A happy, well-fed camera crew is a productive camera crew! And a crew that is happy with their last work with you will be happy to return for your next project…and perhaps at a favorable rate!
  5. Safety First, Second and Last. Always be safe, and make sure your camera crew is safe as well. Make certain that your crew have the appropriate safety equipment that may be required by the environment. If you’re shooting in a construction site, steel-toed boots can save a foot. And be sure to know ahead of time where the nearest medical facility can be found.

These basic tips can help get you on the right track with hiring a camera crew on your next project. As with other elements in the production cycle, it’s your choice as to how much time to devote to finding a crew, whether to turn over this job to a production manager, or to utilize a crew booking service like Media Services Camera Crews Worldwide. Often, getting the best camera crews can be a combination of all of the above. But it always starts with careful and comprehensive planning by producers on just what level of talent they need to make their show sparkle.

For more information about booking camera crews in locations worldwide, please visit mediaservices.com/crews.

Cinematic Innovation Gets Its Due

The world’s first large-scale summit dedicated to the future of movie technology will kick off in December ahead of the Dubai International Film Festival. The debut of the Cinematic Innovation Summit will be hosted by the DIFF, the Center for New Cinema and business information firm naseba, and will feature some Hollywood heavy hitters. X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Pixar co-founder Alvy Ray Smith and How to Train Your Dragon director Dean DeBlois are reported to be on board, along with some of the top names in cinema tech.

Cinematic Innovation Summit

The summit aims to provide a glimpse into future technology in a variety of entertainment sectors, including movies, advertising, gaming and telecommunications. The focus of the inaugural event will be innovations planned for the next 10 to 20 years. Some of the categories touched upon will be artificial intelligence, cognitive science, game-style interactivity between audiences and characters, improved 3D projections and “augmented reality,” which organizers say will make viewers feel they are inside the world of the movies they’re seeing.

“Today, more than ever before, cinema and the entire media ecosystem are being transformed by ground-breaking innovations in technology,” said DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma. “Providing access to powerful new tools for storytelling is crucial to the achievement of our ultimate goal – enabling talent and films to find critical and commercial success.”

The Cinematic Innovation Summit will run December 8-9, leading into the Dubai International Film Festival December 9-16.

Times Square Signs Sync Up Tonight

Times SquareThe ambitious video-art sync project “Times Square Moment: A Digital Gallery” will kick off tonight at the crossroads of the world, as sign owners coordinate to simultaneously display video portraits over digital displays encompassing tens of thousands of combined square feet.

Put together by the Times Square Advertising Coalition and Times Square Alliance, the project will feature a different display each month. For the month of May the signs will spotlight the international touring exhibition Robert Wilson Video Portraits, which the artist compiled from footage of various actors, artists, athletes and animals, with limited movement and sound accompaniment.

At 11:57 p.m. tonight and every night for the rest of the month, participating signs will run the display for three minutes. A preview last month displayed an edited version of the film Big Bang 01 by London based artist Ori Gersht.

“The scale is well beyond what I have reached with this work,” said video portrait artist Wilson. “The video portraits will act as a window from Times Square into the personal, poetic statements of the different personalities represented.

“New York City has been home for most of my adult life, although for the past 40 years my work has been seen mostly outside of the U.S.  It is great to have this work shown at home,” he added.

The project will make history with the largest square footage donation of electronic signage ever achieved… and incorporating some of the most valuable advertising spaces in the world. Campaigns on the Nasdaq and Thomson Reuters signs, for example, can run into seven figures.

“This program is a reminder of the uniqueness of Times Square signage as well as our commitment to constantly reinventing the Times Square experience so it is distinctive and memorable,” said Alan High, Chairman of TSAC and President & General Manager of the Clear Channel’s Spectacolor and Malls divisions.

Digital screens expected to participate this month are ABC Super Sign, American Eagle, Bank of America, Disney Store LED Screen, Doubletree Sign, JVC Screen, MTV Video Screen, NASDAQ, NASDAQ Marquee, Spectacolor HD129 Times Square Visitor Center Marque, Spectacolor HD 128, Spectacolor HD 127 CNN Screen, Times Square Visitor Center lobby screens, Viacom Building Northeast and Southeast (SL Green Realty and Orange Barrel Media) and Thomson Reuters.

More information about the program can be found here.

