Movie and TV Vendors Rally Behind Tax Incentive Legislation

5:50 PM PST 03/15/2014 by Alex Ben Block
Matt Sayles/Invision for The Hollywood Reporter/AP Images
Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra, author of the legislation to expand the tax incentives, pictured above and below.

About 500 people attended an event to support a bill by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra that could attract blockbuster movies and raise California's annual funding as high as $1 billion.

Former California Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield was among the last speakers Saturday in sunny Sunland, Calif., for a rally by small-business owners and other movie and TV industry vendors in support of pending legislation to expand and extend the state’s $100 million-a-year tax incentive program intended to stem runaway production.

But he was the only one who put a dollar figure on what it is going to take -- $500 million to $1 billion a year for at least a few years – to stop the bleeding and get work flowing back to California. He noted the state has watched its historic dominance evaporate in the face of growing financial incentives from other some 46 states and many countries in the last 10 years.

STORY: New California Bill Pushes for More Film and TV Tax Credits, Including Big-Budget Projects

Raul Bocanegra, the democratic Assemblymember from the 36th district, where the Small Business Kickoff Rally was held as part of the Campaign to Keep Film and TV Production Jobs in California, is co-author of AB 1839, which would extend the tax incentives five years (providing stability), allow blockbuster-sized movies to apply for the first time and leave the door open to boost funding significantly. It is the bill they came to support.

Bocanegra said that he has 71 co-sponsors for this bill in the 100-member Assembly, after which it would have to be approved by the Senate and then signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. But it still will not be easy, he predicted, especially in the state Senate, where skeptics from Northern California think it's just money for rich Hollywood, without understanding the impact on the state’s economy and on the jobs picture.

“There are still some people who think this program is a giveaway to Southern California,” said Bocanegra.

Bocanegra has said he hopes California will grow funding for the incentives to compete with New York state, which spends more than $420 million a year, but he has refused to be pinned down to a specific number.

That could change in May when Brown will release a report showing how large the state’s budget surplus will be, after which tax incentives will be one of many causes and programs seeking to get a share.

The event attracted about 500 people to the parking lot of the Independent Studio Services (widely known as ISS), which supplies many of the props used in movies and TV shows.

ISS CEO Gregg Bilson said that keeping production in California is important because it has a huge ripple effect on the economy. He noted many businesses depend on production, including equipment rental, waste recycling, motor home rentals, caterers, costumers, props, those who provide road barricades and many others.

He called on the audience to support the tax incentive legislation because, he said, the days when California hads 90 percent of all movie and TV production is over.

“It’s no longer our birthright to expect the industry to stay in California," Bilson said. "We have to have better incentives to keep us competitive.”

Bilson said this has to be a long-term commitment: “This is the beginning of a battle for lucrative jobs, which we are losing in droves.”

Ed Brown, business agent of IATSE Local 44, which represents prop people and others, rallied the audience, telling them that the “voices of small business owners need to be heard in Sacramento.”

Several small-business owners told their own stories about the impact of runaway production, which has forced some to expand outside California – and away from their families – and put others out of business.

STORY: California Sees Huge Drop in Film Production, Ranks Behind Louisiana and the U.K.

At DTC Grip in San Francisco, Zach Keyworth said it frustrates him that so many movies with plots set in the Bay Area – including the upcoming San Andreas, about the state’s famous earthquake fault – only shoot in that city for a few days. They get exterior shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and other landmarks, and then make the movie in Vancouver, the U.K., Australia or elsewhere, due to greater financial incentives.

The members of the L.A. City Council who spoke, besides Blumenfield, were former Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (who, while still in Sacramento last year, wrote the current tax incentive legislation), Paul Koretz and Nury Martinez.

The California Film & Television Production Alliance is composed of the Association of Talent Agents, Teamsters, Chef Robert Catering, the DGA, FilmLA, IATSE, the MPAA, the PGA, the musicians local and others who have worked together for about a decade to try to keep and grow production in California.

This rally followed an even larger gathering on Feb. 22 held for union members including those from various IATSE locals, Teamsters Local 399 and the Studio Utility Employees Local 724 at Pickwick Gardens in Burbank.

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