South-East US States

Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi are some of the busiest production hubs in the US. But Florida’s production activity has been decimated following the end of the financial incentive.

Having lured billions of dollars worth of production away from more traditional film locales over the past decade, the south-eastern corner of the US has earned the nickname ‘Hollywood South’. But the centre of production activity in the region shifts, depending on which state is offering the most attractive incentives.

Georgia, with a generous tax credit of up to 30%, is the most active state, particularly where big-budget features are concerned. In the 2018 financial year, Georgia hosted 455 film and TV productions that spent $2.7bn locally.

Among the feature projects were The Walt Disney Company and Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Sony Pictures’ Baby Driver and Paramount’s Gemini Man, directed by Ang Lee, and Baywatch (lured away from California, the setting for its TV series model). TV series shooting in the state included Net­flix’s Stranger Things and Ozark, as well as AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Early in 2018 there were calls for a production boycott of Georgia if the state passed a religious liberty bill allowing adoption agencies to refuse applications from same-sex couples. As of mid-April, however, the bill appeared unlikely to become law, at least in the present legislative session.

Louisiana had been the centre of the region’s production boom until the imposition three years ago of a ‘back-end’ cap on the state’s incentive programme. Productions kept coming — over the past year the state has hosted features including Universal’s The Beguiled, Sony’s Baby Driver (which shot mainly in Georgia) and FilmNation’s Second World War drama Greyhound starring Tom Hanks and Elisabeth Shue, as well as AMC series Preacher, Harpo Productions’ Queen Sugar and Hulu and Channel 4’s The First — but in smaller numbers than before.

In 2017, however, the Louisiana incentive programme was revamped to make it less lucrative but more stable. The basic credit was cut from 30% to 25% and the per-project cap was reduced from $30m to $20m for features and $25m per season for TV series. The back-end cap was replaced with a ‘front-end’ cap that allows the programme to accept only $180m in claims each year and issue only $150m in credits, and a 2025 sunset date was set for the programme.

Mississippi benefits from the fact its incentives, which range from 25% to 30%, come in the form of cash rebates rather than tax credits.

But last year the state’s 25% rebate on non-resident cast and crew payroll was allowed to expire, making Mississippi significantly less attractive to visiting productions bringing talent and crew members in from elsewhere. Recent visiting productions have included Blumhouse Productions’ Ma, starring Octavia Spencer, Leverage Films’ Urban Country and TV series Bring It!.

Florida, previously one of the busiest filming states in the US, has seen its industry decimated since the state’s entire tax credit programme was allowed to sunset in the summer of 2016. Now the few productions that shoot in the state — this year’s visitors have included FX’s American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace and Kevin Smith’s Killroy Was Here — typically come for specific locations, soon departing to continue the rest of their work in nearby states that have incentive programmes.

The Lowdown – Georgia

Financial incentives

A transferable 20% tax credit — with a $500,000 minimum spend requirement — on qualified Georgia production expenditures, with no limits or caps and no sunset clause. Includes pay to resident and non-resident workers. Covers post-production work done in Georgia on films that also shot in state. An additional 10% tax credit for including the Georgia promotional logo in credits. A new credit of 20%-35% (depending on location and size of company) was introduced in 2018 for Georgia companies doing post-production work on films shot out of state.

Full details on financial incentives in Georgia: Georgia Department of Economic Development

Infrastructure and crews

The state claims more than 30,000 film workers and production facilities include Pinewood Atlanta Studios (the third largest facility in the US, with 18 sound stages), EUE/Screen Gems (with 10 stages), Atlanta Film Studios and Riverwood Studios (the former Raleigh Studios Atlanta, sold in 2017 to The Walking Dead producer AMC). Three Ring Studios, a new facility targeting bigger feature productions, is under construction on a 200-acre site some 40 miles from Atlanta. Local producers and service providers include Savannah Location Services, Ashanti Films and Georgia Production Services.

Size matters

Georgia is about 230 miles across and 300 miles from top to bottom, with capital Atlanta in the north and Savannah on the Atlantic coast. Atlanta is two hours by air from New York and five from Los Angeles. Atlanta International Airport — the busiest in the world in 2016, with more than 100 million people passing through — offers non-stop flights to all large US cities as well as international destinations including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Doha.

First person to call

Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner, Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office
Tel: +1 404 962 4048

The Lowdown – Louisiana

Financial incentives

A 25% transferable tax credit on total qualified in-state production expenditures, including resident and non-resident labour up to $3m per individual, with an additional 10% for Louisiana screenplay productions and an additional 5% for projects shot outside the New Orleans area. An additional 15% on the first $3m of a resident’s payroll and 5% on visual effects if at least half the VFX budget is spent in the state. Minimum in-state spend is $300,000 and there are caps of $20m per project for features and $25m per season for TV series. Tax credits can be transferred back to the state for 90% of face value.

Full details on financial incentives in Louisiana: Louisiana Entertainment

Infrastructure and crews

Thanks to its production boom in the early 2000s, Louisiana is now home to more than 1,100 members of film craft union IATSE and can supply between 11 and 13 union crews. Another one or two experienced non-union crews are also available in this ‘right-to-work’ state. Facilities include Big Easy Studios and Ranch Studios in New Orleans, Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge and Millennium Studios in Shreveport. The opening last summer in New Orleans East of Starlight Studios has added two more sound stages covering 44,000 square feet. Service producers include Wonderland Films, Emerge Film Solutions and Louisiana Production Consultants.

Size matters

From New Orleans in the south-eastern corner of the Pelican State to Shreveport in the northwestern corner is about five hours by road. New Orleans is a four-hour flight from Los Angeles and a three-hour flight from New York.

First person to call

Stephen Hamner, director, film, Louisiana Entertainment
Tel: +1 225 342 5403

The Lowdown – Mississippi

Financial incentives

A 25% rebate on local spend in Mississippi, including payments to local vendors and non-payroll payments to cast and crew. A 30% rebate on payroll to resident cast and crew for the first $5m of each salary. A 5% cash rebate on payroll paid to any member of the cast or crew who is an honourably discharged veteran of the US Armed Forces. There is a $50,000 minimum local spend and a $10m per project rebate cap. The programme’s annual cap is $20m.

Full details:

Infrastructure and crews

The only large studios in the state have closed because of the production downturn caused by the expiration of the non-resident payroll incentive. Crew depth is between one and two. Local producers include EJ Carter, Kai Productions and commercials specialist The Digital Brigade.

Size matters

Mississippi is about 340 miles from north to south and 170 miles from east to west, with nine interstate highways linking cities including Jackson, Gulfport, Southaven, Hattiesburg and Biloxi. International airports are found in Jackson and Gulfport, and flight times to Los Angeles and New York are about six hours and four hours respectively.

First person to call

Nina Parikh, Mississippi Film Office:

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