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Brian Dzyak

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Brian Dzyak last won the day on February 19 2013

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About Brian Dzyak

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  • Birthday 04/28/1969

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    Cinematographer
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    Encino, California USA

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    http://www.dzyak.com
  1. PMW Sony F5/Fuji Cabrio 19-90 Package Unlike other packages that come in multiple cases and require tedious time-consuming building, this camera is built in the classic "Betacam" style. You'll pop open this custom cut Thermodyne case, pull out the camera, and literally be shooting within 60 seconds. Included in the package: PMW Sony F5 v9 4K upgrade/with 1144hrs Sony DVF-L350 3.5" LCD Viewfinder Fujinon Cabrio 19-90mm lens MovCam top handle hardware with classic camera strap brackets (strap included) MovCam VCT bottom plate ARRI MMB2 two-stage mattebox with "eyebrow" Sennheiser 216 on-board shotgun mic Custom right-angle XLR cables that turn UP (so that you can put the camera down without pinching) (2) Sony lithium Olivine V-mount batteries and charger/power supply Anton Bauer power adapter Sony VCT plate Sachtler Caddy fluid head/tripod with mid-spreader Tripod travel tube Custom cut Thermodyne case Only about 21 lbs on your shoulder, so it's perfect for a B-roll/documentary camera when the director won't let you put it down. This package has worked flawlessly on Fast & Furious 8 in Cuba and Atlanta, on Jason Bourne in Tenerife and Las Vegas, and a variety of other projects for sit-down interviews and B-roll. Total only $50,000. Perfect for that end-of-the-year tax write-off! It's all packed and ready to go today. Available for pickup in Los Angeles or will ship (your address required to calculate shipping and insurance). Contact me via email at brian@dzyak.com
  2. Tonights episode has a guy named Jayme Roy credited as cinematographer. Anyone here know him?
  3. Does anyone know what camera and format Vice News is shot on and if they add a look in post? Its got a very crisp look and also seems to have a slight white cast as if shot with a white pro-mist. Thanks! Brian Dzyak IATSE Local 600 Los Angeles www.dzyak.com
  4. In addition to all of this great advice, I included an entire chapter about what a PA should have and can expect on a typical day on set in my book, "What I Really Want to Do, On Set in Hollywood." Some print copies are still available and it is available for Kindle on Amazon.com. I recommend reading the first FIVE chapters and the ENTIRE section regarding the AD department. Good luck! http://www.amazon.com/What-Really-Want-Set-Hollywood-ebook/dp/B003FCVG80/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431485726&sr=8-1&keywords=dzyak
  5. Musicians' union sues Warner Bros., Paramount and MGM over outsourcing The dispute between Hollywood musicians and major studios over the outsourcing of musical scoring is now shifting to the courts. The American Federation of Musicians has sued Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, alleging the studios violated a 2010 collective bargaining agreement requiring that films produced in North America must also be scored in North America. The American Federation of Musicians has sued Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, alleging the studios violated a 2010 collective bargaining agreement requiring that films produced in North America must also be scored in North America. The American Federation of Musicians has previously organized rallies against Marvel Studios for hiring London musicians to work on such movies as "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3" even though those films were shot in the United States. Last year, the union singled out Lionsgate, protesting the studio's decision to hire foreign musicians to play music on such movies as "The Hunger Games" that filmed in U.S. with the support of taxpayer subsidies. The AFM is facing a tough task, however. Musicians traditionally could count on film work being done in L.A. even when a movie was filmed elsewhere because of the high level of talent here. But more production is leaving the state as studios take advantage of tax benefits and rebates that aren't available in California. The number of movie scoring jobs has declined at least 50% in the last five years, the union said last year. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-musicians-lawsuit-20150427-story.html?track=rss&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=1434699
