State slashes film

Budget forces pic commission to halve staff

Hobbled by a 90% budget cut, the California Film Commission has been forced to cut its 20-person staff by half at its Hollywood headquarters.

“We certainly understand the budget constraints of the state,” said film commissioner Karen Constine in a statement issued Wednesday. “But truly, this is a very sad moment for the California Film Commission and the industry it serves and all those who benefit from filmmaking.”

State running deficit

Development comes three months after the Legislature slashed dozens of programs in order to close the state’s deficit. The film commission was allocated a 2003-04 budget of $1.2 million, compared with $12 million in 2002-03, with the proviso that operations be limited to permitting. That move effectively ended marketing and incentive efforts, including the Film California First program that subsidized fees paid by producers for government services during filming on public property.

Program allocated a total of $19 million in rebates to productions as part of its goal to put the brakes on runaway production. It proved so popular that by the end of February, producers had tapped out the entire $7.9 million allocation in rebate funds for the fiscal year ended June 30.

Surplus program continues

Constine said the commission will attempt to continue the State Theatrical Arts Resources program to provide surplus state properties at low cost to showbiz.

“This $33.4 billion signature industry is very important to the state, and we hope to do all we can to meet the needs of the industry in the future,” she said. “We plan to stay in close contact with the film industry as we evaluate our service levels, and we thank them in advance for their understanding and support during this time.”

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