Inside Move: Even DGA prexy can’t stop runaway train

Coolidge considering economic realities for 'Prince'

You know runaway production has become entrenched when even the head of the Directors Guild of America is shooting in Toronto and Prague.

With DGA prexy Martha Coolidge prepping to lense “The Prince and the Freshman” and the Great White North again standing in for the U.S., the lack of creative muscle on the issue of runaway production has never been more evident.

“While I prefer to shoot the American scenes of the film in the U.S., there are economic realities to consider,” Coolidge notes.

The decision to shoot in Prague is understandable, since part of “Prince,” a Paramount-Lions Gate co-prod starring Julia Stiles, is set in Eastern Europe. But scenes set in the Midwest will be shot in Canada, where it’s significantly cheaper.

The fact is, only a few powerful players, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, can demand a domestic shoot, as he did with “Terminator 3.”

For Coolidge, whose credits include “Valley Girl” and “Rambling Rose,” the situation points up the need for legislation to protect domestic production — a position the DGA has pushed as the most effective way to “level the playing field.”

But that prospect looks dim as the federal government sizes up the cost of the Iraq war and states are pinched by budget shortfalls. And now, concerns over travel have eased and Canada recently sweetened its tax credit incentives.

“If you want a career, you have to go where the work is,” says Jack DeGovia, founder of the anti-runaway Film & Television Action Committee.

DeGovia made such a move himself in 2000 to work on “The Score” in Canada, ankling FTAC to avoid damaging the group, even though the film was set in Montreal. But such treks have since become routine, or, as he puts it: “Runaway is now an established part of the Hollywood way of doing business.”

DeGovia, a former Art Directors Guild prexy, is in pre-production on “The Stepford Wives.”

“Thank God we’re shooting in New York and New England, because it wouldn’t work as well if it were shot in Canada,” he says.

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