Written by John Schaus
When you think of some of the most well-known film locations, what comes to mind? Atlanta, New Zealand, Los Angeles, New York… The list goes on both here in the States and abroad. But one city that rarely comes to mind (if ever) is Phoenix, Arizona. Because when you think of Phoenix, you probably think of a dusty, Wild West city on the cusp of maybe becoming a “real” city.
But that’s where you’d be wrong. Since the pandemic, the greater Phoenix GDP has more than DOUBLED—a huge feat, especially compared to cities like Houston and boroughs in New York, which actually saw negative growth. The bottom line is people saw Phoenix as an inexpensive, sprawling city.
Filmmakers were, and are still, a big part of that crowd, especially with the recent news surrounding tax incentives and studio construction in Phoenix and Scottsdale.
With a growing infrastructure, better tax laws, and an already established creative community, could Phoenix be the next major film hub in the West?
Let's break down all the incentives when it comes to shooting in or near Phoenix, Arizona.
The Arizona Advantage
With its stunning and diverse natural landscapes, from the Sonoran Desert to picturesque forests and small towns to the vibrant and growing urban settings, Arizona is home to pretty much any backdrop you could imagine—and filmmakers like the Coen Brothers, Clint Eastwood, and Steven Spielberg have all taken advantage of the year-round sunshine.
But the real game-changer is the state’s new tax incentives for filmmakers. Also referred to as the Arizona Motion Picture Production Program, the terms are pretty sweet:
- 15% tax credit for productions under $10 million
- 17.5% for budgets up to $35 million
- 20% for projects over $35 million.
Plus, there's even an extra benefit of a 2.5% tax credit for employing Arizona residents in key positions. Combine all that with the fact that Arizona is one of the most inexpensive places to live, work, and play in general, and you’ve got yourself a long list of reasons to host your next production there.
But that’s not all…
Construction has already begun on some infrastructure that will sweeten the pot even more.
Building Infrastructure and Growing Interest. Photo from Acacia Filmed Entertainment
While Arizona has a handful of studios to choose from around the state, it still doesn’t have a true studio complex with multiple sound stages, production offices, etc., that Hollywood has in spades, until now.
One of the most important things to note about the new incentives in the Arizona Motion Picture Production Program is for businesses to actually build studios in the state.
For example, according to Variety, Acacia Filmed Entertainment plans on building a 70-acre site that will house 14 sound stages in Scottsdale. Additionally, Desert Studios is set to build a complex of its own in the Buckeye area, located just to the west of the general downtown Phoenix area.
Joining the Phoenix Creative Community.
One of the best parts about these new studios and the gaining interest in filming in Phoenix is that the groundwork has already been set in terms of experienced and talented production companies, DPs, actors, stylists, and more.
In fact, some of the best directors, actors, and comedians have roots in Arizona, including Emma Stone, Steven Spielberg, and SNL cast members like David Spade, Aidy Bryant, and newcomer Michael Longfellow.
Plus, most Phoenix production companies have decades of experience filming across the state, hosting big-name stars, directors, and brands, shooting everything from documentaries, commercials, feature films, reality TV, and music videos.
The point is: when the heavy hitters from Hollywood decide to start filming more and more in Arizona, they’ll have their choice from some of the most experienced filmmakers in the industry.
State 48 for the win?
In a nutshell, Phoenix—as well as Arizona as a whole—is truly at a tipping point to becoming a prominent film hub, competing with major cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Atalanta.
With a blend of opportunities and built-in resources like killer tax incentives and a thriving creative community, the state is ready to take its place in the spotlight of the film industry.
As filmmakers continue to explore the untapped potential of this desert oasis, Phoenix is poised to carve out its own unique and successful narrative on the cinematic stage.
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