Harvey Weinstein to California: Expand Production Tax Incentives, ‘Please’

Harvey Weinstein
Ari Perilstein/Getty Images

Harvey Weinstein, appearing at the UCLA Entertainment Symposium in interview with Ken Ziffren, Los Angeles’ newly appointed film czar, called for California to expand its production tax incentives.

“There’s no reason for us not to shoot here, except when you do the numbers here and when you do the numbers in New Orleans, it is much more attractive financially,” Weinstein said in the Q&A on Saturday.

He cited the example of “Southpaw,” directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, as project that could have shot in Los Angeles were it not for the generous tax incentives in the Big Easy.

But Weinstein said that Los Angeles and California “doesn’t even have to give the same discount” to remain competitive, noting the cost and hassle of having to locate actors and other talent in New Orleans is an added expense despite their generous tax incentives.

“Please, whatever you can do with the governor,” Weinstein said to Ziffren, a friend of California Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown has not said whether he would sign proposed legislation to expand the state’s incentive program.

Weinstein also addressed the controversy surrounding Quentin Tarantino’s leaked script for “Hateful Eight” as indicative of the larger problem of piracy.

“It just so unnerves me that people think they can take a script…and put it on the Internet,” he said. “It is just crazy that we are not protecting ourselves as writers, producers and artists. It is just crazy that the public has some weird concept that they can just take this stuff.”

He said that the industry marketing machine should be able to come up with message of “what a lousy thing it is to do, how uncool it is” and “explain this to these kids who are doing this and proud of it.”

But he also said that there is a need to get Hollywood and Silicon Valley executives in a room to work out a solution. He said that Eric Schmidt and other leaders of Google were “reasonable” to a solution. He said that a problem is that it is up to content creators to constantly file takedown notices to user-generated sites and file sharing sites, a “constant vigilance” that puts the onus on copyright holders to spot piracy.

“We have got to sit down with these guys,” he said.

He also talking about his political engagement, noting that he was a die-hard supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008 but has been won over by the Obamas, saying that he is “more and more impressed.”

He chided Republicans for their focus on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, particularly over the role of Clinton as Secretary of State. Although he said that he gets along with Fox News chief Roger Ailes, he questioned the channel’s focus on Benghazi and the innuendo around it.

“There’s nothing to it,” he said of Benghazi. “I mean, there’s a lot to it, but there’s nothing to what these guys are saying. ‘Hillary Clinton didn’t answer her phone and that is how Americans died,’ that’s complete bullshit. It sounds good, but I don’t believe the guys who are saying it believe it.”

Weinstein suggested that a reason that “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” came up short in the Oscar race was its August release date, which may have hurt its prospects but did perhaps help at the box office, particularly internationally, where it grossed about $70 million.

“We didn’t win Oscars with ‘The Butler,’ but we did win the Bank of America Award,” he said, noting that investors were paid off earlier than they might have been had the movie been released at another time.

He was particularly bullish about the TV business, noting that “it revolutionized our company by stabilizing it.”

The first four years of The Weinstein Co. were rough, but the past five years have been a turnaround, Weinstein said. He said that the plunge into non-scripted series brought in a stable revenue stream, and the company now is producing such scripted projects as “Marco Polo” and “War and Peace.” Weinstein said he got the advice to get into the business from Cablevision’s James Dolan, who told him, “you know idiots make money in television, and you’re a f—ing idiot.”

Laughing, Weinstein said, “It is the most lucrative advice I have ever received, because it really helped turn everything around, stabilized the company.”

At times, Weinstein was in a self-deprecating mood, particularly when Ziffren opened up the forum to questions from the audience.

“Have you mellowed?” asked one questioner.

“The drugs are working,” Weinstein quipped. “Even more importantly, have four daughters and see if you have mellowed.”

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  1. mattjutras says:

    Suck a cock, Whinestein

  2. wilma200 says:

    Sitting at 87 for too long. Consider this comment job security for the censors at Variety.

  3. Smooth says:

    Jealousy is a loser’s disease, see a therapist.

  4. Smooth says:

    Move along wingnut, this case is closed.

  5. Red Smith says:

    pay the actors less.
    how many cars can an actor drive at one time.
    how many bedrooms must an actor have in the mansion.
    how much drugs can an actor use.
    how stupid are we to pay for liberal movies.

  6. wwlee4411 says:

    Reblogged this on wwlee4411 and commented:
    That’s right! Increase taxes on the richest 1%; but don’t tax us!

