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California reloads for battle over runaway production

A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles. (File photo)
A film crew on location in downtown Los Angeles. (File photo)
David McNew/Getty Images

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When organizers of CityLab organized this year's conference in Los Angeles to address issues facing urban centers, they included a panel on a pressing issue for the entertainment industry: "L.A. Story: Strategies for Stopping a Runaway Industry."

But even before the conference, a major part of the strategy had already paid off: successfully getting Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that expands the state’s production incentive pool from $100 million to $330 million annually. The new plan goes into effect next summer.

But other states won't give up easily. New York State still has the biggest pool of tax incentives for production — $400 million annually. And former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded the audience of that fact on the first day of CityLab.

"It's great to be here in Los Angeles," Bloomberg said. "I hope you’ve all had the time to enjoy — as we call it — the second-most important movie-making city in the country."

Tuesday's panel on runaway production included Amy Lemish, executive director of the California Film Commission, and Kathy Garmezy associate executive director at the Directors Guild of America.

Lemish on California's advantages and continuing competition from other states:

For the most part we can match most locations. We have the best infrastructure, we have the most plentiful crews, you don’t have to bring anything in —we have it all — and you can never underestimate the value of sun.

I don’t think that it’s necessarily right for every state in the U.S. to try to build up their infrastructure and be the next Hollywood. But for certain places it’s been incredibly successful. Louisiana and Georgia are neck-and-neck for the third [largest] production center in the U.S. now. They're not going away. They’re building stages, they’re recruiting crews. So for them it worked, but maybe another state, like Maryland, is re-thinking it.

Garmezy on the hardship for workers as the industry has expanded geographically: 

We have members who haven’t been with their families for years. You have to leave your family to feed your family nowadays...I think [with] the rise of incentives in the last 10-15 years — especially within the United States but also abroad — people didn’t quite realize how mobile our industry is. But in fact, Hollywood really is wherever somebody has put down a production.






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