  6. Cut or Keep Rolling on Unprofitable TV and Film Tax Credits? By Michael Geist The Nova Scotia government has been embroiled in a high profile controversy for the past week following its decision to slash tax credits available to film and television production in the province. The decision sparked an immediate backlash from the industry, which staged a major protest last Wednesday across from the legislature in Halifax. While the government's approach is certainly open to criticism -- abruptly cutting the tax credits without warning may force the cancellation of long-planned productions this summer -- the larger question of whether it should provide massive tax relief to the film and television industry is an important one. Eliminating or cutting the programs is politically difficult given the star power associated with film and television production, yet a growing number of studies have found that film and television tax credits do not deliver much bang for the buck. The widespread use of film and television production tax subsidies dates back more than two decades as states and provinces used them to lure productions with the promise of new jobs and increased economic activity. The proliferation of subsidies and tax credits created a race to the bottom, where ever-increasing incentives were required to distinguish one province or state from the other. In recent years, governments have begun to rethink the strategy. States such as Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, and Iowa suspended or capped their programs. Louisiana found that it lost $170 million in tax revenue in a single year. In Canada, the Quebec government's taxation review committee recently admitted that its provincial film production tax credit was not profitable and that numerous studies find that there is little economic spinoff activity. But the most notable Canadian study on the issue has never been publicly released and is rarely discussed. The Ontario government's Ministry of Finance conducted a detailed review of the issue in 2011, delivering a sharply negative verdict on the benefits associated with spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year in tax credits. It recommended eliminating a 25 per cent tax credit for foreign and non-certified domestic productions that would have saved $155 million per year. Credits don't create good jobs A copy of the presentation to cabinet, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, identifies at least four major problems with the provincial film and television tax credit approach. First, rather than encouraging increased spending, government subsidies represent the majority of financing for film and television production. In 2010, tax credits, grants, and other public funding mechanisms subsidized approximately 60 per cent of all Ontario-based film and television production spending. Moreover, the corporations that claim tax credits pay no tax at all, with the total value of the tax credits being six times greater than the total tax income of domestic claimants. Second, the sector is becoming more dependent on government support. In 1998, film tax credit expenditures constituted six per cent of production costs. Ten years later, there were fewer productions in Ontario, but the film tax credit expenditures were responsible for 30 per cent of the costs. Third, the mounting government expenditures might be justified if it resulted in the creation of long-term high paying jobs. However, the Ontario government study found that film sector wages were below the provincial average and that many of those jobs were temporary, project-based ones. Fourth, evidence suggests that other factors beyond tax incentives play a key role in determining the location of production activity. For example, the Ontario experience over the past two decades shows that foreign production is typically highest when the Canadian dollar is low relative to the U.S. dollar. While the economic evidence to support film and television tax credits is weak, that does not mean that governments should not support the industry since the importance of culture extends beyond dollars and cents. Nova Scotia's decision may be unpopular with some, but it is likely to be emulated by other governments as they assess how to support the film and television industry in a more economically responsible and effective manner. http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2015/04/21/TV-Film-Tax-Credits/
  7. Film tax credits trial to begin amid Louisiana budget crunch By The Associated Press A film production tax credit program that has been lauded for making Louisiana home to productions such as “NCIS: New Orleans” and “12 Years a Slave” is also lamented for its cost to state government. And it’s at the center of a federal criminal trial opening in New Orleans on Monday (April 13). The defendants are two film industry executives and a New Orleans lawyer. They are accused of taking part in a scheme to bilk the state out of more than $1.1 million in film tax credits. But in a sense, the film credit program is on trial as well, and not just in New Orleans. Coincidentally, the federal case opens on the same day that the Louisiana Legislature’s annual session begins up the highway in Baton Rouge. Among the issues as the state deals with a projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall for the next fiscal year: Whether and how to rein in a film tax credit program that cost the state $220 million last year. There also are bills to tighten auditing requirements and oversight because of concerns about fraud. Estimates of the credit program’s economic effect vary. A recent state-financed study estimated the film industry, in 2013, brought in $1.2 billion in sales and $811 million in household earnings, supporting as many as 13,175 direct and indirect jobs. A rosier estimate for the same year came from the Motion Picture Association of America and the Louisiana Film Entertainment Association: 33,520 direct and indirect jobs, $1.2 billion in household income and $4 billion in economic activity. Critics say the benefits come at too high a price. Meanwhile, periodic scandals have marked the program, like the one in which prominent players and coaches for the New Orleans Saints were victimized by a man, sentenced