  7. wilma200 says:

    On February 19, legislation was introduced to expand the $100 million credit program, with nearly 60 co-sponsors from across the state. This is what Harvey is lobbying for.

  8. Walmann says:

    “It just so unnerves me that people think they can take a script…and put it on the Internet,” he said. “It is just crazy that we are not protecting ourselves as writers, producers and artists. It is just crazy that the public has some weird concept that they can just take this stuff.”

    The working public see the fruits of their labor just taken by government, and the non-working public receive the fruits of others. This is the progressive way. You don’t always need the government to act as the middle man to do the taking. You reap what you sow.

  9. Bill says:

    And why Mr. Weinstein should you be any different? California is chasing all kinds of businesses out of state with its tax policies. They are moving to Nevada, Texas and other places where the regulatory environment is more friendly and the taxes are lower. And the folks from Hollywood didn’t seem to have an issue when the target of the taxes was Chevron, but when it hits home let’s go running to the state house for hep.

    If you really want to do something, make it less unfriendly to all businesses in California. But to ask the taxpayers and other businesses to help you out is hypocrisy at its best.

    • kyoseki says:

      The movie industry isn’t going to Nevada or Texas, it’s going to Louisiana, New York and Georgia.

      Not because of tax cuts, but because of subsidies, these states are taking taxpayer money and refunding the studios up to 30% of their expenses if they shoot there. The situation is even worse internationally, with some territories refunding up to 44%.

      Weinstein is lobbying California to increase our subsidies so they can continue to shoot here, as he noted, California doesn’t even have to match them because existing infrastructure and talent actually makes the base cost here lower.

      • kyoseki says:

        Because it’s creating an artificial economy that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

        As soon as you cut or reduce the subsidies, or even just if someone else offers more money, the jobs go elsewhere.

        You end up with an industry that only survives because you’re pumping taxpayer money into it, and as we’ve seen in Maryland and New Zealand, for example, you have to keep increasing the amount of taxpayer money in order to “remain competitive”.

        (Maryland is faced with losing House of Cards to Virginia if they don’t up their subsidies and New Zealand were faced with the threat of losing Avatar 2,3 & 4 and so had to up their subsidies from 15-25%).

      • JHL3rd says:

        Why is that a problem?

      • kyoseki says:

        Not when they’re simply used to move jobs from one state or country to another rather than actually create them.

      • JHL3rd says:

        So I take it you’re against government subsidies of any kind?

  10. Selena says:

    I normally don’t do this, but I “marked” this article so I could come back to it to see the number of comments. I’m guessing their “counter” doesn’t go over 87. This article was picked up by several news sites, the Drudge report for one. With Drudger’s commenting about this blowhard Weinstein, I’d expect the counter to be around at least 8700 by now. Nice try though, liberal moderator!! LMAO!

    • Alan Jones says:

      Well Harvey, maybe you should have been sitting there with the people who died in Benghazi then you may have a different view of what took place, oh wait, I doubt if you would have thought it was nothing at the time!

    • wilma200 says:

      I’ve been taking screen shots to keep track because the comments are deleted so frequently.

  11. Jon Weiss says:

    I must have upset the censors all of my posts just disappeared.

  12. Trouble is the “credits” have nothing to do with taxes. The film companies in Louisiana get 30% of their expenses in transferrable tax credits they can sell to people who owe taxes or redeem with the state at 85 cents on the dollar.

    It is out and out welfare. Corporate welfare.

    Interesting a corporate welfare proponent has such an affinity for Hillary. I thought republicans were the big business cronies.

    • suedi52 says:

      The truth is…it has nothing to do with which side does and does not do it…they BOTH do and are equally corrupt in that regard.

  13. Taxpayers should not subsidize film makers in Louisiana or California.

  14. Corona says:

    I remember a video of another multi-millionaire a few years ago at some town hall meeting who said, “Mr. President, please raise my taxes.”

  15. ImJustAGuy says:

    sorry, my comment was meant as a reply to Smooth

  16. Smooth says:

    Wingnuts always want everyone to pay but them. Middle class wingnuts are looked down upon by the upper class wingnuts such as Romney, Ryan. and Cruz, but they still get the middle class wingnut vote. Go figure.

  17. Smooth says:

    Middle class wingnuts voting for rich people like Romney who could care less about them deserves what they get. There shouldn’t be any such animal as a middle class republican. How stupid can you be?

  18. Smooth says:

    If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?

  19. Smooth says:

    Give it a rest pal.

  20. Smooth says:

    Typical dumb wingnut whining.

