Film Works Battles Runaway Production at Produced By Conference
Over the past weekend, Film Works representatives were on-hand for the Produced By Conference, which was sponsored by the Association of Film Commissions International (AFCI) and the Producers Guild of America (PGA).
Held on the lot at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, the event presented an unusual spectacle. Imagine: film commission representatives from other states and nations gathered at an iconic SoCal studio, all looking to capture a share of California’s heritage industry. In an ironic twist, there were probably more sound stages in the immediate vicinity than some of California’s competitors have in their entire jurisdiction.
California was well represented — not just by Film Works, but also FilmL.A., the California Film Commission, the San Francisco Film Commission, the Santa Clarita Film Office, the Kern County Film Commission and the Monterrey County Film Commission among others. In a showing of solidarity, Film Works enlisted the aid of ISS Props to have over 1,000 Film Works bumper stickers printed that read “keep jobs in California” instead of the traditional “keep jobs in L.A.” message. The new stickers were very well received and displayed with pride all over the conference!
Representatives from Kern County were particularly proud to be at the AFCI-sponsored conference after a picture of Kern County made the cover of the latest edition of AFCI’s Locations Magazine! Moreover, the Santa Clarita Film Office was overjoyed being at Disney, given the company’s construction at the Golden Oak Ranch, which will mean over 3,800 film and television-related jobs and over $500 million in annual economic impact for Los Angeles County.
Adding to all of the California love was a standing-room-only presentation that featured filmmaker Kevin Smith, who had wonderful things to say about shooting his recent film, Red State, in California because of the state’s film & television tax credit.
But, if there was a subdued mood at this year’s AFCI event among out-of-state film commissions, it could be because it came at a time when film offices are closing and some competitors’ incentive programs are being challenged as excessive and impractical.
The title of an article on the Hollywood Reporter website published over the weekend read “Filmmakers Face Grim Reality of Slashed Tax Incentives”.
While some places like Mississippi, Utah, Maryland and Puerto Rico have improved their incentives in the past year, others like Iowa, Arizona and New Jersey have reduced or eliminated programs; and still others like Michigan, Florida, Washington State and New Mexico had seen new governors or legislators put a cap on expenditures lower than what was spent in recent years.
There was even a discussion about producers buying insurance policies that guaranteed the incentives they were promised when they initiated a production would actually be there and be paid at the end. “A year ago it is something we didn’t worry about,” says [Karen] Hughes, “but now we have to re-think that.”One panelist told the story of New Jersey, where the incentives were phased out so suddenly, at least four productions are now left unable to collect on the money they expected back from the state.
In one failed attempt after another to buy California’s heritage industry, many states are starting to learn that they can never “buy” Hollywood, they can only “rent” it for a little while. And as these states find, one after the other, that as they can can no longer afford to make rent, production dollars will leave as quickly as they arrived.