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L.A. Mayor on Oscar Diversity: ‘I Agree With the Criticism’

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the controversy swirling around the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees a “wake up” call, but he said that he was not as worried about a boycott of the ceremony, which is an economic boost to the region.

“The Academy must keep up with the times or else they will continue to have these conflicts,” said Garcetti, appearing at a press conference on Tuesday at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, where Ben Affleck’s “Live By Night” is shooting. He and other city and industry officials were talking about increased 2015 production numbers as proof that a number of initiatives are working to boost film and TV jobs in the region.

“I agree with the criticism” of the lack of diversity, Garcetti said. “I think Los Angeles reflects the way that the country will be, and it is a reflection of the way the world is today. Our diversity is our strength. Our diversity is part of what makes our cultural mix so interesting here. I think we need to we need to lift up and celebrate those great actors, producers, directors, writers who reflect that same diversity as well.”

He said that he was with Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs on Monday night at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference annual dinner, “and I know she is pushing really hard. She is the first African American woman to head up the Academy, and she is trying to. But that is a closed vote that happens confidentially with folks.”

“I am not as worried about a boycott,” he added. “I respect that, that some people will stay away and they absolutely have the right to do that. This is a huge global event. We still celebrate film no matter what. But it is a wake up call to make sure that we continue to push forward.”

He also said that the City Hall efforts to make it easier to shoot in Los Angeles also include trying to “provide pathways for more diverse Angelenos to get in the industry through different partnerships in the industry itself and some of the summer youth jobs programs.”

The latest figures from FilmLA showed that on-location production rose by 1.3% in 2015, with a drop in reality series production offset by a jump in TV drama shoots. Feature production decreased by 4.2%, but Audley said they were encouraged by a pickup in the fourth quarter, after the expanded set of film incentives was launched.

Garcetti was joined by Kevin James, who serves as the city’s chief film liaison and is president of the board of public works, along with Paul Audley, president of FilmLA, and “Live By Night” executive producer Chris Brigham. The movie did not receive a state tax incentive but Brigham touted the advantages of shooting in the city.

“There is no finer place to make a film than this city,” he said.

The mayor cited efforts to offer city locations, such as City Hall, with permit fees waived or at cheaper rates, as well as other support like less costly plug-ins for on-set electricity. He also said that productions save costs of traveling to other locations in other states.

“We have really shaved those costs down and see them hand in hand with the state tax credit,” he said.

California more than tripled the size of its tax incentives to $330 million, with the expanded program starting to take effect this year.

Garcetti launched a Greenlight Hollywood campaign last year to highlight the expanded incentives by cutting red tape and improving coordination among city departments. An executive directive requires all departments to appoint a liaison assigned to work with the industry. James, city “film czar” Ken Ziffren and others also have been meeting with studio and production executives to convince them to shoot in the city.

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