The Battle in L.A. Against Runaway Production

Sheri Mandel/City of LA

Others look to cut incentives, but L.A. seeks to lure back movie and TV shoots by being film-friendly.

It’s no secret that runaway production is an issue that plagues the Los Angeles area. Lured by a slew of tax incentives, countless film and television productions have decamped for other states — from New Mexico to Georgia. Just last week, in fact, New Mexico’s Legislature voted to preserve its film tax credit program, albeit with a funding cap of $50 million a year.

But it isn’t as if local jurisdictions aren’t trying: In February, Culver City suspended for five years a business tax that production companies had long been required to pay in order to film at studios in the city. The hope is that the change will entice companies to film at studios in Culver City. And the city isn’t the only one making moves.

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon, who chairs the Council’s Jobs & Business Development Committee — which has oversight of film production in the city — says there are several things the city can do to give a boost to the entertainment business and encourage more production to stay in Los Angeles. Here’s a rundown of some of his plans:

Create a sales tax rebate program.
Alarcon supports the creation of a sales tax rebate program to entice local production. Under the prospective program, companies that perform 75 percent of a given shoot in L.A. would receive a 1 percent sales tax refund for production purchases or expenditures made in the city for filming. The city’s Office of Finance and the Office of the City Attorney are studying the program and are expected to give reports on its feasibility to Alarcon’s committee in April. “We are not aware of much opposition to it,” he says.

Establish a film advisory committee.
The councilman would like the city to create a committee that would explore different ways of incentivizing filming in L.A. The city’s chief legislative analyst is studying Alarcon’s proposal for a film committee and is expected to report back to his council on its viability this summer. “I am just pleased the city of Los Angeles is continuing to explore possibilities,” he says.

Set up “Film Friendly L.A.”
Alarcon would like to create a program similar to initiatives in Austin and San Francisco that would incentivize local filming by offering discounts at various establishments to entertainment business workers shooting in the city. “Film Friendly L.A.” might require membership in the Screen Actors Guild or another trade organization; it would offer discounts at eateries, stores and other destinations. Alarcon was expected to introduce a motion in council on March 22 that would direct the chief legislative analyst to study the prospective program. “We are always getting ideas,” he says.