Phoenix Film Office ‘Zonawood’ dreams on hold as actors start negotiations

Negotiations between union actors and film studios are set to begin, but the Arizona Motion Picture Production Program is seeing after effects from the strike.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 7:58 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA union actors and film studios are set to start Monday, October 2, after being on strike for over three months. This comes after Hollywood’s best writers returned to work this week after striking a deal with film studios, but the Phoenix Film Office is still hitting the pause button on its “Zonawood” dreams.

Back in January, the state created the Arizona Motion Picture Production program. This tax incentive program was supposed to attract more big-budget TV and film productions to the desert.

As the actors continue to strike, Phoenix’s Film Office’s Phil Bradstock said they have been unable to use it. “It’s kind of like you’re a kid with a new bike, and your parents are telling us we’re not allowed to ride it right now because there’s a blizzard or bad rainstorm,” Bradstock said. “So we’re just staring at this bike, which is our incentive. We want to start using it, and we know people are interested in it, but right now, we’re just kind of waiting for the two strikes to resolve.”

Bradstock does not solely blame the strikes for the program’s standstill but rather the unlucky timing. The program is supposed to free up $75 million of tax credits for producers and studios to utilize, but the program only went into effect “on paper” in January.

Once the paperwork and logistics were rolled out, the program’s applications were unavailable until mid-May, two weeks after the WGA went on strike and two months before the SAG-AFTRA actors strike.

Bradstock said it’s been pretty frustrating, especially knowing Phoenix’s potential to attract some blockbuster projects. “We have really grown since our last incentive; we have a much more dynamic downtown,” he said. “We’re just a simple five-hour drive from LA. We’re also an hour plane flight, so it’s very simple for the actors and the crew to get out here, especially when you have a big-name talent, and maybe they want to go home on the weekends.”

Under the program approved production can get:

  • 15% tax credit for productions up to $10 million
  • 17.5% tax credit for productions between $10 million and $35 million
  • 20% tax credit for productions over $35 million

Arizona’s previous incentive program was in effect from 2006 to 2010. During those five years, it brought in 56 productions and $110 million to the state. Phoenix averaged $34 million per year under the program. According to Bradstock, the office saw a noticeable drop in Phoenix’s production expenditure when the program went away, dropping to $15 million per year.

Bradstock said the office is ready to see what kind of productions will roll through, but he said they have to remain patient until a deal is reached.

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