to prison in 2010, who sold tax credits he never actually obtained. In the trial that opens Monday, the defendants are Peter and Susan Hoffman, identified in court documents as an estranged husband and wife and principals in Seven Arts Entertainment and related companies; and Michael Arata, a New Orleans lawyer also involved in the film business. The law at the heart of the case lets movie production companies get a tax credit — at the time of the alleged crime it was up to 40 percent — of certain infrastructure costs. Those are defined as the “purchase, construction and use of facilities that were directly related to and utilized for motion picture production in Louisiana.” If tax credits earned exceed the business’s actual tax liability, the credits may be sold to another party that wants to use the credit to pay off its liabilities. Federal authorities say the Hoffmans and Arata, through companies they owned, bought the dilapidated Whann-Bohn mansion at 807 Esplanade Ave. just outside the French Quarter in 2007, with plans to turn it into a post-production facility. The alleged crime was using fraudulent documents to obtain tax credits for work that was not actually done on the renovated mansion, credits that Arata purchased at a discount from his partners, then sold at a profit to local businesses and people. The defendants have pleaded not guilty. Aside from various technical legal issues, the defense includes the fact that the Esplanade mansion was indeed renovated into a production and post-production facility operating since 2012. Amid defense documents is a brochure touting the facility’s role in productions including the movie “Ransom” and the HBO “True Detectives” series. . . . . . . . Story by Kevin McGill with Melinda Deslatte, The Associated Press. http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/04/film_tax_credits_trial_louisia.html
  8. ALL of these state and national governments eventually come to the same conclusion: subsidizing the film industry is a losing proposition that literally robs taxpayers of much needed revenue necessary for infrastructure. Yes, a few people get temporary jobs and pay taxes for a short time, but the company and people who are making the lion's share of profit don't pay nearly enough, if any. Tax "incentives" are a scam and revenue-starved governments will always eventually figure it out and dump them. Film credit repeal moves forward JUNEAU — Sen. BIll Stoltze has gotten traction for Senate Bill 39, his effort to repeal the film production tax credit program. “I hate to have something like this competing against our core responsibilities of government,” Stoltze, R-Mat-Su, told the Senate Finance Committee. He cited as “core responsibilities” things like transportation infrastructure, public health and prisons. He noted that a tight fiscal climate in Juneau with falling oil prices has meant the Legislature must focus on those types of services. Stoltze said that an audit of the program’s benefits showed a return on investment but, in his view, state money was used to fund the program, but the revenue generated did not return to state coffers. “It’s hard to view that as a real one when it’s your money and it’s returning to somebody else,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of ways we could stimulate the economy more effectively.” Representatives of the Alaska film industry argued against the bill in written testimony to the Legislature. “SB39 does away with future new tech jobs, and destroys a business environment that is needed for Alaskan businesses to make decisions for investment in hardware, training, and infrastructure,” wrote Thomas R. Daly, president of the non-profit trade association Alaska Film Group, who went on to say that the industry has created “a plethora of new Alaskan businesses and positions.” A group of film students in Fairbanks likewise wrote in to oppose the bill. Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner Jerry Burnett said during the Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday that the film tax credit program had already been effectively suspended. Gov. Bill Walker zeroed the program out in his proposed budget. That will result in layoffs for three Department of Revenue employees and the discontinuation of the program June 30. Burnett said that although it’s possible that the board that reviews film tax credit applications could approve a new application, it seems unlikely. “It’s impossible for me to believe that they would approve an application at this point,” he said. “I can’t imagine any of our commissioners approving a credit at this time knowing what our fiscal situation is.” The way the production tax credit works is that film companies apply to the program and receive a tax voucher. Because most television and film productions aren’t Alaska taxpayers, the production generally turns around and sells those tax credits to a company that pays state taxes. According to Department of Revenue statistics submitted to the Legislature, 125 productions have received the credit since 2009. Of those productions, more than half — 65 —were in the “TV-Nonfiction” category. Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Mat-Su, said that zeroing out the program and cutting those three positions resulted in a $346,000 savings in the budget. Exactly how much it will save in tax credits is unclear, as that would depend on how many were applied for and how many were approved if the program were allowed to continue. The bill got a lukewarm reception from the finance committee. Dunleavy and Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, recommended the Senate pass it. But Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, recommended against passage. Sens. