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Santa Clarita Simplifies Bureaucracy, Increases Incentive for Films

Sreamlined permitting process, additional refunds draw filming

Posted: August 27, 2013 4:00 p.m.
Updated: August 27, 2013 4:00 p.m.

Claiming another banner year for local filming days, Santa Clarita employs a simplified permitting process and offers city-exclusive incentives to pull productions into the area.

For the first time, more than 1,000 film days were recorded in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to the city of Santa Clarita’s film office.

Despite film production flight from the state of California, permits in the city dropped only 1 percent from the prior fiscal year. And Santa Clarita continues to set record numbers for film days and economic impact to the area.

Local film days jumped 18 percent from the last fiscal year, increasing from 909 to 1,069 days; however, fewer film permits were secured than the last fiscal year, decreasing from 372 to 368 permits.

Productions filming more days on one permit could account for the changes.

“We targeted TV filming because they bring in long-term, steady jobs, especially if the production stays for multiple seasons,” said Russell Sypowicz, economic development associate for the city.

Simplifying bureaucracy

Setting itself apart from other film offices, Santa Clarita’s office has a deliberate, effective philosophy on bureaucracy.

“We like to think of ourselves as part of the production team, rather than a hindrance,” Sypowicz said. “When people think of a permitting office, they think of a heavily bureaucratic process that makes them jump through hoops.”

Casting the hoops aside, Santa Clarita’s film office strives to simplify, streamline and discount the process to attract a busy industry that’s short on money and time.

“Like a one-stop shop, we process individual permits, review all production activities and coordinate with the proper channels,” Sypowicz said. “We arrange the proper safety personnel for the production, coordinating with the fire department and sheriff’s department for them, depending on need.”

Since the film office handles this instead of the production, the city can offer savings for productions, creating additional incentive. To date, productions have saved more than $100,000 on sheriff fees, according to the city’s film office.

Santa Clarita’s low permit fees are another attractive piece of the package.

For on-location filming, movie and TV permits are $446, and still photography permits are $107. When filming within the Movie Ranch Overlay Zone, permits drop to $143. When productions film at certified ranches, stages and studios, no permit is required by the city, Sypowicz said.

By comparison, Film L.A., Los Angeles County’s film office, prices permits at $625, citing the possibility of additional fees depending on production activities, according to the website.

Locally, the city’s film office spells out all allowed activities that accompany any permit issued – making it easier for production companies to plan, said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city.

The simple outline lets them know that the rules that exist today are the same rules that apply tomorrow and next week and all year, Crawford said.

Increasing incentives

Local industry experts have expressed discontent with the available incentives offered by California, citing production flight as a result. To stay competitive, the city has approved city-exclusive incentives.

Through the statewide film incentive program, California provides a 20 percent tax credit for a movie of the week, new TV series on basic cable and feature film with a budget between $1 to $75 million. A 25 percent tax credit is available for an independent film or TV series that relocates to California, according to Cast & Crew Entertainment Services.

Though there is no incentive cap per project, there is a $100 million state cap per fiscal year. In addition, California’s film incentive program is a lottery-based system.

Of all the projects approved for state tax credits, more than 22 percent were filmed in the Santa Clarita Valley. More than one quarter of the TV series approved for California tax credits were based in Santa Clarita, as well, according to the city’s film office.

Established in 2009, the Santa Clarita Film Incentive Program aims to retain and increase local feature and TV production by subsidizing permit fees, in addition to reducing costs of safety personnel. The current program allocates $50,000 a year to help subsidize basic film permit fees for locally based, recurring and state-credit-approved productions, along with partial refunds on hotel taxes, Sypowicz said.

Productions eligible for the incentives include feature films, TV series, TV movies, miniseries, commercials and music videos.

To date, the city has provided refunds for more than 40 different production companies. In addition, on-location productions that took advantage of the refunds have generated more than $35 million in economic benefit to the community, according to the city’s film office.

“We hope to provide another motivation to film in SCV versus a neighboring community,” Sypowicz said.



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