AirTalk for September 27, 2013

Meet Tom Sherak, Los Angeles’ first film czar

What is Sherak’s plan for keeping production in the area?

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

What is Sherak’s plan for keeping production in the area?

Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed the Hollywood veteran to be the city’s first film czar and head up the new Entertainment Industry and Production Office. The office is designed to make it easier to film movies and television shows in the city and to lobby for money to boost the California’s film incentive program. Sherak is a familiar face around Hollywood.

He was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2009 to 2012, held numerous roles at Twentieth Century Fox and was a partner with Revolution Studios. Garcetti said it was his goal to stop ‘runaway’ film production from leaving the state and Sherak says he’s up for the job of keeping production here in California.

What is Sherak’s plan for keeping production in the area? What’s the state of the industry in Los Angeles? Is there more money out there to offer studios to film here in California?

Interview Highlights:

On why the term "film czar" is not quite accurate:
"I realized yesterday that I am definitely not the czar. And the reason I shouldn't be called the czar, if I was this probably would have been solved already."

Why we haven't been able to fix the problem with film production leaving LA:
"It's a long conversation, but I think it has to do with a state of mind about big studios and their wealth. Why do they need a tax break? They've got a lot of money, why should we help them save money? I think that the studios — and I'm talking about TV studios, motion picture studios, digital studios that have content — they, no different than any other business, have has a business plan. That business plan is to try to make a movie for a certain amount of money, because they're looking at it like everybody looks at a business, the bottom line. I think what it is, it seems simple, and here's the simple part of it. Those productions that other states are dying to get and giving them tax incentives to get them...Because these productions spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Are we being outbid by other states and other state and countries?:
"Oh yeah, we're being outbid. Yes, all this money, all of these rebates has made it where the studios are much more comfortable going to these places, getting the rebates, spending the money that these productions cost. These productions cost millions of dollars. They're hiring labor there and the people they're taking with them from Los Angeles, leaving their homes for three, six, nine months, whatever it is. A year? I don't think there are too many people that want to leave their home if they can stay here. 

"A lot of studios will hire a lot of local help to make a movie, the below the line people, the middle class who need jobs, who's profession is in our business. As they see it dry up...In Los Angeles we have a lottery [for film incentives] and as soon as that number was met, all these other productions that were waiting, they all left. 

Is this all about persuading the powers that be to put up some money?:
"Yes, and it has to be done. You and I can talk about this and it seems so simple. There are studies that have been done about how much money the city or the state gets if a production stays in town, here's what happens when they lose it. The bottom line is I don't have to tell you that last night I had 300 emails, 'congratulations this, congratulations that,' and I think the stuff that I got from the people, the grips and the gaffers, and the electricians? "Please help us get a job. Please help us keep working" the transportation guys, "we can't get jobs." 

"The mayor believes in this, I know he does I wouldn't have taken this if he didn't believe in it. Look, I don't have a magic wand here, but I know that if we can put together a plan and go with the mayor and try to sell that plan. Trying to go into that bureaucracy of people thinking one way and try to convince them why this means so much to not only Los Angeles, but to the state of California. If we let Hollywood go and we let it go completely and we can't bring some of that back here, in the long run, we're going to be very unhappy." 

Guest:

Tom Sherak, Senior Advisor and Director of the Mayor’s Entertainment Industry and Production Office


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