NY Commercial Tax Credit Extended Through 2015

Statue of LibertyThe AICP has announced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approval of a three-year extension to the Empire State Commercial Production Tax Credit. The extended credit, which appears to have been made retroactive to January 1 of this year, will run through 2015. Launched in 2007, the program as led to a net 3% increase in commercial production activity in the state, according to the AICP. The extension was included in Cuomo’s state budget bill, agreement on which was reached Tuesday.

“It’s an honest, straightforward document that exhibits the fiscal discipline and fiscal integrity that we’ve been talking about,” said Cuomo of the agreed-upon budget. “It also evidences the priorities we’ve been talking about. It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs; it’s all about economic development.”

The program’s renewal maintains the full $7 million a year funding that producers have come to depend on. The legislature made some minor modifications to this year’s bill, including increasing the amount eligible to companies with productions in upstate New York. Additionally, flexibility has been established between the upstate credit and growth credit in years when the growth pool has a higher demand, and the upstate credit is undersubscribed; providing interchangeability of the pools so unused funds are no longer lost.

According to the AICP, the program is divided into three available pools:

• Downstate jobs credit: Provides $3 million annually to eligible commercial production companies whose principal place of business is within the metropolitan commuter transportation district. The credit is 5% of the total production costs exceeding $500,000 and is distributed on a first come, first serve basis.

Upstate jobs credit: Provides $3 million annually to eligible commercial production companies whose principal place of business is outside the metropolitan commuter transportation district. The credit is 5% of the total production costs that exceed $200,000 and is distributed on a first come, first serve basis. This pool had a previous annual allocation of $1 million.

Growth credit: Provides $1 million annually to all eligible commercial production companies and allows eligible companies to receive a 20% credit on the difference between the total qualified production costs of the current calendar year that are greater than the total amount of production costs of the preceding calendar year. This pool had a previous annual allocation of $3 million.

“I applaud the ongoing support of the commercials business in the State of New York,” said AICP President and CEO Matt Miller. “The unwavering support of the legislature and the Governor for our business – and to the employment of New Yorkers – illustrates their appreciation of the economic impact that our sector has on the state’s economy.”

He went on to acknowledge State Senator Marty Golden of Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Joe Morelle of Rochester, who both introduced legislation in their respective legislative branches, in case the extension was not worked out in the state budget.

The AICP presented 2009 as a sample year, showcasing the dollars and jobs that participating production companies brought to the state via the tax credit:

• 458 projects filmed in New York
• Over $101 million spent in-state by participating companies
• Average total in-state spend per company was $3.4 million
• Over 15,000 jobs generated
• Over 45,000 employment days (1,690 per company) and over 548,000 hours of work

Free Form Now Available for California WTPA Compliance

In an ongoing effort to provide the most comprehensive production management resources available, Media Services has published a sample CA WTPA Form for employers to use in order to be in compliance with the new California Wage Theft Prevention Act. This PDF form is free to everyone – no registration required.

As detailed in a previous post, as of January 1, California Labor Code Section 2810.5 requires employers to provide each non-exempt employee at the time of hire with a written notice indicating rate or rates of pay, basis for pay rate (e.g. per hour, shift, day, week, piece, etc), regular pay day and other information. Employees working under a collective bargaining agreement are not covered under the legislation, provided they earn at least 30% more than the state’s minimum wage.

Media Services will provide its payroll clients with printed triplicate notice forms, free of charge. In addition, the company is holding its second live webinar on the subject January 10 at 11am PST/ 2pm EST. Register here to reserve your spot.

Massachusetts Production Coalition President Joe Maiella Named Imaginnaire 2012

Photo of Joe MaiellaMedia Services VP of Sales & Crew Booking Joe Maiella has been selected as one of four 2012 Imaginnaires, a distinction bestowed by Imagine News each year. As current president and a founding board member of the Massachusetts Production Coalition, Maiella is intricately involved with the production community in New England. Imagine will recognize his contribution at their gala New Year Celebration on January 10 in Boston.

The Massachusetts Production Coalition represents a diverse group of production-related businesses throughout the state, and also has a union presence with board members from IATSE, SAG and AFTRA. The group was instrumental in working with the legislature and governor to pass Massachusett’s film tax credit four years ago. Though tax credits of all stripes have come under fire across the country in recent years due to state budget cuts, the Massachusetts incentives are credited with creating thousands of jobs and bringing a wave of new productions to the Commonwealth. The MPC is a chief advocate for the tax credit program across the state.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award, particularly alongside such an esteemed group of fellow Imaginnaires,” said Maiella. “Achieving this recognition would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the MPC board of directors, past and present, and the countless contributions from those within our production community who share our passion for advancing our profession and the production industry in Massachusetts.”

