Thursday, June 26, 2008

State Loans $15M to Lionsgate for Crash

One of the lessons we learned a few years back is that having a successful TV show shooting here is a wonderful thing, providing cash, experience, longer term jobs and even some celebrity sightings now and then. After Wildfire's cancellation though, the production of pilots and actual TV series is something that's really picked up, with shows like the Sarah Connor Chronicles, Breaking Bad, In Plain Sight, and now Crash -- a show with impeccable credentials.
Lionsgate EntertainmentImage via Wikipedia
From the NM Business Weekly...
State Loans Studio $15M for 'Crash' TV Series

The New Mexico State Investment Council agreed to make a $15 million loan to Lionsgate during its meeting this week, which is filming the television series "Crash" in New Mexico. The SIC also negotiated a deal to share in any profits from the series at the rate of 18 percent, said Charles Wollman, spokesman for the SIC.

The loan is backed by a corporate guarantee from Lionsgate, he said. Wollman characterized the loan as an extension of an existing loan to Lionsgate. The studio obtained a $15 million loan for the TV series "Wildfire" and is paying that back about 27 months early.

Lionsgate has been shooting "Crash," based on the film of the same name, in Albuquerque since early June. It stars Dennis Hopper. Paul Haggis, who directed the film, is the executive producer. Haggis also made "In the Valley of Elah" in Albuquerque.

When profits will actually kick in for the series is another question. Wollman said it varies with each project, but usually a TV series must last at least 50 episodes before it sees profits. "Crash" will air on the Starz cable channel.

The SIC had a similar agreement with "Wildfire," with the state sharing 11 percent of any profits. That show will most likely go into syndication, Wollman said.

"That's probably going to help our chances to see profits from that show," he added.

The state offers film productions a zero percent loan, with participation in lieu of interest, for up to $15 million per project. There must be a guarantor for the principal amount of the loan. The film must be wholly or substantially shot in New Mexico and 60 percent of the payroll for below-the-line crew must be allocated to New Mexico residents. (Below-the-line means technical crew working in temporary positions and who do not have creative or financial control of the project or receive residuals.)

Wollman said of the 260 below-the-line crew members on "Crash," 239 are New Mexicans, or about 92 percent, and about 84 percent of the payroll for those crew members is going to New Mexicans. There are also 40 key crew positions, which are more advanced positions requiring more training, held by New Mexicans, he added. The state's film incentives offer partial reimbursement of wages for on-the-job training of state residents...

Also... from the Albuquerque Journal:
State OKs $15M Loan for Show
...Though it was a banner year for film and television production in the state, the loan is only the second made to film producers by the council this fiscal year. The state has used permanent funds to help finance more than 25 locally filmed movies and television shows since 2003.
Like the movie, “Crash” the television series will have a diverse cast of characters dealing with bigotry, prejudice and other social barriers in a series of intertwining stories. Peter Dekom, an attorney who advises the council on film-related investments, said the show will be a high-quality, adult-themed show along the lines of “The Sopranos.”
Lionsgate Entertainment and its subsidiary, Lionsgate Television, will produce a 13-episode first season for Starz. “Crash” will be the first original drama for the premium cable channel.
The series’ producers will include Paul Haggis (“Valley of Elah”), who wrote and directed the film version, and Lester Berman, who produced the locally filmed hit Lionsgate show “Wildfire” for ABC Family.
The state Investment Council has had a long relationship with Lionsgate — it helped finance the pilot and four seasons of “Wildfire” for the company, as well as the studio’s 2006 comedy “Employee of the Month.”
Dekom said the project had a good chance of making a profit, based on the popularity of other high-end premium cable series such as “Sex and the City.”
“Typically, the edgier the series, that equals more (sales of) DVD units,” he said. “Also, international interest will be much higher.”
The loan principal is guaranteed by Lionsgate itself.
New Mexico Film Office director Lisa Strout said “Crash” is an R-rated type show and is being entirely filmed in New Mexico. The series began shooting in early June in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, Cochiti Lake and other locations.

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