Lawmakers Call on Hollywood Refine Message

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his “film czar,” Tom Sherak, gave what amounted to pep talk to an audience of entertainment industry labor officials and Hollywood small business executives pressing lawmakers to do more to stem production flight from the city.

“We’re going to go up to Sacramento and storm that place like we never have before,” Garcetti told the crowd gathered at the Loews Hollywood Hotel for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Industry Conference on Tuesday. Garcetti said that what was at stake was the capturing of employment from the “second incarnation of this industry.”

Sherak, recently appointed by Garcetti as his director of the office of film and television, told the crowd that there is momentum to “reverse” the trend of production leaving to other states. He officially started his job at City Hall last week.

“Someone once said, ‘We have awoken a sleeping giant.’ That is what this mayor has done.”

Garcetti said that he is focused on cutting City Hall red tape and lobbying Sacramento, but also that they would be launching a campaign of “educating the populace” on the benefits of production in their neighborhood. That is in response to complaints from producers that they do location shoots only to face complaints from neighbors that they are creating too much noise or blocking traffic, even when they have permits to do so.

But State Sen. Kevin de Leon called in the industry to better makes its case for additional tax credit money, saying that the industry “hasn’t done a good enough job in telling a narrative” about what impact the credits have on middle class employment.

“We have to crank up and recalibrate the message,” he said, adding that it was “really incumbent” on industry leaders to “tell a compelling story that persuades policymakers.”

De Leon and Assemblyman Mike Gatto are working on legislation to expand the program. One of the challenges, de Leon noted, is how to expand the credit to include movies with budgets greater than $75 million. He also said that they are trying to address complaints that the current lottery system for awarding credits makes it hard for producers to plan their productions well into the future.

The challenge is to create a program that is still fair to all who apply, he suggested.

“We don’t want to pick winners and we don’t want to pick losers,” he said.

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