This will be good for Vancouver, not so much for the TV business as a whole: with New York’s tax credits about to run out, Fringe is the first show to move production out of the city, and it may not be the last.
According to Stuart Suna, head of Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios—where Fringe currently films—the [tax credit] program’s $685 million budget, which was put into place in April 2008, was initially expected to last until 2013. But because of its popularity, “all of the allocated money was used up. So many productions came to New York. It was more than anybody expected.”
With the potential expiration of these tax incentives, the future shooting locales for certain NYC-based shows—like 30 Rock, In Treatment, and Life On Mars—remain in limbo.
New York’s tax incentives were so successful that Tina Fey even plugged them in awards acceptance speeches. Fringe isn’t even set in New York, but filmed there because it made financial sense to do so. But production companies are fickle, and now that there’s a chance that the city might no longer be able to throw free money at them, the producers are running back to Vancouver, the traditional home of confusing conspiracy-theory shows on Fox.
Meanwhile, California’s new (and and much-fought-over) budget includes tax incentives for movie/TV production, something the Governator has been pushing for a while but only just managed to get through, correctly noting that with the popularity of the tax-incentive system in New York and elsewhere, California was in danger of losing too many productions. Not to be outdone, the government of Ontario announced that it would institute permanent tax relief for producers who want to shoot their movies and shows over here. There’s going to be plenty of competition to see who can offer producers the most goodies in exchange for filming in a certain place, but with the Fringe incident, we can also see the potential problem: after the money’s gone (water flowing underground…) so are the producers.
I don’t know how the move will or won’t affect Fringe; I wish I could remember more about how certain shows changed when they moved from the U.S. to Vancouver. (I’m not even going to discuss the X-Files move from Vancouver to L.A., since I had stopped watching it by then.) They’ll be drawing on a different pool of local actors, but other than that, I’m not sure the change will be that big, because in both cases they’re pretending that the city is some other city. It’s different when a show that’s set in New York or L.A. moves from that place to some other place; the look of a show can change a lot in that case, because they’re going from a mostly-undisguised city to a disguised city. So if 30 Rock ever had to move out of New York — I doubt it’ll come to that, because the city wouldn’t let Lorne leave — that would be a huge problem. Gossip Girl, too, but the article says that they’ve already signed up to continue in New York.