Org fights for prod’n breaks

Weak dollar has helped keep filmmakers in CA

With an actor in the governor’s office, one might guess that California would be the film-friendliest state in the nation. Guess again.

“Actually, we haven’t been as proactive as New York on the issue of runaway production,” says Vance Van Petten, executive director of the Producers Guild of America.

But the PGA has increased its tax incentive lobbying; the weak dollar has also worked in favor of keeping filmmakers in the state.

“We’re asking that California mirror the progressive tax incentive program used in New York, which can save productions hundreds of thousands of dollars,” explains Van Petten, who has taken the PGA’s proposal to the California Film Commission and the governor’s office.

“But more importantly, keeping productions in state creates such a subsidiary bonus by generating money for local communities. It is annoying when a film crew comes to town; we admit it. But it’s only for a couple of days, and these people bring enormous amounts of commerce with them.”

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Van Petten believes that, given an incentive, most of his guild members would gladly keep production within the Golden State.

“When you read that producers have made an agreement to move productions out of the state or the country, what they really mean are studios and big conglomerates have made that agreement,” he says. “But the producers at my guild don’t want to leave their families to produce something in frigid Canada. They have to stay on a budget.”

He notes that his office has already seen a marked increase in inquiries about shooting in New York since the state revised its filming policies.

Van Petten hopes that the CFC, which is already working on ways to expedite the sometimes cumbersome film permit process, will present a pic production tax incentive initiative to the governor’s office this year.

But efforts to sway Schwarzenegger have already hit a stumbling block. “The governor’s office says they can’t support tax incentives when the state has a deficit of several billions of dollars, and they want to wait a year because of financial pressures,” says Van Petten. “But that’s backwards thinking. New York realizes that by giving us tax incentives, they’re making their state financially healthier.”

But if Schwarzenegger can’t get excited about tax incentives, there’s one other problem the PGA would like his help in terminating: fraudulent producer credits. Explains Van Petten, “We’re looking to the state and the governor regarding the Truth in Credits campaign, and we’d love for him to publicly state his support.”