Why 2023 will see transformation of filmmaking in Arizona
The closing credits for “Daddy Daughter Trip,” a new film produced and directed by comedic actor Rob Schneider include a thank you to Arizona. As Schneider tells it, the generosity of Arizona businesses and people made filmmaking in Arizona and shooting the entire film in the Grand Canyon state a joy.
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My company, Good Faith Casting, had the privilege of casting for “Daddy Daughter Trip.” After 10 years as a casting director, I’ve witnessed amazing talent in Arizona. Sadly, I’ve also seen some Arizona actors move to California for more opportunities or shuttle between the states. That’s why I’m looking forward to a new program that takes effect January, 1, 2023.
The Arizona Motion Picture Production Program will provide film and TV tax incentives up to $75 million a year in 2023, $100 million in 2024, and $125 million in 2025 and each year after. Qualified productions that spend up to $10 million can get 15% tax credit while productions that spend $10 million to $35 million will get 17.5%. Productions that spend more than $20 million are eligible for 20% tax credit. The program also provides an additional 2.5% credit for labor costs involving positions filled by Arizona residents.
To support the coming boom in film and TV production, the Arizona Commerce Authority has partnered with five community colleges to offer a production assistant certification program provided by the Arizona Production Association. Over the next five years, more than 2,000 production assistants are expected to be trained. The Arizona Commerce Authority is also working with the Navajo Nation to promote it as a film destination.
The goal of the tax credit program is to create long-term economic benefits to the state. Arizona lawmakers approved the tax credit bill in order to “develop a substantial motion picture production industry workforce and encourage major capital investment in qualified production facilities in this state”.
The commitment to growth should excite all of us. The program will provide more exposure for local businesses as we saw with Daddy Daughter Trip, which highlighted Bashas’ Grocery and Changing Hands Bookstore and attractions like Bearizona and Butterfly Wonderland. Filming also generates extra business for hotels, resorts and restaurants serving industry employees.
Major success won’t happen overnight. Many states have been offering tax incentives for years. But as every Arizonan knows, our state is unique. From the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, red rocks of Sedona, and Ponderosa Pines of Flagstaff to Saguaro National Park and Kartchner Caverns in the south. From Hoover Dam and Lake Powell in the west to Petrified Forest National Park and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the east. Arizona is a wonderland of cultural, scenic and geological diversity.
Since becoming a state in 1912, thousands of movies, TV shows and commercials have been filmed in Arizona, including the 1963 film, “Lilies of the Field” which earned director and star Sidney Poitier an Academy Award for Best Actor, and 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine”, which garnered two Academy Awards. The Arizona Motion Picture Production Program requires the film and series’ credits to note that filming took place in Arizona.
Beyond actual filming, the Arizona Motion Picture Production Program requires preproduction, postproduction and editing work to take place in the state if filmed “primarily at a practical location” rather than a production facility. This will boost hiring for Arizona residents and increase rentals for equipment and facilities.
In 2020, Actor-Director-Producer Rob Schneider and his family moved to Arizona and shot Daddy Daughter Trip entirely in the state. It’s a film Schneider calls a love letter to Arizona. As a casting director based in Arizona, I’m thrilled at the tremendous prospects before us.
Bella Hibbs is owner of Good Faith Casting and creator of the annual Southwest Actors Conference and Expo.