L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti Calls Runaway Film Production a Civic 'Emergency' (Exclusive)
New Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called runaway film and television production a civic “emergency” on Tuesday and pledged to take concrete steps to address it within his administration’s first 100 days, including the appointment of a “film czar” to oversee the effort.
“I don't think we can wait much longer” to act, Garcetti told The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive interview. “The urgency of this is yesterday. We have lost too much. We're going to start by clawing back and playing defense so we don't lose any more. In the longer term, hopefully we can start pushing the ball in the other direction.”
The new mayor cited statistics showing that while 85 percent of the nation’s television episodes were filmed in Los Angeles just a few years ago, today that figure has fallen to the low 40’s. “This is an emergency situation,” he said.
Garcetti told THR that he recently had a “great meeting” with a group of agents, producers, location scouts and labor leaders recently “to brainstorm what sort of person is ideal” for the czar’s role. Some of the mayor's entertainment industry advisors included: Showtime president of entertainment David Nevins; Sony Pictures svp production Eric Paquette; Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon; film producer Deborah Del Prete; location managers Chris Baugh and Marylin Bitner; Nip/Tick producer/director Michael Robin; and actor/producer Jason Gurvitz.
Hollywood insiders told THR this week that naming such an official to coordinate the city’s film policies is one of three urgent steps the new administration should take, along with lobbying Sacramento for additional tax credits and incentives to film locally and streamlining LA’s cumbersome regulations on location shoots.
When it comes to the czar, Garcetti said that he’s still weighing what sort of candidates should be evaluated.
“Is it a person with a big name?” he mused. “Is it someone with a great customer service background? Is it someone who understands the intricacies of filming and has location background?” The new chief executive told THR he already has “a small work group just putting together the description."
“Ideally, this is kind of like looking for Superman,” the mayor said, “because you want somebody who has a good name (in the industry), but who also has experience making films as well as an understanding of the legislative process” in the state capitol.
“The film czar is going to need to be my leading voice arguing to expand tax credits in Sacramento," Garcetti said. "He or she also will have to troubleshoot films seeking permits here. They should be able to meet with production teams to see what we can do to make filming easier here in L.A. It's a tough bill to fill.”
Garcetti, who has spent the days since his official weekend inauguration listening to community and business leaders talk about the city’s needs, told THR that "my first 100 days is not about new initiatives. It's about putting the (administration’s) team in place.” However, naming a “film czar is probably one of my top two or three things that I'm going to do within the first 100 days.” He said that the city will begin a public search to fill the position within the next two weeks, he said.
Garcetti admitted that a significant part of the solution to runaway production will have to be forged in Sacramento, since only the governor and state legislature have the power to create the tax credits, exemptions and other financial incentives that many producers say would make the biggest difference in their decisions on where to film.
At the moment, cities like New York enjoy a significant advantage over L.A. because their mayors have the executive ability to manicure local taxes to suit producers. In California, though, that has to be done in Sacramento, where many legislators traditionally have been skeptical of what they suspect might be “giveaways” to profitable studios and wealthy directors and stars.
Garcetti said that while perhaps 20 percent of the runaway production problem could be solved by local marketing and streamlined regulation, “85 percent of this whole thing is about the tax credits.”
“That’s why before I was inaugurated as mayor,” he told THR, “I sat down with Gov. Jerry Brown about this in Oakland. I sat down in Sacramento with State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. I had very good meetings.
“By in large the L.A. (legislative) delegation gets it and understands it. We have to convince the rest of the state. Just like we love Silicon Valley, they have to love Hollywood.” Filming, Garcetti pointed out, occurs all over California and “returns money to the state coffers. New York wouldn't let Wall Street die. Michigan won't let the car industry die. California can't let the entertainment industry die.”