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Hollywood will have a firm friend in Los Angeles’ next mayor, but the real guarantee of an open door and sympathetic ear in City Hall won’t be found in any of the candidates’ platforms; rather, it’ll be in the unprecedented role entertainment industry support will play in electing the winner.
From the executive suite to the crafts services trucks, Hollywood has opened its wallets and thrown its influence behind the front-running candidates as never before in local political history and particularly to the two most likely to make it into the spring runoff: City Councilman Eric Garcetti and controller Wendy Greuel. Both have long cultivated wide and deep ties within the entertainment industry — Greuel worked as a DreamWorks executive — as has attorney and talk show host Kevin James, who along with Councilwoman Jan Perry, sits well back in the polls.
Whatever their platforms might say, that kind of financial support guarantees that, on a case-by-case basis, studios and production companies will find a firm friend in the next mayor when it comes to easing the film-permitting process and assisting with the zoning issues the construction and renovation of production facilities inevitably entail. Garcetti and Greuel, in fact, have a demonstrated record — which they often cite — of assisting the entertainment industry citywide and in their own districts, and the councilman has championed the elimination of city fees for television pilot production. Apart from that, the front-runners — like the entire field — favor slashing the business tax, which will benefit Hollywood along with every other commercial enterprise. Actually, it’s probably a mark of Garcetti’s and Greuel’s confidence in their entertainment industry support and of their Hollywood supporters’ confidence in them that neither has felt compelled to offer a sweeping new initiative geared to helping television and film production.
Garcetti has been endorsed by more than 200 leading Hollywood figures, who obviously expect his record of allying himself with entertainment industry needs to continue. “Eric understands the needs of Hollywood and the needs of the people who work in our business,” Showtime entertainment chief David Nevins says. “He’s demonstrated an ability to find practical solutions to the issues faced by our industry.” Entertainment attorney Ken Ziffren thinks Garcetti “will be a great mayor for the media and entertainment industries.”
Garcetti’s campaign cites, in particular, his role in promoting the Entertainment Multimedia Tax Incentive that caps gross receipts taxes on qualified firms in the Hollywood and North Hollywood Redevelopment Areas and introducing legislation to preserve this incentive after the state dissolved these redevelopment areas. It also notes that he protected the areas in Hollywood zoned specifically for studio and postproduction facilities and assisted Paramount, Sunset Gower and Sunset Bronson in the modernization of their facilities as well as in the construction of new soundstages.
Meanwhile, Greuel’s campaign says she is uniquely suited to work with the industry to stop runaway production. She plans to leverage her relationships in the entertainment industry to reach out to film and production companies constantly to urge them to stay in L.A. She pushed to increase the cap of the California film tax credit and would do the same as mayor. She also plans to create an entertainment cabinet to focus on issues important to the industry.
Greuel has received fulsome endorsements from Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, who also have contributed $50,000 apiece to an independent expenditure committee supporting her candidacy.
For her part, Perry pledges to “fight to keep entertainment jobs in Los Angeles as part of a generally business-friendly focus on economic growth.
Like his campaign itself, James’ approach to Hollywood’s problems is couched mainly as a critique of the other candidates as City Hall “insiders.” He cites the well-known statistics on runaway production — local film production has plummeted 60 percent during the past 15 years, and TV pilot production has declined 31 percent over the past five years — and says, “My plan to bring Hollywood home will include a fair and equitable across-the-board reduction in our business tax burden and simplification of our business tax structure.”
The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s election will face off in the May 21 runoff.
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