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks and Lyman Hoffman D-Bethel, didn’t take a side, though Bishop is also a co-sponsor of the bill. In the previous committee it visited, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, Sens. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, and Cathy Giessel R-Anchorage, recommended passage, and Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, recommended against passage. Considering that the bill has other co-sponsors in Sens. Charlie Huggins, R-Mat-Su, Pete Micciche, R-Soldotna, and John Coghill, R-North Pole, it stands a good chance of passage if it reaches the senate floor. The bill was passed out of the Senate Finance Committee and goes to the Senate Rules Committee next. http://www.frontiersman.com/news/film-credit-repeal-moves-forward/article_91819d38-e0c8-11e4-bf5b-4f4bf8bb1ce8.html
  9. Canadian Film, TV Tax Credits Drying Up As Provinces Seek To Balance Budgets CP | By Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press HALIFAX – Camera operator Andrew Stretch remembers the day in 2013 when a campaigning politician looked into his camera lens and promised to help create jobs that would allow more young people to stay and work in Nova Scotia. The politician was Stephen McNeil, now the province’s premier. Stretch says McNeil broke his word last week when he tabled a budget measure that effectively kills a tax credit that most other provinces are still offering the film and TV industry. “I used the skills I learned working in the film industry to help you spread your word,” Stretch says in an open letter released Friday, a day after the province cut by 75 per cent a refundable tax credit that production companies have used for 20 years to finance their work. “I continue to work as a professional in the film industry and as you’re aware, your government is on the verge of threatening my livelihood as well as that of thousands of close friends — hard-working, taxpaying and, for the most part, young Nova Scotians.” Stretch, who works in Halifax on the supernatural drama series “Haven,” says he studied film in England but chose to return home to Nova Scotia 12 years ago to be close to his family and take advantage of what has become a burgeoning film industry. Screen Nova Scotia, the industry’s advocacy group, says the refundable tax credit cost the government $24 million in 2013-14, generating $139 million in spending on film and TV productions and supporting 2,700 jobs. The government says its analysis of the program shows the value of production associated with the credit amounted to only $66.8 million in 2013-14, generating $39.4 million in salaries and wages. The existing refundable tax credit offers producers a basic rebate on 50 per cent of qualifying labour costs. Productions shot outside of the Halifax area can get an additional 10 per cent off, and another five per cent is available for a third film shot in Nova Scotia over a two-year period. The potential 65 per cent rebate is one of the highest in Canada, but it isn’t unusual. Every other province except P.E.I., Saskatchewan and Alberta offer some form of refundable tax credit and bonuses to entice TV and film producers. But the premier says Nova Scotia’s offering is too rich for a province struggling to balance its books. “I understand why people affected by the change are not happy,” he said Friday. “We don’t have the capacity to write a blank cheque.” The government says that for every dollar it spends on the tax credit, it receives less than 25 cents in taxes. Under the new rules, 75 per cent of the refundable tax credit will been transformed into a regular tax credit, which means it can only be applied against taxable income. Marc Almon, chairman of Screen Nova Scotia, says this approach will make it impossible for producers to secure financing. “That means we’re no longer competitive with any jurisdiction in North America,” he said in an interview. “It provided the bedrock of your financing. Now the bedrock is gone.” When Saskatchewan dropped its refundable tax credit in 2012, the industry shrivelled to nothing, Almon says, citing an October 2012 report that says the province’s Chamber of Commerce concluded that the decision to cut the credit was based on flawed data. Almon says it also makes no sense to cut Nova Scotia’s credit now that the slumping value of the Canadian dollar is attracting more American productions to Canada. Stephen Selznick, a Toronto-based lawyer who acts as a consultant for film and TV producers, says the refundable tax credit system, which includes a federal component, is expensive but it works. “There’s a great deal of competition among the provinces,” he says. “But this is a huge drain on the tax system — good incentive or otherwise — when governments are trying to balance budgets.” Ontario and Quebec have both come forward with proposals to scale back their assistance. Ontario has already put new restrictions on its digital media tax credit, and a committee in Quebec has recommended phasing out the Quebec Production Services Tax Credit. “Even though it has an economic benefit far in excess of what the credit is, it’s an embarrassment to write a cheque to a big American studio for $20 million,” says Selznick. “If (governments) want to show that everybody has to suffer a little bit in balancing the budget, this is a good place to take a grab.” http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/04/12/canadas-film-and-tv-tax-_n_7049504.html
