L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Why He Made Tom Sherak Film Czar

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Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, and Tom Sherak

The former Academy topper will work to reverse a decline in local production, the mayor tells THR, and "He's as universally liked as anyone can be in the business."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

New Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made good Sept. 26 on his campaign promise to appoint a city film czar. But can former Academy chief Tom Sherak boost film and TV production in Hollywood's hometown?

In a THR interview, Garcetti says he chose Sherak, a longtime studio executive who has been fighting prostate cancer, because he is at his best when the odds are against him. "Tom does more in a day than most people do in a week," says Garcetti. "He has had challenges that he's met and continues to meet. He's the most tenacious fighter I know." Sherak, who will make only $1 a year in salary, will need those fighting skills. His appointment comes as L.A. has experienced an exodus of film and TV production to other states and countries offering tax credits and rebates.

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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. "On-location feature production in L.A. is nowhere near as common as it was in the mid-'90s," said FilmL.A. president Paul Audley in the agency's 2013 report. "And despite a good run, we're still logging fewer days for TV dramas and reality series than we used to."

Garcetti cautions that L.A. faces a battle in convincing Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature that additional tax credits are needed. But the mayor, who represented the Hollywood area as a city councilman, says L.A. can do more, such as pass a proposed measure to waive fees for TV pilots.

Keeping only one series in the city this year would be a major victory, he adds. "At the end of the day, it's going to be about local victories and chasing leads in the industry to convince people to keep their production here," says Garcetti. That's where Sherak comes in: "He's as universally liked as anyone can be in the business." And Sherak says he's up to the task: "There's got to be a way to keep production here."