New York Independent Producers: A Guide to Navigating the Film Production Tax Incentive

Blog post by Emily Dodaro, Media and Production Resources Intern.

New York is one of the hottest destinations to film movies and TV shows. The up-to-date production spend since 2011 is $27.7B. We can all agree, that’s a big number. But do we know what makes the Empire State all that special? It could be a lot of different factors, but the key to production success here is New York’s Film Production Tax Credit that gives this place its competitive edge. Introduced in 2004, this plan was geared toward enticing production to move from Hollywood over to the East Coast, and therefore, causing high volumes of production to be set in New York. It originally began as a 10 percent refundable credit, but over the years, has tripled in size and has a continual budget of $420 million per year. But tax incentives are tricky and can be confusing, so we’re going to break them down. 

The Incentive

The idea is simple: a 30% refundable tax credit on production costs experienced in New York for eligible productions, including feature films, television series, pilots, and miniseries. Now, as an independent producer, why should you take advantage of this? Quite literally, the state of New York is allowing you to deduct amounts from your taxes owed to the government. This assists in paying the crew, production extras, costs of set building, and any other technical services — a popular reason why producers choose to bring their projects to New York as opposed to another destination.

And if a 30% incentive isn’t spicy enough for you, you can trek North and shoot in designated Upstate New York counties where your production can receive an additional 10% bump. Since this extra credit can be applied to both production and post-production upstate, this is a deal that’s too good to pass up.

Finding a Stage

If you want to get in on the free-money-for-movies train, you must first find a stage that qualifies for use, and shoot in that stage for at least one day of your schedule. In New York State, you would need to secure a Qualified Production Facility, or a QPF, which contains at least one soundstage with a minimum of 7,000 Sq Ft of adjacent production space.

In New York City, you would head over to either a Level 1 or Level 2 stage. If you’re not too sure what these are, don’t fret! Let’s analyze the key differences between them: A stage that qualifies as Level 1 will have standard QPF requirements (as listed above) and call for a portion of the production to be shot at an approved QPF for at least one full day. Since these stages require a budget under $15 million, this could be a great place to set your sights on if you’re getting your feet wet in the production world with a low-budget film.

On the other end, productions utilizing a Level 2 stage must shoot on a built set, have a budget over $15 million, and have a section of their principal shots be in New York. Often times, projects that are regularly produced in the city aim to shoot at a Level 2 stage, including popular shows such as Saturday Night Live, Project Runway, and So You Think You Can Dance. If you wind up deciding to shoot your production at either one of these stages, you can be eligible to receive 30% credit back. Depending on the studio, there are different eligibility requirements, but the incentive stays the same.

How does a Stage Qualify as Level 2?

A Level 2 QPF must have at least one 7,000 square foot soundstage that meets all of the following criteria:

  1. The soundstage must be soundproof with a noise criteria rating of 30 or more.
  2. It must have adequate heating and air conditioning without the need for additional resources.
  3. The stage must have a permanent grid and built-in electrical service for filming, without a need for generators.
  4. It should be column-free with a height of at least 16 feet under the permanent grid. 

We’re Here to Help!

So now you’re intrigued and ready to look into all of the qualifying production options that New York has to offer — but where do you begin? Here at GreenlightGO, we are committed to helping producers find facilities to create top quality content, and we have both Level 1 and Level 2 stage solutions. In Brooklyn and Queens, we have certified Level 1 sound stages, production offices, and support spaces that help productions run smoothly. Conveniently located near all forms of public transportation, these stages are fully equipped with production offices, easy load-in, and stunning cycloramas to allow for an efficient production process.

If you’re looking for a qualifying Level 2 space, we’ve also got you covered! Our impressive facilities in East Williamsburg can service any ambitious project that comes its way. Featuring vast cycloramas and green screens, you’ll be perfectly set up for an easy build and shoot while using these spaces. 

What’s left to do? Browse these facilities, book a guided tour, and find your next shooting solution here at GreenlightGO.