Gov. Jerry Brown Uncommitted on Movie, TV Tax Credit Increase, L.A. Film Czar Says

10:38 AM PST 02/27/2014 by Tina Daunt
Armando Arorizo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

$100 million in tax credits under the current state program is not nearly enough to stem the tide of lost production, says Ken Ziffren.

Gov. Jerry Brown remains uncommitted on whether or not the state should increase funding for its film and TV tax credit program, as proposed under a new bill introduced this month in Sacramento, Los Angeles film czar Ken Ziffren said Thursday. 

California is in a "bad spiral" in terms of the loss of film production, he said. 

"I believe the governor and his staff are very interested in the progress of this legislation," Ziffren told reporters on a conference call. "They are taking a look-and-see approach to it all. I don't think they have committed one way or another."

Ziffren painted a dire picture of what could unfold if the state fails to act. Clearly, he said, $100 million in tax credits under the current state program is not nearly enough to stem the tide of lost production.

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Ziffren made his comments in the wake of a new study, released by the Milken Insititute on Thursday, that shows a dramatic loss in production jobs in California since 2004.

The signs of runaway production seem to be everywhere these days. This week, Disney announced that they plan to spend $200 million on Marvel Series for Netflix that will be filmed in New York, which recently adopted an expanded tax credit program three-times larger than California's.

"Since 2008 Disney has directly contributed almost half a billion dollars to New York’s economy through television and film production, along with approximately 9,000 jobs for New Yorkers," Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Robert Iger told reporters in NYC. "The governor's policies make this great state a more affordable and attractive location, opening the door for even greater economic investment and job creation for New Yorkers. Our Marvel series for Netflix will inject millions directly into the local economy and create hundreds of new jobs."

Ziffren said that he recognizes that studio heads are obligated to their shareholders to get the best deal possible to keep down production costs. But, he said he remains optimistic that California will be able to compete with other states. "I'm hopeful the legislation that is now pending in the assembly will move forward and we will come up with new techniques that will enhance the job market here in California," Ziffren said.

He added: "What we are looking to do is to make sure all of the legislators understand the need for improved and modernized legislation."

When asked if the tax credit could be viewed at "corporate welfare," Ziffren said: "This is about middle class jobs in California. There is a lot of data that indicates that tax incentives may well be cost effective. We need to look at those numbers so there is a full picture here."

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