Film Roundup: Dark Knight Set to “Rise” in Los Angeles

Posted on August 5, 2011 by


The Dark Knight Rises Shooting in Pittsburgh for Creative Reasons, Not Economic:

In what surprised many people, it was recently announced the third installment of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is filming in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for creative rather then economic reasons.  The city was selected because of its architecture, according to Nolan.

According to The Location Guide, productions must spend 60 percent of their budget in Pennsylvania and, because of the global scope of The Dark Knight Rises, the film was unable not qualify for the state’s tax credit program:

The Dark Knight Rises won’t be getting any cash back for its upcoming Pittsburgh shoot through the state incentive scheme. Pittsburgh will be doubling for Gotham City but productions must spend at least 60% of their total budget in the city to qualify for the incentive.

With the film shooting extensively in the UK and other locations around the world it seems its Pennsylvania production spend won’t be high enough. It seems though that the look of Pittsburgh has been more important than the finances.

News of the decision delighted Shoot Movies in California’s Ed Gutentag, who suggested film and television projects are more successful when creative concerns trump economic concerns:

This is how it should be.

Choose a location because it helps to tell the story not to get money back from the state.

One could argue that Chris Nolan shoots where ever he wants with no concern about getting the best deal from which ever state has the best tax incentive “flavor of the month”.

Hmmmmmm…………… Maybe that’s why Chris Nolan’s films are so successful??!?!?

Go figure, Chris Nolan is making the best choices for his films based on many things including the studios return on investment.

Maybe more people should take a page out of Chris Nolan’s book, I don’t think you’ll find to many arguments from filmmakers around the world.

*Note to Producers and Studios and filmmakers: Don’t run to the best state to shoot your movie because they are giving you money back, run there if its the best place to tell your story.

In the following video from the press conference about the Pittsburgh shoot, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett thanked the production for “spending your dollars” in Pittsburgh and for creating hundreds of jobs in the area:

The good news for California in all of this is that The Dark Knight Rises is scheduled to shoot some of the largest and most expensive sequences in the movie in Los Angeles in the coming weeks.  Soon, the hundreds–if not thousands–of people working on the film will be Californians.

Variety Article Touts Benefits of Filming in California

California is cheap!  According to a recent article in Variety, when the savings from the California Film & Television Tax Credit are combined with the lower costs on equipment because of the economies of scale Hollywood offers (not to mention avoiding the cost and hassle of having to ship crew, cast and equipment to remote locations), California is actually much less expensive than the competition:

On “Dirty Girl,” big money was saved by taking advantage of California’s 25% tax credit for independent films with budgets between $ 1 million and $10 million. While there are larger tax credits to be found (e.g. Georgia’s 30%), the raw percentage of a location’s incentive is just one component of the economic equation. The L.A. area, where “Dirty Girl” shot, offers cheaper and more plentiful equipment than the rest of the country. It also has the world’s largest crew base, which means it’s not necessary to fly anyone in, saving on lodging, airfare and per diem costs..

Another great perk of shooting in California mentioned in the article?  The talent lives here:

The locale also made it easier to attract name actors like the film’s co-stars Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam “because if they’re in town and they’re not doing anything and it’s a fun indie movie with a great role, why not do it?” says McCoy. “And you get better day players because the pool of actors here is so competitive and so big.”

Policy Blog Calls for National Film Incentive to Replace State Incentives

A blog posting last month on made a compelling case to end the wasteful competition between the U.S. states with film incentives by replacing them with a single national U.S. film incentive so the nation can better compete in the global economy:

For example, in an effort to stay competitive, New Mexico now loses about $16,000 per film job it creates.

Which is great for Thor (largely filmed in N.M.), but completely unacceptable for New Mexico. As states continue to compete, the incentives become more unsustainable and the overall economic benefit for the U.S. is lowered. Which means Canada wins, and no one wants that.

It is so obvious, it almost hurts to write this, but if the incentive program has more cost than benefit, then scrap it! Some may say to simply change the terms, but the competition would not allow it. States like New Mexico should just admit that California is a better place to make movies and use their wasted incentive money elsewhere.

Focus the filming effort where it will actually help. California and New York are the obvious front-runners, not just because of their long history in film, but also because they got tax incentives right through the California Film and Tax Credit and the New York Film Incentive. States are so concerned with stealing movies from each other (the way Pennsylvania is stealing Batman from Illinois), they are hurting themselves and the country as a whole. A concerted, realistic, and appealing federal tax incentive for homeland movie production is in order.

So it depends.  Is runaway production a state issue or national concern?  Arguably, it’s both, but it’s clearly an issue that hits close to home for California families.