  10. Don't count your money that fast. Stephen McNeil says province can’t write a ‘blank cheque’ for film and TV industry Film and TV industry argues slashes to province’s film tax credit will kill the industryThe Canadian Press Camera operator Andrew Stretch remembers the day in 2013 when a campaigning politician looked into his camera lens and promised to help create jobs that would allow more young people to stay and work in Nova Scotia. The politician was Stephen McNeil, now the province’s premier. Stretch says McNeil broke his word last week when he tabled a budget measure that effectively kills a tax credit that most other provinces are still offering the film and TV industry. “I used the skills I learned working in the film industry to help you spread your word,” Stretch says in an open letter released Friday, a day after the province cut by 75 per cent a refundable tax credit that production companies have used for 20 years to finance their work. “I continue to work as a professional in the film industry and as you’re aware, your government is on the verge of threatening my livelihood as well as that of thousands of close friends — hard-working, taxpaying and, for the most part, young Nova Scotians.” Stretch, who works in Halifax on the supernatural drama series “Haven,” says he studied film in England but chose to return home to Nova Scotia 12 years ago to be close to his family and take advantage of what has become a burgeoning film industry. Differing numbersScreen Nova Scotia, the industry’s advocacy group, says the refundable tax credit cost the government $24 million in 2013-14, generating $139 million in spending on film and TV productions and supporting 2,700 jobs. The government says its analysis of the program shows the value of production associated with the credit amounted to only $66.8 million in 2013-14, generating $39.4 million in salaries and wages. The existing refundable tax credit offers producers a basic rebate on 50 per cent of qualifying labour costs. Productions shot outside of the Halifax area can get an additional 10 per cent off, and another five per cent is available for a third film shot in Nova Scotia over a two-year period. The potential 65 per cent rebate is one of the highest in Canada, but it isn’t unusual. Every other province except P.E.I., Saskatchewan and Alberta offer some form of refundable tax credit and bonuses to entice TV and film producers. But the premier says Nova Scotia’s offering is too rich for a province struggling to balance its books. “I understand why people affected by the change are not happy,” he said Friday. “We don’t have the capacity to write a blank cheque.” The government says that for every dollar it spends on the tax credit, it receives less than 25 cents in taxes. Under the new rules, 75 per cent of the refundable tax credit will been transformed into a regular tax credit, which means it can only be applied against taxable income. ‘We’re no longer competitive with any jurisdiction in North America’Marc Almon, chairman of Screen Nova Scotia, says this approach will make it impossible for producers to secure financing. “That means we’re no longer competitive with any jurisdiction in North America,” he said in an interview. “It provided the bedrock of your financing. Now the bedrock is gone.” When Saskatchewan dropped its refundable tax credit in 2012, the industry shrivelled to nothing, Almon says, citing an October 2012 report that says the province’s Chamber of Commerce concluded that the decision to cut the credit was based on flawed data. Almon says it also makes no sense to cut Nova Scotia’s credit now that the slumping value of the Canadian dollar is attracting more American productions to Canada. ‘A huge drain on the tax system’Stephen Selznick, a Toronto-based lawyer who acts as a consultant for film and TV producers, says the refundable tax credit system, which includes a federal component, is expensive but it works. “There’s a great deal of competition among the provinces,” he says. “But this is a huge drain on the tax system — good incentive or otherwise — when governments are trying to balance budgets.” Ontario and Quebec have both come forward with proposals to scale back their assistance. Ontario has already put new restrictions on its digital media tax credit, and a committee in Quebec has recommended phasing out the Quebec Production Services Tax Credit. “Even though it has an economic benefit far in excess of what the credit is, it’s an embarrassment to write a cheque to a big American studio for $20 million,” says Selznick. “If (governments) want to show that everybody has to suffer a little bit in balancing the budget, this is a good place to take a grab.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/stephen-mcneil-says-province-can-t-write-a-blank-cheque-for-film-and-tv-industry-1.3029728
  11. Bribes. States/Nations that can't get the work honestly because they have proper infrastructure, quality crews, and appropriate climate have to use bribes. As soon as the bribe money dries up, the jobs will go to the next highest bidder. In the meantime, taxpayers all over the planet will continue to get the shaft from every industry that utilizes extortion to extract bribe payments from the public coffers.
