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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday officially announced that veteran entertainment attorney Ken Ziffren will become the city’s next film czar, replacing former Academy chief Tom Sherak, who died late last month after battling prostate cancer.
“This is a critical moment for our industry and our economy,” Ziffren said in a prepared statement at a news conference at Los Angeles’ City Hall. “If we don’t fight back now, these jobs are going to be lost for good, and that would be a devastating blow to our middle class. This is about jobs for carpenters, electricians, makeup artists– good jobs that leave enough over at the end of the month to save for retirement, save for the kids’ college, and to spend in our neighborhoods.”
He added: “We cannot afford to lose the thousands of middle class jobs that entertainment industry provides. It is these jobs we are fighting for. These are the people who help build a brighter and better future.”
Garcetti created the city film czar position shortly after taking office last year in an effort to stem the tide of runaway film and TV production to other states and countries. During Sherak’s tenure, the city had made some progress in convincing Gov. Jerry Brown — an avid opponent of tax credits for Hollywood — to at least consider the possibility of increasing incentives to keep one of California’s key industries from moving components of its business elsewhere.
Garcetti pointed out that the only Oscar-nominated film made in Hollywood this year was Her. The others were made elsewhere.
“Stopping runaway production is about protecting our middle class,” Garcetti said Monday. “Ken will be powerful leader in our fight against other states that are taking our jobs, and he will be aggressive about streamlining government so red tape doesn’t contribute to driving production away.”
Ziffren said he plans to keep all his current clients and he doesn’t think the job will impact his work as an entertainment attorney. He added that he’s dedicating his efforts to Sherak’s memory.
“I can’t possibly begin my remarks without saying it’s a daunting task to follow in the footsteps of someone as loved in our industry as Tom Sherak,” Ziffren said.
Ziffren, chairman of the Entertainment & Media Law Program at UCLA and a founding partner of law firm Ziffren Brittenham, will be tasked with using his vast connections the entertainment industry to increase production in the city. Ziffren’s roster of clients as a lawyer includes Jay Leno and Intel.
In 1988 he served as a neutral mediator to help resolve the Writers Guild strike, and in 1994 he represented Starz in created the premium pay television service.
Currently, California allocates $100 million annually for its film and TV credit program, much less than what New York and others offer. According to FilmL.A., which tracks local filming, there were 25,534 permitted production days in fiscal 2013, compared with 47,669 in 1997.
During an appearance on KNBC’s News Conference on Sunday, Garcetti said that while “nobody can fill Tom’s shoes,” the new czar is “somebody who can continue his work, who is just as senior, just as accomplished, who will do this for Tom, will do this for all the workers here who are split away from their families, will do this for all the production that has gone and will do this for the California economy. This is smart fiscally and it’s smart economically. It’s a signature industry and I’m determined to bring some of that filming back. I’m optimistic that we will have some success in Sacramento.”
Garcetti added: “We have a set of assembly members and state senators who have prioritized this. There are numerous bills already introduced. We’ve already been able to change the conversation simply by me talking about this in my swearing in speech and by hiring a film czar and a film office. I’m very optimistic.”
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