‘Star Wars’ London Shoot Irks California Film Commission Topper

Lemisch laments franchise shooting in London and vows to bring more features to California

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Six months after the new “Star Wars” shoot was set for London, California Film Commission chief Amy Lemisch is still steamed about it.

“I have a giant list of major projects that California has lost because we can’t compete on incentives and ‘Star Wars’ is at the top,” Lemisch said at the FilmL.A. exhibit at the American Film Market. ‘Star Wars’ would have been worth hundreds of millions of economic activity in California.”

The production is scheduled to begin in the spring at Pinewood Studios in London for a projected 2015 release date.

“So many productions have left California or do minimal shooting here,” said Lemisch, the executive director of the commission. “ ‘Godzilla,’ which is set in San Francisco, had a few days in San Francisco but did most of their shooting in Vancouver. ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ shot four days in San Francisco, where it’s set, and then did the rest in New Orleans.”

Lemisch was front and center at the FilmL.A. booth at the Loews Hotel on AFM’s opening day, fielding questions about the shooting requirements in Los Angeles and about the state’s tax credit program — which is far smaller than those of other states with a maximum 25% production credit and a maximum annual allocation of $100 million in credits.

“Producers that come here are looking for the best possible deal,” she said. “And we can’t take it for granted that everyone knows the ropes about shooting in L.A.”

She also admitted that she’s been fielding multiple inquires about state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) after Al Jazeera America posted a sealed FBI affidavit last week describing a sting operation in which undercover officers went to elaborate lengths to pose as independent film producers seeking Calderon’s help in expanding the credit. Calderon was subsequently removed from his seat on the film commission.

“No one has questioned the legitimacy or transparency of the tax credit program,” she noted.

FilmL.A. serves as a permitting and planning agency and provides coordination of multi-jurisdictional permits along with advising on logistical challenges. The agency reported this week that David Fincher’s screen adaptation of “Gone Girl” was the most active feature shot last week with nine permitted days.

But officials have lamented that Hollywood sees far too few major studio productions like “Gone Girl.”

Feature film production was up 19% in the third quarter but it was concentrated in small-budget projects such as Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded “Wish I Was Here.”