“Joe Maiella supports and gives back his rich and creative ideas to the film, television and new media production community in New England,” said Imagine publisher Carol Patton. “We wanted to express our appreciation for Joe’s continued leadership and support of this industry and the Massachusetts Film Tax Incentive program, which he has been called upon to extol and defend in our regional mainstream media.”

The other Imaginnaires for 2012 are:

  • Dan Bérubé:  Co-producer of Final Cut Pro User Group and SuperMeets
  • Marianne Leone: Actor, writer, industry activist; seen next in The Three Stooges.
  • Rex Trailer: TV pioneer and beloved host of Boston’s “Boomtown” from 1956-1974; Emerson college professor

Imagine News puts out a regular publication focused on film, TV and new media production in the Northeast. The gala New Year Celebration is held on the second Tuesday in January each year.

Media Services Crew Booking division, headed up by Maiella, connects producers and corporate media departments with qualified crew and gear all over the world.

Free Storyboarding Guide Released

Storyboard Sample
One of Jennifer’s samples.

While most filmmakers and professional storyboard artists these days use software such as FrameForge or StoryBoard Artist to pre-visualize shot setups and camera moves, the basic principles behind effective storyboarding apply across all digital tools. To get to the heart of storyboarding fundamentals, Videomaker magazine has published a free report on the subject. The guide was written by working storyboard artist Jennifer Albright, who explains in layman’s terms the differences between shot types, how to indicate camera and actor movement, and how to keep to one side of the 180-degree line when storyboarding.

The guidebook PDF, entitled “How To Make a Storyboard: Movie Storyboarding Examples,” can be downloaded for free by registering to receive e-news on tips and training from Videomaker, a consumer magazine dedicated to independent video and videography. As the guide points out, being prepared with effective storyboards can significantly reduce labor costs and help filmmakers avoid going over budget. With a clear method of conveying the vision of the film to the crew, producers and directors are saved from wordy explanations and “frustrated hand gestures.”

Albright, an L.A.-based illustrator whose clients include Fox Sports Marketing, says you don’t need to be a Pixar-level illustrator to make great storyboards: “Even simple stick figures can give people a good idea of what your shot sequence will look like,” she writes. More important is that the shots be clear enough to be read and understood by your director of photography or lighting designer.

With the electronic storyboarding applications available today, once filmmakers are farther along in the preproduction process they are able to set lights and camera positions with the click of a mouse, with full tilting and panning capabilities. They can even set focal length limitations for specific lenses, and designate ceiling heights and other room dimensions to match the physical limitations on set.

For a limited time, Showbiz Store is offering FrameForge Previz Studio 3 Core for the special catalog price of $319.95 with Coupon Code CAT1104FF.

L.A. Filmmakers Get Tools To Create their Own Ads in Free One-Day Workshop

MOFILM is serving up a free, one-of-a-kind opportunity for budding filmmakers and commercial directors next weekend in Los Angeles. In a one-day workshop on Saturday November 12 and another on Sunday November 13, participants will be given all the materials they need to shoot and edit their own web video ad for a top-name brand partner. You’ve seen it done on “The Apprentice,” now come do it for yourself, and compete to win an HD camera. The workshops are free to friends of Showbiz, but only the first 100 to sign up will be able to attend.

There will be experts on hand at the workshop, not only to guide the participants but to judge the finished spots in a screening at the end of the day. Not only will winners receive HD cameras of their own, but the winning spot for all LA will score two tickets to the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, TX – complete with air, hotel and VIP treatment.

Judges at previous events have included the producers of Avatar, Iron Man and Pretty Woman. The event will be held at Showbiz Store & Cafe, and organized by USC and Chapman University Associate Prof. Frank Chindamo.

The name brand will be revealed on the day of each event. Participants will then be handed a brief, a camera and a laptop to get to work on their original spots.

Space is limited: only the first 100 to sign up will be admitted to the event. Register today for November 12 or November 13.

Takes place at: Showbiz Store & Cafe, 500 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles 90049

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