Bring Hollywood Home Show Raises Awareness of Runaway Production

Sharon Jimenez on "L.A. Business Today"

UPDATED: The grassroots group, which works to build awareness of the need to keep movie and TV productions from leaving California, is planning a benefit concert in L.A. on July 30.

The Bring Hollywood Home Foundation is hosting a benefit July 30 to raise funds and awareness for the group's efforts to stem runaway production, especially by independently financed movies.

“We want to make folks aware of this issue of entertainment leaving our state so that Californians get behind legislative and business solutions to making the state competitive in the industry so that we don’t completely lose it," said Sharon Jimenez, founder and CEO of the nonprofit social welfare organization.

More than 40 states and dozens of countries try to woo film and TV productions. The state of California, which has been the dominant home of the industry for a century, created its program in 2009 that hands out $100 million a year in tax credits through a lottery drawing.

Jimenez supports California’s efforts to stop runaway production but feels they are too little. That is why she says she founded the nonprofit Bring Hollywood Home in 2010 to create a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the loss of jobs in California.

“There are a lot of flaws in [the current tax credit program],“ Jimenez said. “There’s still no real place for independent filmmakers. Even the tax credits that were passed are still woefully noncompetitive with other states and countries.”

The California program sets aside a minimum of 10 percent for independent films, but Jimenez does not think that is adequate, especially because only a handful of those who apply are chosen before the funding runs out. In the 2011-2012 year, independents actually received 36 percent of the funding, according to the California Film Commission. 

Jimenez wants to see California implement a program that is more like those of Louisiana, New Mexico and other states that have been successful in luring film and television productions in recent years. Those programs provide more incentives, use more tax money and include other kinds of cooperation.

The California legislature is currently debating similar bills in the Assembly and Senate that would extend the current $100 million-per-year tax credit program. It was originally proposed as a five-year extension, but last month the Senate cut it to an additional two years when it cleared a key committee.

Curiously, Bring Hollywood Home seems to spend little of its efforts on getting that bill passed or on lobbying state and local politicians to enhance similar programs. Jimenez said her efforts instead are focused on raising awareness and educating voters about the repercussions of runaway production.

A representative for state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-South East Los Angeles), who introduced the Senate bill to extend the current tax credits, told The Hollywood Reporter that the senator is “in no way associated with the Bring Hollywood Home Foundation but independent of that group he’s very supportive of the idea of keeping movie production here in California.”

A spokesman for Assemblyman Filipe Fuentes (D-San Fernando), who introduced the Assembly version of the tax credit extension, also said the assemblyman is in no way affiliated with Bring Hollywood Home.

Jimenez said she did meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was in office, and as part of a discussion about other issues also raised the runaway problem with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during a meeting several years ago.

A spokesman for the mayor said, “As far as we know, the mayor has never met with Sharon Jimenez regarding the Bring Hollywood Home Foundation nor is he knowledgeable of the foundation, but he is supportive of the bills to extend film tax credits.”

Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, said, “I have met (Jimenez), but I am not affiliated with the group.”

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Jimenez said the legislators are aware of her group’s efforts and that they keep them on the email list -- but they have chosen to target voters. “We know that Mayor Villaraigosa and Sen. Calderon are all dealing with a very difficult economy right now,” said Jimenez. “There is only so much elected officials can do at a leadership level if they don’t have the voters.”

She said in any case she does not have a concrete solution to the issue. “So how does California keep the industry?” asked Jimenez. “We don’t claim to have all those answers. We just believe that if you don’t ask the question and you don’t raise the awareness of the loss of production jobs, then they are surely gone and they will surely not come back.”

The mother of an actress, Jimenez has experienced the hardship stemming from the loss of jobs in entertainment up close and personal. “I understand what it’s like to be a struggling artist in L.A. because I’ve raised one and have been around young artists my whole life," Jimenez said. “My daughter and her friends thought the sky was the limit ten years ago, and guess what? The sky fell in.”

In 2004, Jimenez served as a senior adviser on the campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich. While working on the campaign, Jimenez said, she was approached by actors and filmmakers expressing frustration with their inability to find work. “Many of them had relocated to L.A. to break into the industry, but they couldn’t because there wasn’t enough being done to keep work here,” Jimenez said. “I kept hearing this message loud and clear from many different places, and that’s why I decided it was an important issue.”

In 2008, Jimenez and her husband, Bob, created a television talk show on L.A. city channel 35 called L.A. Business Today where she spoke with a variety of people who had lost jobs in film and television due to runaway production. 

The stories of job loss she heard on her show and working on Kucinich’s campaign prompted her to found Bring Hollywood Home in 2010.

In addition to her position as founder and executive director of Bring Hollywood Home, Jimenez is also the founder and president of Icon Imaging PR, a boutique public relations agency in the Miracle Mile district of L.A.

Jimenez hopes the foundation’s upcoming benefit concert will represent a major leap in spreading the word about Bring Hollywood Home. Comedian Mike Dolan will host the event, which will also feature performances by folk singer Tyler Lyle, singer-songwriter trio American Bloomers, jazz and blues group Glen Johnson Band and director-musician Martin Guigui’s Allstar Band. (For more info, visit www.BringHollywoodHome.org).

American Bloomers has also been touring the state giving performances and talking about the issues of runaway production as part of the relationship with Bring Hollywood Home.

Though the concert is a fundraiser, Jimenez emphasizes that the primary purpose, again, is to raise awareness. “We operate on fumes,” Jimenez said. “We’ve used the money that we have raised on promotional cards and small goodies to reward our interns.”

In the future, Jimenez hopes to bring awareness of her cause throughout California and eventually pass on her baton of leadership. “I’m trying to build Bring Hollywood Home so that it’s sustainable and continues,” Jimenez said. “You know, I’m just the person who started it, but I want it to have a long, long life.”

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