California film fund flickers

Subsidy advances despite panel's objection

Lawmakers have given the Film California First incentive program hope for survival amid the state’s massive $38 billion budget deficit.

The Assembly and Senate budget subcommittees agreed last week to allocate $6 million for 2003-04 to the 2-year-old program, even though the Assembly panel had recommended zero funding earlier this year. Program subsidizes fees paid by producers for government services during filming on public property.

State film commissioner Karen Constine indicated she was hopeful that the full Legislature will retain the program when it approves the budget.

“We are very pleased in light of all the fiscal difficulties facing the state,” Constine said. “This vital program generates significant dollars and positively impacts jobs.”

$8.2 mil originally sought

Gov. Gray Davis originally recommended an $8.2 million allocation for the 2003-04 fiscal year, but state legislative analyst Elizabeth Hill recommended killing the program in February as part of dozens of cuts to close the deficit. Showbiz orgs including the DGA and the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers have actively lobbied for the program, contending it prevents producers from fleeing to cheaper locations outside California.

“The fact that Film California First has been saved and recognized this way is a victory for the industry and our members,” said DGA director of government affairs Kathy Garmezy.

Program has allocated a total of $16 million in rebates for 2,800 productions since it was launched in order to put the brakes on runaway production. The incentive program proved so popular that by the end of February, producers had tapped out the entire $7.9 million allocation in rebate funds for the current fiscal year ending June 30.

The commission contends more than 130,000 below-the-line jobs have been positively impacted by the FCF program during the past two years.

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