Gotham Film Office Hit By City’s Budget Cuts

Already faced with boycott of studio production in Gotham, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting last week learned it will suffer significant cutbacks and layoffs as Mayor David Dinkins’ administration struggles to close a $2.2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year 1990, which begins July 1.

About the only glimmer of hope that emerged in the city last week was a plan for IATSE Local Local 52 (mechanics) and the studios to get back to the bargaining table this week. The studios have had little success recently with IA Local 644 (cinematographers), which last week overwhelmingly rejected a studio proposal made in early December. Both unions are resisting studio demands for concessions on overtime.

Dinkins presented a budget last week that will eliminate 25,000 city jobs. Some casualties will likely come from the 10-person film office, which processes permits and oversees location shooting, said commissioner Jaynne Keyes.

A 10% cut will be taken from the already-tight $41,780 that the office is allocated for marketing, advertising and travel. Keyes said this will make it tougher to a compete for location business with other cities, which are beefing up their film offices. Unfortunately, that part of the budget is just 10% of the office overhead. The major burden is salaries.

“As it stands now, I’m going to have to lay off people, although I’m trying to find some way to avoid that,” said Keyes. “I dodged the bullet when they were going to cut my movie cops, and I hope to be creative again.”

One cost-cutting option is a move to less expensive offices. Another is to turn to the industry for extra funding. Keyes said she might be required to do the latter if New York is to attract foreign pic business at Cannes.

State office also pinched

The State Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, which saw its operating budget cut 55% over the course of the fiscal year that ends March 31, is bracing for more cuts in April. Commissioner Pepper O’Brien said she didn’t think layoffs would be necessary.

Still, other hardships remain. O’Brien paid for a booth at the upcoming American Film Market, where around 200 film commissions woo filmmakers to shoot in their cities. Barring a last-minute change, she isn’t allowed to send anyone from the office to occupy the booth.

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