If there was a conclusion to be drawn from Monday’s meeting on runaway pic and TV production, it would be that there will be no simple solution.
Although several remedies — including tax breaks, reduced U.S. production costs, labor mobilization and even cuts in hotel and restaurant prices — were floated, the invited experts couldn’t agree on the best plan of attack.
The idea that drew the most discussion was tax credit legislation, which would be used to encourage production companies to shoot in-state. One bill, penned by Assemblyman Scott Wildman (D-Glendale) and now stalled in the California state Senate until January, would provide a 10% tax refund on labor costs.
At the ATAS Theatre in North Hollywood, Directors Guild of America prexy Jack Shea pointed out that “in Canada, if you go up there as a producer, you’ll get 22%-46% of labor costs returned immediately through government rebates.” With that tempting incentive, Shea couldn’t blame companies for wanting to leave California.
Similar U.S. tax rebates are necessary because “the federal government should put us on a level playing field with the countries we’re competing against,” Shea said.
Vehement tax credit proponent, Film and Television Action Committee chair Jack De Govia agreed, “We’re getting our brains beat out. … Canada is aggressive and we’re still waffling around.”
And giving the tax credit bill his own plug, Wildman said, “Unlike 42 other countries, we in the U.S. don’t have any incentives for the entertainment industry … can you believe that?”
But Matt Miller, Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers prexy, said in a global economy, the long-term solution is for the industry to be competitive.
In many cases “it just makes sense to go overseas … the job of the producer is to produce as efficiently as possible,” Miller said. “What we need to do is to be an aggressive competitor with the rest of the world … and I don’t agree that answer is all in legislation.”
Lower hotel bills
Cody Cluff, prexy of nonprofit org the Entertainment Industry Corp., said producers would stay in state if “proprietors (of) hotels and restaurants, would reassess the prices they charge.” Cluff, also a rep for Mayor Richard Riordan’s office, said he “is working hard with neighborhoods to be as film-friendly as possible.”
TV movie producer Leonard Hill urged Shea and co-panelist Screen Actors Guild prexy Richard Masur to construct Guild-sponsored “crisis bills” to fight runaway production. “If labor unions, by their own volition, made concessions then that would get the attention of the federal government.”
And although a supporter of government incentives, Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) warned, “the solutions will be tougher than we think … people are out of work in the timber and fishing industries too. … We’re not the only industry — we’re in competition for (tax incentives).”
Providing some good news for productions in the state, Gov. Gray Davis Monday signed Kuehl’s bill easing the permit process to film along California’s coastline.
Other attendees at Monday’s session included moderator Century Communications senior VP Bill Rosenthal and Hearst Entertainment senior veep of production Paul Goldman.