Hollywood is the name you probably associate with film and filmmaking, and for good reason. The industry magnates are all based there, and a majority of blockbuster films are created in Hollywood studios.
But originally, when D.W. Griffith first moved to Hollywood in 1910 to try and create an industry, it was the tax breaks he was after. Financial leniency by the state government was then and is now an incredibly important factor in where films are shot, and therefore, very influential in which films are made at all.
These days, a lot of domestic films are still filmed in Hollywood. California does provide large tax breaks and other financial incentives for films to be made there. But there are a few states that are surprise darlings of filmmakers looking to shoot on a budget, and you’d be surprised how many of your favorites were shot in these under the radar states. Here are five places you might not have considered film capitals, and some of their claims to fame.
Pennsylvania offers a generous tax benefit program that provides up to 20% in kickbacks from the government. Pittsburgh is a very popular spot for filmmaking. The following classics had locations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area: The Silence of the Lambs, Wonder Boys, The Deer Hunter, Night of the Living Dead, Angels in the Outfield, Dogma.
Massachusetts is a surprising hotspot for film shots. Its proximity to New York City may have something to do with it, but it also gives great financial benefits, including 25% credit that can be redeemed from the state at 90%. Some Massachusetts classics: Jaws, Glory, Malcolm X, Field of Dreams, The Departed.
Michigan may be the biggest surprise of the list, but it is the site of quite a large number of film shoots annually. This is mostly due to an incredible 42% tax exemption for films made in the state. Movie gems from Michigan include: RoboCop, True Romance, Anatomy of a Murder, Road to Perdition.
Louisiana offers a multitude of incentives and tax breaks for filmmakers. Some great films shot in Louisiana include: Easy Rider, JFK, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Miller’s Crossing.
Is it fair that huge movie magnates are receiving so much love from the government? It depends on your political views and how much importance you place on domestic filming—if these incentives didn’t exist, it’s very likely the production companies would start looking overseas for film venues. There is also a compelling argument in favor of the economic stimuli derived from the production of films in the U.S. On their website, the Motion Picture Association of America details how thousands of jobs and millions of dollars are in fact generated for the state from the production of film and television within its borders.
It doesn’t appear that these tax breaks will be going anywhere anytime soon either. In the fiscal deal agreed to at the beginning of 2013, the Hollywood tax breaks were renewed. What does this mean for you as a taxpayer? Again, it depends on how you look at it—and this issue, like most, is stubbornly political. What does it mean for you as a moviegoer? It’s probably good news, unless you wouldn’t mind the shark in Jaws emerging from the depths of the Bay of Thailand or Field of Dreams being shot on a cornfield in Eastern Russia.
Some would argue that these tax breaks place an unfair burden on average taxpayers. What’s your opinion?
Kate Simmons is a blogger writing on behalf of Wallace and Associates, a tax consulting and accounting group based in Encino, CA.