More Good Things In Film 2012

I wrote a list.  I checked it twice.  I wrote one naughty.  I wrote one nice.  But dang it, I just could not get it all done in a single sitting, now could I?   So here I go, singing low.  Swing on sweet chariot...  Carry me home. There's more good in this world than I can see in a single glance.  I have six more reasons I found to celebrate (bringing us up to 22); maybe you can add further to the list?

  1. Megan Ellison.  I don't know this savior to our world, but I thank her.  She makes complicated movies with ambition and no easy answers.  I have no idea about whom she is as a person, but in terms of the work she has made, she is one without fear.  She is steel in a world of noodles; everyone else bends but she is the structural support that allows giants to reach even higher.  She made THE MASTER and that alone is enough in my book.  A year that holds that film is a blessed one, but to add on another bit of truly impressive work, ZERO DARK THIRTY,  wow!  That's nothing short of astounding.  But then she's also distributing Harmony Korine and Wong Kar Wai.  Film lovers should all be asking "How do we make sure she is here to stay?  What can we do to support her?".  It's awesome she's in our world; or that we are in hers .
  2. Technology keeps advancing, and with it so do our tools.  Each day shows me a new say to distribute films.  Each day introduces me to a new way to try to organize my life.  We can make our films more better in more ways than ever before.
  3. Successful people left producing or executive producing and chose to focus on building a better world for all of us.  Okay, so Keri Putnam  and Joana Vicente have both been in their jobs for over two years, but they were my inspiration to have the courage to quit the project focus and put on a wide angle lens.
  4. 2012 Was The Year Of The Entire Film In Just One Link (aka The Time We Stopped Sending DVDS All Around).  Filmmakers reduced sending DVDs around and instead started sharing links.  This saves everyone money, and seems to reduce unauthorized duplication.  And it's easy.  And about time.  Glad it caught on.
  5. The JOBS Creation Act was extended in the "Fiscal Cliff" Deal. Section 181 survives!
  6. It is The Era Of The $100M "Indie" (not so sure I think this is a good thing, but I love that directors are getting bucket loads to pursue wild visions) -- and granted this is close to my note on list #1 "Hollywood is taking more creative risks", but here I am speaking of the projects that are more fully artist controlled. (note: this was pointed out to me via Adam Leipzig here).
  7. Films made with ambition, vision, and not focused on the market not only deliver green but garner accolades galore.  BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD got four Oscar Nominations.
  8. Films do not get penalized for making the world a better place, but actually praised and awarded.  Two days before THE INVISIBLE WAR got nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award, Congress announced it would hold hearings on sexual abuse in the military.

But if you don't want to be so happy or comfortable in the way things are...  if you want to have an equal balance of the dark side of reality...  Don't forget all that is still wrong with the film biz, and read this.  Otherwise, sit back, be happy, and recognize: it does get better.

Demand The Government To Incentive Job Creation & Support The Arts (via Fed181 Extension)

America is in danger of losing a critical part of it's culture: Independent Film. All throughout this year I have heard one producer or director after another complain they can no longer afford to stay in the business. I know I too feel this on a regular basis. Yet, here in New York, I have seen the crafts and support elements run at close to full employment. Why? The New York State Tax Credits keep television and other productions going at a steady pace. There is no question that effective tax policy can also be job stimulus.

Without any policy for funding of the arts in America,it is critical that we incentive potential investors to consider backing the arts. It was great to hear (via Entertainment Partners' Film Incentive Services) that there is a movement afoot to reinstate Fed 181. They pointed out:

Congressmen Howard Berman and David Drier co-sponsored a bill (HR 5793) to extend the federal film incentive program aimed at keeping film production in the U.S. Internal Revenue Code section 181 expired at the end of last year. The current proposal would extend the election to treat film costs as an immediate deduction rather than a capital expense. To qualify, productions must spend ≥ 75% of the compensation on services performed in the U.S.

The Hollywood Reporter points out the many benefits for the country at large.

"Berman and Drier point out that runaway foreign production has become a national issue. With production of movies and TV programs now occurring throughout the United States, this industry creates well-paying jobs and generates tangible economic benefits to cities and states nationwide. A typical motion picture employs 350-500 people. Production jobs have an average salary that is 73 percent higher than the current nationwide average. A major motion picture shooting on location contributes $225,000 on average every day to the local economy, so it is no surprise that it is seen as a critical engine of economic development in many places across the country. Thus, the lawmakers argue, extension of the tax not only will help to promote well-paying film industry jobs but will have a ripple effect across broad sectors of the economy by generating revenue and employment opportunities for a wide range of local businesses, such as caterers, dry cleaners, lodging, equipment rental facilities, transportation vendors and many others."

If you live in the States, and work in the arts, the least you can do is call your representatives and urge them to support the bill, HR 5793.

181 Renewed! Indie Filmmakers Rejoice!

Why does this matter? Zak Forsman tweeted it nicely: " if tax payer is in 35% tax bracket and the film's shot in a state with a 42% credit, investor's eligible to get 77% of her investment back."

To go a tad deeper, Zak Forsman posted it well:

Minutes ago, I received this email from my friend and fellow filmmaker, Justin Evans.

Dear Film Professionals -

Section 181 has finally been renewed! The new Tax Bill was signed into law by President Obama earlier today. The tax law includes Section 744, which includes language that replaces IRS Section 181's expiration date of December 31, 2009 with December 31, 2011.

Here is what this means:

  • Any money spent on qualifying domestic film production* in 2010 now qualifies for the Section 181 tax write-off.
  • Any money spent on qualifying domestic film production* in 2011 will also qualify for the Section 181 tax write-off.
  • There is no gap in Section 181 protection...which means all the fear and worry that someone might have begun a project in 2009, somehow didn't get the financing in place and investors invested in early 2010 can now breath a sigh of relief.

Read all of what Zak has to say about it here. Thanks Zak!

Section 181 Update

Today's update is a guest post from Raz Cunningham. On Dec. 31, 2009, Section 181 of the American Jobs Creation Act expired. It is going to be renewed in 1 of 2 possible forms. Either in the Tax Extenders Act of 2009 (the House Bill) or the American Worker State and Business Relief Act (the Senate Bill). The language is the same as it was for Section 181, the same tax breaks/benefits still apply. In the Tax Extenders Act of 2009, the language can be found in Section 117 of the Bill; in the American Worker State and Business Relief Act it can be found in Section 145. The language of these two sections is EXACTLY the same. The Senate Bill has already passed in the Senate and is on its way to the House.

What's important to note is that one of these two Bills, either or, is overwhelmingly expected to pass. Neither Section of either Bill has been the source of any controversy or contesting and is strongly supported by both Parties. Once either Bill is passed, any qualifying film made from Jan 1st, 2010 to Dec. 31st 2010 will be able to take advantage of the tax breaks.

Raz Cunningham is a filmmaker based out of New York & Rhode Island, about to start Pre-Production on his first full length feature film "Our Last Days As Children" this summer.