  21. James Thompson III says:

    I spent the last few months in Boston and was surprised to see that extras were not paid a dime for their work. Go to http://www.bostoncasting.com/, list yourself, and you will get plenty of calls for working as an extra…for free. Extras get paid in California. Also, because the Boston Film Commission and the Massachusetts Film Commission have been combined into one small room in City Hall, we were never able to see a person. We just kept getting referred to the web site. For those two reasons alone, it’s worth it to shoot in California.

  22. Studies show that film subsidies (another form of corporate welfare) cost more money than they generate. And it seems California is in no position to afford it. It is a romantic idea to bring production back to Southern California. But the economics simply don’t work.

  23. Nimble says:

    Hilarious there were over 200 posts on this yesterday now less than 50. Free speech at its best. Just remove what you disagree with. The liberal way. Variety literally cut the ones out it didn’t agree with from the beginning. Shame.

  24. Centurian says:

    Hey Harve, How about trying Texas. Better economic climate. On second thought, stay in California. We don’t need anymore transplanted flaming libs.

  25. wilma200 says:

    This South Floridian wants them to stay far away. They are toxic. Look at what they’ve done to California.

  26. Verily says:

    Do I smell capitalism here? Helloooooooo

  27. bob from elgin says:

    Nothing to Bengazi—sounds like the title for your next fantasy.

  28. jharry3 says:

    What a lot of people don’t realize is that Louisiana was the first choice of the movie industry as its base back in early 1900’s. Their local politicians with their hands out chased them out to California. I guess Louisiana learned its lesson and is making that State more attractive to film movies. They have such a diversity of homes and settings its easier to get a good background for any movie. Not to mention the people are nicer.

  29. Dirty D says:

    People here have no clue how the industry works — production tax incentives have nothing to do with Harvey’s personal income. A $100 million dollar movie is a $100 million dollar movie regardless of where it’s shot, the difference is in places like NOLA and Atlanta, where those cities are giving huge tax incentives, that money can buy a lot more. That extra money goes to hire labor and buy more goods, which is great for the local economy. The entertainment industry provides a lot of good jobs with high wages. California is getting killed by other state’s tax incentives as all the work is leaving the state. We need those tax breaks to stay competitive, and Jerry Brown is an idiot for allowing all the work and money leave the state. Penny wise and pound foolish.

    • Nimble says:

      “There’s no reason for us not to shoot here, except when you do the numbers here and when you do the numbers in New Orleans, it is much more attractive financially,” said Weintsein, citing his movie Southpaw, which he said he would have preferred to shoot in Southern California, but ultimately settled for New Orleans.

  30. Thorn says:

    If you want to bring down costs, don’t pay an actor 20 million dollars for 3 months work

  31. john bowley says:

    I wish he’s see the value of applying his tax ideas to all industries, not just his own. California is bleeding jobs to Nevada, Texas and every state with sane tax laws.

  32. Alex says:

    The good news for you in Florida is that films and TV shows are being shot all over the south east, not just Florida. Example, “Homeland” is shot in North Carolina, Also, another studio is being built on Staten Island. As Billy Joel sang, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” If Harv does get his tax cut it may be too late for southern Cal.

  33. wilma200 says:

    Important fact that is ignored. Buffet spent hundreds of millions expanding the lines in the northwest on anticipation that he would be transporting Canada’s oil. A stroke of good fortune? I do not think so.

  34. Phyllis says:

    And for the idiots that have no idea how far reaching the film industry is here’s a list of all the different types of companies and people I employ when I’m working on a film, yeah Harvey’s Money:
    Florists
    Carpenters
    Painters
    Mechanists
    Welders
    Caterers
    Artists
    Flooring companies
    Props companies
    Secretaries
    Designers
    Drafters
    Web designers
    Graphic artists
    Drapers
    Seamstresses
    Upholsters
    Event rentals
    Electricians
    Plumbers
    Mechanists

    Donations to:
    Schools
    Libraries
    Hospitals
    Police departments

    Up to 500 people in one department on one film can be working and making money, Harvey’s money. What do any of you do? Who do you employ? Oh right you just bitch.

