by Marc Sazer, President Recording Musicians Association
Beginning in 1995 with a federal tax credit program, and followed soon after by provincial tax credit programs, Canada began investing in both creating a domestic film industry, and luring production jobs from elsewhere to Canada. Producers quickly followed the money.
Providing taxpayer funds for motion picture and television production has now become a worldwide phenomenon. The payroll company Entertainment Partners provides financial services to companies that exploit these incentives. Their website, www.epfinancialsolutions.com, gives a good overview of the scores of governments that provide incentives. We are in the midst of an international arms race for film/television tax credits.
These incentives rarely create new jobs for movies or television shows—they move jobs from one place to another. When a studio based in Burbank, Culver City, or Hollywood produces a movie with tax incentives in London, new jobs aren’t created, they’ve just been moved, displacing the vast majority of workers, including grips, drivers, camera operators, carpenters, and many others.
Music scoring has fallen into this same “arms race” of tax credits. While London has long had a vibrant recording industry, dozens of motion pictures produced by US companies take their scoring projects there now, reaping generous tax dollars (as well as avoiding the obligation to make health care and pension contributions that would be due on behalf of AFM musicians). The AFM remains number one in terms of motion picture film scores in the Western world, but the UK has lured an increasing number of “our” jobs to London.
Production and post-production work differently on any given film or television show. Production describes the filming, while post-production refers to editing, sound—and music. Post-production, which includes virtually all of the music scoring, happens on the tail end of the process.
Like London, New York has created a generous post-production tax credit that rewards producers for bringing scoring, editing, and mixing jobs to New York. It has taken a few years to take off, but in his October 2016 article in the Allegro, AFM Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi noted that a record number of film scores were recorded in New York last year, including scores by Danny Elfman of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Rachel Portman, and Nico Muhly. It is clear that the work follows the money!
Working with rank-and-file musicians, Local 47 President John Acosta is helping lead California to implement a music scoring tax credit there, tag-teaming on the existing $330 million annual tax credit program in that state.
If you are planning on pursuing film/television tax credits in your state or province, please reach out and let us share our experience and expertise with you. RMA’s goal, from coast to coast, is to work within the existing worldwide system to support good, industry-standard, union jobs. We are committed to helping musicians achieve these goals anywhere, anytime.