  12. Film tax credit is a flop By Thomas FarragherGLOBE COLUMNIST The gravitational pull of the stars is surprisingly magnetic, strongly intoxicating. Faster than you can say Jennifer Lawrence, serious-minded people get all rubber-legged. I’ve seen it up close. When big-name Hollywood actors make the occasional visit to the Globe, reporters capable of putting the toughest of questions to the most powerful of politicians can melt like tittering teenagers. Newton native John Krasinski, of “The Office’’ fame, stopped by a few years ago and I thought I’d have to finally learn how to use one of the portable machines that shocks the heart back into normal rhythm. The entire town of Plymouth fell under the spell of “moguls” who promised to bring Hollywood East to the woods of the South Shore in 2009. That spell was broken after our Spotlight Team reported that their supposedly solid financier was a con man, a faker who now resides in a federal prison in North Carolina. I bring up the stars-in-our-eyes factor now because there’s a renewed and real debate underway about whether to kill the multi-million dollar handout Massachusetts taxpayers give to Hollywood production companies every year, in the form of a bogus tax credit that no longer makes sense if it ever did. “It’s a bad thing for taxpayers,’’ Governor Charlie Baker’s chief economic development officer, Jay Ash, told me this week. “It’s a tax loser. This is not a hard choice for us. Why would we perpetuate something that’s losing the state money?’’ That’s a good question and one that will be the focus of intense debate as budget writers at Beacon Hill consider how to dig themselves out of a $1.8 billion hole. This tax credit should be tossed out when the first shovel hits the ground. Think tanks across the political spectrum have assailed the tax break as a giveaway that has never lived up to its promise. Simply put, the film tax credit pays for 25 percent of wage and production expenses, in exchange for promised jobs and revenue. The calculus is bleak. Since its inception in 2006, the administration says taxpayers have lost $169 million. The state Department of Revenue said that deal cost the state $78.9 million in 2012, the latest year figures are available. Most of the economic benefits — and most of the jobs created — went out of state, the department said. I spoke with an official at the Motion Picture Association of America Friday who predicted a nuclear winter for the Massachusetts film industry if the tax credit is killed. And he questioned the methodology of the bipartisan economic reports which pronounce it a boondoggle. Let’s see. Democratic and Republican administrations have called it a dog, as have independent analysts. But Hollywood now says it has crunched its own numbers only to find that it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Gee. I’m so star-struck that I don’t know what to say except: I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. There are real jobs at stake here. I don’t dismiss or diminish that. If this were a time of plenty, fine. But this is wasting money when there’s no money left to waste. Baker wants to use the money saved by killing the film tax credit to help put more money into the hands of low-income working families. That’s good politics, but the tax credit should rise or fall on its own and, considering competing needs, it should fall. Just ask Linda Spears, the new commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, what she could do with an extra $80 million a year. She’ll likely start salivating. All of this seems like an easy choice to me. But House Speaker Bob DeLeo, Beacon Hill’s self-appointed indispensable man, wants to keep this subsidy. Seems he’s talked to the owners of some sandwich shops which sell lots of Italian grinders whenever Tom Cruise comes to town. Look, I like those telescopic photos of Ms. Lawrence and co-star Bradley Cooper alighting from their trailers on the set in North Reading as much as anybody. But not at this price. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/03/27/film-tax-credit-flop/ouCrcuWuVSHCwuttePzZEN/story.html
  13. GEORGIA: "...even Hollywood is mystified at how Georgia can justify its large-scale tax incentives. He says he's had conversations with Hollywood execs, “and they acknowledge they can’t figure out how the states return to the treasury anything from the grants.” http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/techflash/2015/03/skvarla-nc-treasury-no-returns-on-film-incentives.html?page=2 LOUISIANA: Moret, who is leaving his position as Jindal’s key economic development adviser in May to lead the LSU Foundation, cautioned that altering the film tax credit would not be a panacea for the $1.6 billion shortfall Louisiana faces in the coming year. “You need to look at the whole picture,” he said, but he didn’t shy away from discussing its pitfalls. Louisiana’s lucrative film tax credit program generates about 20 cents in state tax revenue for every $1 the state hands out in incentives. http://theadvocate.com/news/11891186-123/officials-question-film-tax-credit
