Groups battle to lure filming to California

They aim to stem the exodus of production jobs

Two new groups are vying for the industry’s support as they mount campaigns to keep filming in California — though one of them is meeting strong resistance to its attempts to raise money.

These initiatives to stem the exodus of film and TV production jobs — along with plans being formulated by the Los Angeles City Council and the L.A. regional film permitting agency FilmL.A. — are being launched at the grassroots level and in political quarters as the state’s unemployment rate remains stuck at about 12%.

Cinematographer Ed Gutentag is spearheading the grassroots effort, Shoot Movies in California, which is gaining traction among Hollywood’s below-the-line community. Its multiple Facebook pages have more than 14,000 fans. The group also is producing a 20-minute fictional film, “Ordinary Average Guys,” that uses humor and a mobster setting to hammer home the consequences of job flight.

Shoot Movies in California — which relies on the free labor of underemployed film crews — also plans to produce a series of shorts and PSAs to boost awareness of runaway production and its impact on film and TV workers, says “Guys” director Michael Kehoe, who runs craft services on film sets. Gutentag and Kehoe have talked with FilmL.A., the California Film Commission, First Entertainment Credit Union and other orgs about getting in-kind support, such as Web links and online tech help. But they’re not seeking money.

Fundraising, however, is at the heart of the plans of the Bring Hollywood Home Foundation. The nonprofit org, led by political consultant Sharon Jimenez (Daily Variety, March 15, 2010), aims to raise money for a media campaign that would foster a political climate friendly to the passage of additional filming incentives by the state government.

Bring Hollywood Home plans a “gala fundraising launch” to raise as much as a half-million dollars April 27 at Drai’s nighclub at the W hotel in Hollywood, and is trying to sell various levels of sponsorship to the event for prices ranging from $100,000 to $5,000. Individual tickets sell for $2,500.

Jimenez has been soliciting support from industry sources such as studios and labor unions, but many are cool to her idea. None would comment on the record — perhaps because Bring Hollywood Home was founded by State Sen. Ron Calderon, a backer of last year’s legislation that for the first time provided $500 million in tax breaks over five years for film and TV productions in the Golden State. Jimenez is married to Bob Jimenez, Calderon’s communications director.

The gala includes plans to honor Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Calderon, though it’s not clear which honorees will attend.

“They’re going around to different organizations and hitting people up for huge amounts of money,” says one union honcho. “They’re milking people to pay a staff. Why do they need a staff?”

“I’ve been asked why we’re trying to raise $500,000 on our launch,” Jimenez responds. “Well, do you know how much it costs to buy ads? … And if we don’t have a staff, how are we going to execute this? We’re not shy about our ambitions. We want to do PR and marketing, and buy ads up and down the state.”

Another objection to the foundation stems from its Johnny-come-lately status. “They’ve rubbed everybody the wrong way because they didn’t involve anybody,” says another union exec. They just came out of nowhere and decided to do this without asking any questions.”

Jimenez acknowledges she’s engaged in a rear-guard action. “There’s a backlash going on,” she says. Schwarzenegger “has kind of pulled back. He’s not committing (advisor) Clay Russell to come to our meetings anymore.”

Others retreating from Bring Hollywood Home include L.A. Economic Development Corp.’s Jack Kyser, one of the org’s original board members. “I’m wondering whether I should continue my involvement,” he says. FilmL.A., where Bring Hollywood Home held its first meeting, withdrew its offer to host the org’s subsequent get-togethers.

Meanwhile, FilmL.A. is leading its own coalition of unions and studios in a “public education campaign … directed to the general public” that it plans to launch in May, says veep Todd Lindgren.

“We want to educate people about the economic importance of the entertainment industry to the region,” he adds, “and thank the communities that host on-location productions. These can be disruptive, but they create jobs.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council has scheduled a “certificates of appreciation” event in the hour before the start of its April 23 meeting at City Hall, recognizing about a dozen producers, directors and actors who have made efforts to keep production in the L.A. area.

Villaraigosa probably will address the crowd, says an organizer. Among those scheduled to be honored: Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Favreau, Garry Marshall, Tony Shalhoub and Kiefer Sutherland.

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