    • patricia says:

      Phyllis, the same can be said for ALL large industries. You seem awfully vested, so we have to assume these truths are hitting a nerve for you? Suck it up buttercup

  35. Phyllis says:

    How are you idiots getting this fatalist and ridiculous “the world is ending because of what Harvey Weinstein says about tax incentives.” Really, Wow. And how is what he SAID impacted the world as you know it right now…go! How is a variety article about Harvey Weinstein have anything to do with Obama? Really, how? If you can actually read he mention film tax incentives for two paragraphs and that’s it, wow that just completely shifted my whole world into a tail spin of hate speech, really? Y’all kiss your mothers with those mouths? If you don’t think the film industry brings jobs of ALL kinds than your just dumb and probably uneducated about a lot of things. So basically I’m drinking the kool-aid and living in a gumdrop world because I think JOBS and work are good? Hmmm, y’all must be independently wealthy and just like to bitch about crap. Exactly what are republicans and tea parties doing to make any place in ‘Merica a better place, better education, better jobs, better health care, and not for some – but all? Please enlighten me. Tell me what republicans have done, don’t site what you hate about the left, just list all the amazingly awesome things the right is doing to better everything. No mention of Obama or any of that shit, no bitching or whining or complaining, just a list of all the great awesomeness happening because of the right/tea party….in 5,4,3,2,1

    • nimble says:

      Ok , you just made the argument for trickle-down economics, which is what lower taxes is all about. people spend money rather than pay it away to an inefficient government who wastes it on shit like making a website with a canadian company. Trickle down economics is what Republicans and Tea Party people believe.
      No one thinks the world is ending, people are sick of seeing hypocrites like Harvey Weinstein who act like they are for big liberal ideas and high taxes for everyone, while at the same time are using tax loopholes and enriching themselves.
      Let’s face it no one really gives two shits about the lousy film industry. Do you think you and your crap company are the only ones who employ people and create growth in this country -you narcissistic ass?
      Furthermore California has the most outrageously unsustainable state pension system, takes over 50% of the country’s federal welfare benefits and takes out way more than it pays in to the federal system in taxes.
      america has 17trillion in debt and over 100trillion in entitlements to pay out on a GDP of ~17trillion. You and your muppet comment of “exactly what are republicans and tea parties doing to make any place in ‘Merica a better place..” well ill tell you what they are doing trying to downs size our bullshit federal government that pisses money away on shit that doesn’t work, namely everything it does. our children will be paying double the payroll tax and 75% income tax across the board because assholes like you and Weinstein wanna give everything away and pay for it later.
      Maybe you cannot handle the truth that government cannot afford healthcare and having agencies like the Department of Energy that has a 50bln/year budget. And despite the fact that we all want it, WE CAN NOT AFFORD IT. Someone needs to say it. You cannot make the numbers work.
      And why does an idiot like yourself think that what holds true for business in the film industry doesn’t hold true for the rest of America.

    • wilma200 says:

      North Dakota is a red state with a very healthy economy that continues to outperform the rest of the nation.

  36. KellyVanRijn says:

    How ironic that the very people who support the Democratic Party, which is the very party which just loves raising taxes, are now crying because taxes are finally hurting them. Why should the entertainment industry get tax breaks, and not say, house painters. Better yet, why is anyone being taxed to death? Blame the Democratic Party.

  37. daviedave says:

    Waa.

  38. Ed Cole says:

    They’re asking for tax breaks just for the film industry instead of for every business and individual in the state?

    Typical. Same as their stance on gun control. “No one should be able to buy or carry a gun. Oh – except for me and my bodyguards – I’m important after all – and I’m entitled to personal protection.”
    .
    .
    As Thatcher said, (paraphrasing) Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money to confiscate.

  39. Frank Stagg says:

    Hey Harvey, pay your damn taxes and shut up. That’s what you get for supporting Dems.

  40. Phyllis says:

    I think you’re all a little misguided. He’s talking about the film tax incentive, which California doesn’t really have, thereby making Louisiana a more viable place for productions, studios and the like to take their business and JOBS! Which is fine by me because I live in Louisiana and work in the film industry. So JOBS, really great paying jobs, are fleeing the “film capital” to other states with TAX INCENTIVES. You can thank your past REPUBLICAN governors for that! Idiots! No wonder California’s bankrupt! Keep scwabling about bulls@&t while work goes away. CA went from 64% of the business in 2009 to 8% in 2013, but yet y’all are bitching about Obama, instead of realizing Harvey is trying to get the state to give a bigger incentive to bring WORK, that’s right JOBS back to a state that could use it? Misguided fools! FOOLS!

