The Entertainment Industry Development Corp. has been trying to stay out of the headlines this year.
“We’ve not made any real pronouncements about what we’ve been doing,” says veteran Hollywood exec Lindsley Parsons Jr., who has served as interim prexy since January. “I think it’s a lot more effective in the long term if you just get results, so we have not been tooting our own horn much.”
Parsons’ four-decade resume includes stints as prexy-and CEO of Lucas Digital, president of Intl. Film Guarantors, exec production posts with MGM and Paramount, exec producer at Universal and Finnegan Pinchuk Co., and prexy of the California Film Commission.
He replaced Cody Cluff, the film-permitting agency’s former topper who ankled in December amid a still-continuing criminal investigation for alleged misuse of $700,000 in public funds.
No charges have been filed, but the EIDC, formed in 1994 by merging the city and county film offices, has been scrambling to change from Cluff’s free-wheeling style.
For Parsons, the task has been four-fold: manage the EIDC while a KPMG audit is being completed; start revamping the agency into a more accountable operation; deal with fallout from residents’ complaints about incessant film shoots in specific neighborhoods; and keep the agency focused on its central mission of retaining local, off-lot production of about 45,000 permitted film days.
Though the original plan was for Parsons to work just six months, he admits it’s likely he’ll stay on for the rest of 2003, until the EIDC is re-structured. “That was the biggest surprise to me when I got here — that the EIDC lacked a structure that had a clear accounting of who was responsible for what,” he admits.
At one point, the L.A. City Council was considering allowing neighborhood councils to have a hand in drafting new regs but backed away from that stance after appeals from the industry about potential job losses. Instead, the EIDC began a series of meetings with neighborhood groups in mid-June covering such oft-shot areas as downtown Los Angeles, Hancock Park, Los Feliz, Toluca Lake and Pacific Palisades.
“What we’re trying to do is put out hot spots, places that have been overfished,” Parsons notes.
Keith Comrie, the former L.A. administrator hired last year to oversee the audit, asserts that the EIDC has been able to make the case at those hearings that it’s able to deal with problems. “It’s something we can fix because there are literally hundreds of alternative sites in L.A.”
The EIDC has an annual budget of about $3 million and acts as a conduit between government agencies and producers seeking to film on public property. Before Cluff departed, the exec committee barred political contributions, hired Comrie and agreed to pay KMPG nearly $300,000 to perform a comprehensive review, due to be completed at the end of July.
Comrie insists that the agency has been operating in fundamentally different ways than in the Cluff days by paying its bills on time and fully cooperating with the DA’s investigation. “You can be sure that we’ll have the standard set of rules in place for nonprofits.”
Steve Dayan, business manager for Teamsters Local 399, which reps location managers, believes that Parsons and Comrie have responded well to being thrust into an uncertain environment. “It’s very much an interim situation where the agency needs to reflect a lot of different interests, so I think they’ve done a sterling job.”