Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Ballers’ Moves to California From Florida, Will Get $8.3 Million Tax Credit

Dave McNary
Variety

Dwayne Johnson’s HBO series “Ballers” is moving to California from Florida for its third season and has been conditionally approved to receive an $8.3 million tax credit from the state.

“Ballers” is scheduled to shoot its next 10 episodes in California, where it will employ 135 cast, 209 base crew, and 5,700 extras. The series will generate an estimated $33.5 million in “qualified expenditures,” defined as wages paid to below-the-line workers and payments to in-state vendors — making it eligible for a 25% tax credit for its first season in California, followed by a 20% credit for any successive seasons.

“Ballers” is the seventh series to relocate to California under the state’s expanded tax incentive program, launched last year. It joins “Mistresses” (which returned to California from Vancouver); “Scream Queens” and “American Horror Story” (which moved from Louisiana); “Veep” (from Maryland); “Secrets and Lies” (from North Carolina); and ABC’s “American Crime” (which recently moved from Texas).

“We’re thrilled to welcome another TV series and the long-term jobs it will create in-state,” said California Film Commission executive director Amy Lemisch. “Our expanded tax credit program was designed to target such projects, and it’s working precisely as intended.”

The 2015-16 fiscal year marked a major expansion of the seven-year-old tax credit program, aimed at halting the erosion of California-based production to states with bigger incentives such as Georgia and New York. The annual allocation rose from $100 million to $330 million, and applications are ranked on how many jobs they will produce, rather than being selected by lottery.

The program expansion, enacted in 2014 by California lawmakers, covers five years and $1.65 million in tax credits. The credit is set at 20%, but producers are eligible for an additional 5% “uplift” if they shoot outside the Los Angeles zone, commit to music scoring or music track recording in state, or to do visual effects in California.

The commission also disclosed Wednesday that it had reserved tax credits for 22 recurring series that are already in the program from the most recent tax credit application period, held Nov. 14-29. Lemisch said the specific tax credit allocations have not been determined since it’s uncertain whether all of the series will be picked up. She estimated that the total allocation for “Ballers” and the 22 series would be around $75 million.

“The industry responds very favorably whenever we’re able to level the tax credit playing field,” she added.

The recurring series include Paramount TV’s “13 Reasons Why,” ABC Studios’ “American Crime,” Fox’s “American Crime Story,” Horizon’s “Animal Kingdom,” Paramount TV’s “Citizens,” ABC’s “Code Black,” CBS’ “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Horizon’s “Famous in Love,” Mesquite Prods.’ “Good Girls Revolt,” Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here,” and Fox’s “Pitch.”

The list also includes Universal TV’s “Pure Genius,” BET’s “Rebel,” Fox’s “Rosewood” and “Scream Queens,” ABC’s “Secrets and Lies,” Paramount TV’s “Shooter,” Fox’s “Snowfall,” Viacom’s “Sweet/Vicious,” Fox’s “This Is Us,” and HBO”s “Veep” and “Westworld.”

The next TV project application period for California’s program will be held Feb. 10-17 as the final TV application period for fiscal 2016-17, bolstered by any unused funds earmarked for TV projects earlier in the year. Eligibility will be open to new series, new pilots, relocating series, and recurring series already in the program.

The next film project allocation period will be held Jan. 2-13 for independent and studio feature films.

The commission released a report last month showing “encouraging” results from the first year of the expanded tax credit program. The report contained an analysis of hours worked by members of California’s below-the-line unions (Teamsters, the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employee, basic crafts and others covered under the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans) and showed a 12.45% increase for the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year.

SAG-AFTRA employment data showed background actors working in scripted film and television in California generated a 19.7% increase in daily employment during the first quarter. Teamsters Local 399, which covers drivers and location managers, reported that members are working at “full employment” for the first time since 2007. IATSE Local 44 (property craftspersons) saw a 4.9%  growth in membership for the first quarter — the highest gain since the mid-1990s.

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