Runaway Production: A State of Emergency

By Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, 15th District
Originally Published in San Pedro Today magazine: October 2013
 
The production and distribution of films and television programs is one of California's most valuable cultural and economic resources, responsible for nearly 200,000 direct jobs and $17 billion in wages in the state. This doesn’t even include the value of seeing your backyard in a movie: priceless.
 
As a young boy I remember going to Ports O’ Call to meet ‘Tattoo,’ on set while filming Fantasy Island, and seeing Poncharello of CHiPs ride his motorcycle down 19th street.
 
More recently I visited actor Joe Montagna on the set of Criminal Minds as they filmed a flashback scene in front of the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, and just last week Clint Eastwood stopped by my office for a visit while filming scenes for the movie version of Jersey Boys in the San Pedro Municipal Building. FilmL.A., the non-profit organization that coordinates and process permits for on-location motion picture, television and commercial production in the Los Angeles region, reports the 15th Council District alone saw a total of over 600 permitted filming days last year.
 
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The City of Los Angeles, including San Pedro and the Port have often been the star setting of many productions, but in the last decade we have been losing that status and the jobs that come with it. Runaway film production continues to worsen, so much that our new Mayor, Eric Garcetti has called the situation a "state of emergency" in a recent Variety magazine cover story.
 
As an example, the movie Battle LA was not shot in LA, but rather Louisiana, a state where film industry employment is up 76% in the last decade.  The amount of on-location filming in Los Angeles has plummeted 60% since it peaked 15 years ago. Production of television dramas saw a significant 20% decline in 2012 compared to 2011. This is the largest decline on record and a hard blow to the local economy. Only eight percent of last fall's new network television dramas were made in LA,  compared to 79% seven years ago.
 
Making one $200 million movie in California has an economic impact greater than six seasons of Lakers home games, so we must do everything in our power to keep these productions here. 
 
While the City Council has already passed a set of initiatives to waive fees for TV drama pilots and Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised to name a "film czar" in his office, we must do more.
 
"These days studio chiefs insist that filmmakers they work with take advantage of out-of-state incentives to lower production costs, which on a single major motion picture can amount to savings of tens of millions. Those savings are crucial in a franchise-obsessed era when big-budget movies commonly cost north of $200 million to produce," reports Variety.
 
According to Entertainment Partners, California lost $3 billion in film crew wages because of runaway production. As reference, a single $70 million movie sustains 928 jobs and generates $10.6 million in state and local tax revenue. 
 
We must rival the out-of-state incentives!
 
The California Film and Television Tax Credit Program has helped support local production since 2009 and has brought new projects to the Los Angeles region. 
 
But we must do more!
 
Evidence continues to mount that California can easily outmatch major competitors like Georgia, Louisiana or Canada for only a fraction of what they offer. Solutions to the problem of runaway production are available, if we want them.
 
I agree with Mayor Garcetti that the State Film Credit cap must be lifted. This will be the work of our State Legislature. I will urge my colleagues in Sacramento to also see this as a "state of emergency" and help us offer even more incentives for our entertainment industry to remain in Los Angeles.
 
On a municipal level, we must do what it takes to make it cheaper and easier to film in Los Angeles. I will continue to fight to keep Los Angeles the entertainment production capital of the world, and to preserve the jobs and economic benefits that come along with it. I urge you to support me in this effort.