The mayor's film office chief addresses prod'n challenges

Katherine Oliver was named New York commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Theater, Film and Broadcasting on June 25.

While new to NYC’s production world, she is no stranger to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, having worked at his media conglom since 1992. She was general manager of Bloomberg Radio and TV Intl. from 1996 until her appointment in June.

Oliver has already scored high points with many in the Gotham production community. Insiders have praised her enthusiasm, willingness to hear their issues, and desire to move Gotham in a positive direction.

Recently, Variety Gotham film reporter Charles Lyons raised six issues for the new commish:

On the biz bouncing back since 9/11:

“There was a strong rally at the beginning of the year and more consistent work throughout. The entertainment business goes through cycles, as does the economy. There is no doubt that New York City will remain a premier location and an important destination for film and production.

On the biggest issues affecting the industry in NYC:

“The biggest issue affecting every industry is a weak economy. Now more than ever, the industry needs to come together and offer incentives at every level. In the early ’90s, the East Coast Council was successful at working collaboratively to support more low-budget projects. This is a good example of New Yorkers coming together and finding creative solutions to a difficult issue.”

Mandate for Oliver’s first year:

“I would like to improve and expedite the services this office provides to the industry; we’ve put our permit online and are streamlining the permitting process. I’d like to aggressively promote the city as an international production center. As a global business, we need to start looking east as well as west, which means forging ties with production entities in Europe and Asia. I recently met with top studio executives in Los Angeles and will soon be returning. There is great enthusiasm to support New York and develop new projects. These working relationships are key to keeping the city uppermost in the minds of decision-makers.”

On the unions’ willingness to to negotiate with producers planning to make films in New York:

“I have met with heads of labor and they are strongly committed to growing our business. We are keenly aware of the challenges before us.”

On runaway production:

“We can’t take a myopic view of this issue. Locations across the country are feeling the effects of runaway production and an economic downturn. New York’s position as one of the largest, international production centers is credited to a superior workforce of over 100,000 free-lance professionals, a free, expedited permit process, locations and police assistance. This package of incentives is the strongest in the nation, but everyone needs to marshal efforts at the federal level to maintain our competitive edge.

Her message to the powers that be in Hollywood:

“New York wants their business and is ready, willing and able to play host to major productions. Some of our strongest calling cards are the complex shoots that we regularly assist. From “Vanilla Sky” to “Spider-Man” to “Changing Lanes” to “Stuart Little,” we deliver consistently on whatever a creative mind dreams up.

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