  14. Bad timing: Scandals, criticism erupt around Louisiana’s film credit program Though spared in Jindal budget, program not safe from cuts GORDON RUSSELL The timing couldn’t be much worse for supporters of Louisiana’s film industry. As the state stares down a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, one due in part to the spiraling cost of corporate giveaways, a fresh wave of scandals has erupted around the film program, giving new ammunition to critics at a moment when the program is under scrutiny as never before. Most recently, Stephen Street, the state’s inspector general, confirmed that his office has opened an investigation into a firm that appears to have claimed it spent more money making films in Louisiana than it actually did, landing tax credits it didn’t earn, according to recent reports by New Orleans’ WVUE-TV. That news came on top of the recent revelation that the state had been ordered by an arbitrator to issue $6.5 million in disputed tax credits to a firm co-owned by former lawyer Malcolm Petal, who admitted bribing the state’s top film official in 2004. The bribes were intended to ensure that the official, Mark Smith, would interpret the film program’s rules leniently, thus generating more money for Petal, and the arbitrator relied in part on one of Smith’s rulings in ordering the credits to be issued. Both of those scandals are unfolding as the curtain is about to rise at the federal courthouse in New Orleans on a high-profile trial over alleged fraud in the film tax credits program. The trial, as it happens, is set to begin the same day the Legislature convenes — April 13 — in a session where many believe the program will be a ripe target. The wave of bad publicity “certainly doesn’t help,” said Sherri McConnell, who oversaw the state’s film program for years and now serves on a panel recommending changes to it. While she thinks the program is still relatively popular, she adds that “there are probably some sharks in the water who just don’t like it and want to get rid of it — particularly those who don’t see any real benefit in their areas.” Cuts to the film incentives were noticeably absent from the budget proposal unveiled by Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday, which proposed nearly $600 million in cuts to refundable tax credits but spared film — in part, perhaps, because it would be difficult to achieve any savings from the program in the current budget year. Trimming the sails of the film program also could cause the governor to run afoul of a no-tax pledge he signed that is promulgated by the anti-tax lobby Americans for Tax Reform. The film tax credits are transferable but not refundable, though those who receive them may sell them back to the state for 85 cents on the dollar. Even if Jindal has left them alone, the film incentives are hardly safe from the ax, and supporters of Louisiana’s film industry are scrambling to craft a proposal that will rein in the program’s excesses enough to satisfy those who say it is a fraud-laden boondoggle. “Right now, film is like the stepchild of the tax credits,” said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, an avowed fan of the program who has drafted legislation to curb abuses. “Film is the one everyone points to as to how tax credits are full of fraud. I promise you if you look, you’ll find it in other programs. But film is the one everyone talks about.” ‘It’s kept us very busy’Street, the inspector general, confirmed this past week that his office has opened a probe into Horizon Entertainment, which was at the center of recent reports by WVUE-TV that raised pointed questions about expenses the company claimed in connection with a handful of projects that received tax credits. The film program has repeatedly drawn the attention of Street’s office, resulting in at least nine federal indictments. “It’s kept us very busy in recent years,” Street said in an interview last fall. State records show Horizon got tax credits totaling $3.1 million for five different projects: “Saintsational,” “The Sean Payton Show,” “Emancipated,” “Big Easy Funny” and a series of ads for EA, the video-gaming firm. All told, the company reported spending nearly $10 million in Louisiana to qualify for those credits. “Saintsational,” which focused on the New Orleans Saints’ cheerleading squad, reported Louisiana expenses of $3.5 million, qualifying it for $1 million in tax credits. WVUE-TV’s reports quoted John Beyer, a video editor on the production, saying many of the expenses were questionable. For instance, he told the station that the film’s producers reported using five editing systems when only three were used, and they said they rented a “jib camera” at a cost of $111,600 when the production didn’t require one. Beyer estimated the total cost of the show — which, according to WVUE, never aired — at $250,000 or less, perhaps a tenth of what the producers claimed. In making “The Sean Payton Show,” Horizon claimed to have paid one employee $1,300 a week, but the employee told WVUE that he got only half that much. And a producer of “Emancipated” told the station that the cost reports Horizon submitted to the state in connection with that program — a TV pilot — also appear to be inflated. Meanwhile, Horizon has claimed that it split the tax credits it received with Saints owner Tom Benson’s Louisiana Media Co., which owns WVUE-TV, the station reported. But a Benson spokesman said the company got none of the proceeds. The state’s economic development arm, which oversees the film program, issued a news release Friday noting that in 2010, the state’s film office, run by Chris Stelly, had requested a probe by the inspector general of some Horizon productions. That inquiry did not result in any prosecutions, the release said. The office asked the IG to take another look at Horizon based on WVUE’s stories, the statement said. Walter Becker, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor who represents Horizon and its owner, Jason Sciavicco, issued a statement saying his client did nothing wrong. “Once Horizon finished work on the productions, an independent certified public accountant thoroughly audited Horizon’s expenditures on all of these productions,” Becker said. “The independent CPA followed the state’s rigorous audit guidelines that applied to these productions.” He said Stelly signed off on the release of the tax credits, and added: “Our clients believed then and continue to believe that the state properly certified these credits.” Auditing questionedBecker’s response highlights one common criticism of the film program — that the audits are not rigorous enough and that the auditors who perform them are not truly “independent” because, under the