    • nimble says:

      Ok , you just made the argument for trickle-down economics, which is what lower taxes is all about. people spend money rather than pay it away to an inefficient government who wastes it on shit like making a website with a canadian company. Trickle down economics is what Republicans and Tea Party people believe.
      No one thinks the world is ending, people are sick of seeing hypocrites like Harvey Weinstein who act like they are for big liberal ideas and high taxes for everyone, while at the same time are using tax loopholes and enriching themselves.
      Let’s face it no one really gives two shits about the lousy film industry. Do you think you and your crap company are the only ones who employ people and create growth in this country -you narcissistic ass?
      Furthermore California has the most outrageously unsustainable state pension system, takes over 50% of the country’s federal welfare benefits and takes out way more than it pays in to the federal system in taxes.
      america has 17trillion in debt and over 100trillion in entitlements to pay out on a GDP of ~17trillion. You and your muppet comment of “exactly what are republicans and tea parties doing to make any place in ‘Merica a better place..” well ill tell you what they are doing trying to downs size our bullshit federal government that pisses money away on shit that doesn’t work, namely everything it does. our children will be paying double the payroll tax and 75% income tax across the board because assholes like you and Weinstein wanna give everything away and pay for it later.
      Maybe you cannot handle the truth that government cannot afford healthcare and having agencies like the Department of Energy that has a 50bln/year budget. And despite the fact that we all want it, WE CAN NOT AFFORD IT. Someone needs to say it. You cannot make the numbers work.
      And why does an idiot like yourself think that what holds true for business in the film industry doesn’t hold true for the rest of America.

    • Yankee says:

      I worked in the CA film industry. Most production have been shot outside CA because it was just more lucrative as far the tax breaks from i.e. Canada or elsewhere in US.
      That’s the tax break Mr Weinstein is asking to bring back jobs in CA in the film industry.

    • David says:

      I think you’re confused. You meant Past Democrat governors.

  41. Harold says:

    Typical rich liberal doesn’t want to pay his fair share; he wants someone else to pay his way.

  42. Brian Dzyak says:

    If lower taxes equated to more jobs, then after thirty+ years of unsustainably low taxes, this nation should be swimming in jobs to the point where we’d need to import people to fill them all.

    That meme is long dead and buried, yet willfully ignorant Conservatards continue to believe the Reagan lie.

  43. Brian Dzyak says:

    Uh, no. Civilizations have to tax citizens to pay for the infrastructure we enjoy.

    We wouldn’t need a social safety net if the Sociopathic Plutocrats on the Right weren’t hoarding $32 trillion dollars in offshore accounts.

    And it was Reagan who slashed taxes on infrastructure while increasing it on the unconstitutional standing military.

  44. jonathan says:

    this guys is an 800 lb guerilla. always fascinated by him.

  45. Brian Dzyak says:

    Lowering taxes does NOT “incentivize” business. That business is going to get done anyway. All that tax Bribes do is “incentivize” where the jobs will be done on the backs of unknowing taxpayers.

    If all tax bribes went away today, virtually ALL of the production work would be back in Los Angeles tomorrow because LA is where the infrastructure exists and where most of the experienced crew lives and where all of the executives and above-the-line people live and work.

    Tax bribes are simply that…. bribes. ANY business will look for the cheapest manufacturing costs possible to improve the profits on the other side for those at the top. That is why we need GOVERNMENT to step in and level the playing field to prevent taxpayers from being robbed so that the wealthy can obtain even more money than they need.

    • Carl Parsons says:

      As a Canadian, I would like to thank people like you for sending all the jobs from California to Vancouver. Our taxes are lower, our cost of living is better, and you can keep thinking that business will continue on regardless of what you do. You Americans had so much going for you at one time. It’s amazing how quickly you pissed it all away.

  46. Brian Dzyak says:

    So, in other words, we wealthy Corporations need taxpayer bribe money before we’ll even think about “creating jobs” in California, otherwise we’ll take our ball and play in some other State that WILL give us all the bribes we demand.

    That is called “extortion” and it is illegal.

  47. Rachel says:

    I believe in lower taxes for everyone. But elist Lefties like Weinstein and Buffet, are always saying “we don’t pay enough taxes” and support tax hikes…but when it’s THEIR turn to pay they beg and loophole their way out of them. Buffet owes the IRS a billion dollars he’s fighting! Effing hypocrites. Pay what you owe, HARVEY, you jerk.

  48. asdf asdfa says:

    I bet not one person in the top 20 comments has any real idea as to what’s happening here.

  49. DK says:

    Another link from the Drudge Report (this time stating “Harvey Weinstein pleads for tax breaks”) bringing out racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic old white Rethuglicans. Sorry guys, you ran the country for too long, the world has changed, adapt or die.

  50. Get this guy. Maybe he should get into the ammo business and pay taxes like they do…

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