Oct. 05--The head of a powerful entertainment advocacy group on Friday called for expanding the state's film credit program to stem runaway production.
"We need to understand that more needs to be done to keep that industry from slowly, slowly slipping away," said Christopher S. Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Dodd, a former U.S. senator, made the plea to state lawmakers during his keynote speech at the Valley Industry and Commerce Association's 25th annual business-forecast conference at the Burbank Airport Marriott.
The state program provides $100 million in tax credits annually and is fully subscribed on the first day they become available, Dodd said.
But the program is restricted to films with a production budget of $75 million or less, which means many studio movies cannot benefit, making them easy targets for other states to sway.
"The size and amount should be increased so big-budget projects can qualify," Dodd said.
And California is losing out on some big paydays. For example, the recent smash cable series "Breaking Bad," which cost $1 million per episode, filmed in Albuquerque.
Currently, the film and television industry accounts for about 540,000 jobs in the state -- and $41.6 billion annually.
Dodd doesn't buy the argument that increasing the program would just inflate the bank accounts of Hollywood stars and producers.
"The people you see represent only 1 percent of the industry, and they get paid no matter where the production is made," he said, adding that all 50 states and many foreign countries are vying for production dollars.
FilmL.A., the agency that facilitates permit and production for the city, county and other jurisdictions in the region, reported in July that film and TV activity increased 8.6 percent in the second quarter from a year ago. The numbers indicate it was a quarter "of recovery," and a five-year historical analysis said there has been "constant underperformance in "key television" categories.
"We are still being challenged by runaway production," said agency spokesman Philip Sokoloski.
"For example, network TV productions are not eligible (for the credits) unless they have filmed out of state for one or more seasons," he said. And new network shows can't get the credits, but cable shows can.
"They thought network TV was safe, Sokolski said of legislators. "But it was not true because they are leaving."
VICA President Stuart Waldman said that every $1 of film tax generates between $1.06 and $1.24 of spending in the region.
He believes elected officials should be more proactive when it comes to courting film production companies. "We need to defend our turf. If we don't in the next decade, there won't be any shows filmed here," he said. "That definitely helps us. We need to expand the tax credit. They are good jobs."
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