current state law, they are hired and paid by the producers seeking the credits. Some of Horizon’s reports were audited by Mock & Associates, of Baton Rouge, while others were audited by Malcolm M. Dienes, of Metairie; neither uncovered any questionable expenses. Mock sent a statement to The Advocate saying, “We were provided with ample and sufficient documentation to render our opinion that the productions were in full compliance with the audit guidelines that LED (the state) has set forth.” The Dienes firm did not respond to a request for comment. The two firms handle a large proportion of film audits in Louisiana, with Mock’s firm specializing in that arena. A review of 50 film files by The Advocate found that roughly 70 percent were handled by either Mock or Dienes. A June report by the consultant Alvarez & Marsal aimed at finding savings in the state budget said film audit reports are generally of “mixed quality” and sometimes “substandard,” though it didn’t single out any particular firm. Improving the quality and independence of the audits is one focus of draft legislation proposed by Morrell and state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner. One crucial change would be having the state, rather than the filmmakers, hire the auditors. “Audits should be conducted in a way that’s consistent, by quality people, and the state needs to be a party to those engagements,” Stokes said. “For me, it’s about accountability, trying to eliminate fraud. We’re trying to bring as much good government into this program as we can.” Haircut on the way?Those who say the program needs more good government need only point to recent headlines. Not only has a new probe into the program been opened, but many critics of the program were outraged to learn that state taxpayers have been ordered to issue $6.5 million in disputed tax credits to LIFT, the firm at the center of the program’s first major scandal. If the credits are issued, Petal, a co-owner of LIFT, will be one of two major beneficiaries, along with fellow owner John Anderson, according to Anderson. Petal pleaded guilty to bribing former film commissioner Smith in 2004, the same year Smith wrote a letter that essentially granted the credits Petal and LIFT are now due to receive. It’s not clear whether the arbitrator who ruled in favor of Petal considered the bribery scandal; a spokeswoman for the firm that handled the case said arbitrators are barred from discussing their deliberations publicly. Meanwhile, a California film producer and a local lawyer are set to stand trial in April on charges that they gamed the film program by shifting money among companies they controlled, thus inflating the cost of a studio they were building and receiving more than $1 million in unearned tax credits. Morrell’s proposed legislation seeks to deal with such abuses by retroactively denying credits to anyone caught corrupting the program. But as the debate on his and Stokes’ bills is set to begin, film boosters are working on a counteroffensive aimed at protecting the program in something close to its current form. The Louisiana Film Entertainment Association, which represents the industry, will release a study sometime before the session begins that undertakes a new analysis of the program’s benefits. State studies have consistently found that the program returns less than 25 cents to state coffers for every dollar taxpayers invest. But film boosters question those studies and finally decided to underwrite their own. While the group’s final report isn’t ready, LFEA President Will French released some preliminary findings in a recent appearance before the Baton Rouge Press Club. The biggest takeaway: The group’s research found that seeing Louisiana in film or on TV drove roughly one in seven tourists to the state to visit here. If that level of tourism were counted as a benefit of the film program, the program likely would easily pay for itself — although that conclusion will face plenty of skepticism. On the chopping block?“My gut feeling is it’s ridiculous,” said Greg Albrecht, chief economist for the Legislative Fiscal Office, who serves on a panel with Stokes and Morrell that is recommending changes to film and other entertainment subsidies. “New Orleans is an international city with tons of tourism. I don’t think it would matter if we didn’t have a single movie shot here.” The biggest change proposed by Morrell and Stokes is to set a cap on the program’s cost: $300 million a year. That exceeds by about $50 million what the film program has cost the state in any given year to date, and some critics have said the cap is far too high. Morrell says he fears if the program’s worst abuses aren’t trimmed, it will be gutted entirely, as happened last year in North Carolina — which had been a leading competitor with Louisiana for landing “runaway” film productions. Even if the Legislature follows Jindal’s lead and takes a hands-off approach to film this year, Morrell and others believe a day of reckoning is on the way. The next governor — who will take office in January — is likely to call a special session to discuss tax breaks. “If anyone thinks film can stay the way it is, and that it can survive a special session targeting tax credits, they’re crazy. If we don’t address film now, the first credit on the chopping block will be film,” Morrell said. “I think people in the industry understand that, and they’re saying, ‘Let’s get ahead of this.’ Instead of film being the biggest bull’s-eye, why don’t we fix the film program and then do this to all the other tax credit programs?” http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/11695820-123/states-program-to-aid-film
  15. Most work for anyone is going to come from personal recommendations. And I'd avoid the phrase "hit them up" and go with the more professional, "contact them." But that's just me.
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