California Film Commissioner Out Amid Leadership Shake-Up (Exclusive)

Amy Lemisch - Getty - H 2019
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Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to replace Amy Lemisch, who has overseen film and television tax incentives for 15 years.

After 15 years at the helm of the California Film Commission, Amy Lemisch is out, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Her last day as executive director of the state agency will be May 10. 

According to two sources, Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to announce a new batch of appointees, including various commissioners, which is customary for an incoming administration. Those appointees, which are expected to be announced in the coming week, do not include Lemisch, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger back in May 2004, and re-appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, making her the longest-serving film commissioner in state history. 

A spokesman for the California Film Commission confirmed that Lemisch will be stepping down but was unaware who her replacement would be. A spokesman for Newsom declined to comment. 

Lemisch, a former producer with Penny Marshall’s company Parkway Productions, is widely credited with helping stem the flow of runaway production to places like Georgia, Louisiana and Canada, which have been peeling away film and television production from California for years with lucrative tax incentive programs. It was on Lemisch’s watch that California upped its game in an attempt to retain those production jobs in the Golden State with its own more competitive incentive program. 

Last year, California lawmakers extended the state’s film tax incentive program to 2025, adding five years to the program. In 2016, the state raised the annual tax credit amount to $330 million from $100 million. The Film Commission is in charge of selecting productions that receive credits. In November, the commission revealed that the program, which launched in 2015, has led to sustained growth in crew employment, big-budget films, relocating TV series and statewide production activity. According to the report, productions that have been allocated tax credits under the program are on track to employ more than 18,000 castmembers and 29,000 crewmembers.

In a 2017 interview with THR, Lemisch said the toughest part of being a film commissioner is trying to communicate to other parts of the state the importance of film and television production. "It's dealing with government jurisdictions to get them to understand why we want to be film-friendly and to make them understand why it's really not a good idea to charge high fees that are barriers to filming," she said.

One current Film Commission board member who declined to speak for attribution said that while they weren’t necessarily blindsided by the news — it’s entirely within Newsom’s purview to appoint his own executive director — they were still taken aback. “It caught me by surprise. Administering the tax program is a complex job and Amy has done an impeccable job. So as a board member, I have some concerns,” said this person. Asked what qualifications the incoming executive director should have, the board member said, “You always hope that it's someone who understands the film industry. Just like any other industry, the film business has its own culture, so hopefully it’s somebody who has that experience and is able to administer this program and understands all the nuances and layers.”