Incentive reins in runaway TV/film production

HOLLYWOOD Incentives seem to be working: Many productions have stayed in Los Angeles because of special perks offered by state and by city leaders. The problem is those incentives have been limited.

The producers of the Warner Brothers film "Inception" needed something that out-of-state locations did not have: distinctive Los Angeles film scenes. Lucky for L.A., the movie budget was reportedly $178 million, and that meant many jobs.

"The people who are benefiting from this are people who don't drive to work in a limousine. They drive to work in a pickup truck," said /*L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian*/.

Krekorian authored the film and television production tax and incentive measure when he was a state assemblyman. The measure gave a half-billion-dollar package to certain types of feature films over five years. The measure gets direct credit for boosting local activity 7 percent this financial quarter.

"According to the /*California Film Commission*/'s numbers, that's 150 jobs per film, 2,400 new jobs in California just this quarter," said Paul Audley, president of /*FilmLA*/ Inc.

FilmLA coordinates local production. It says streamlining the permitting process has helped too. An active lobbying effort by city leaders has also helped.

"We can get it done, I just think for too many years we rested on our laurels and we didn't compete," said /*L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti*/. "These incentives are working and they're bringing jobs back home."

Still, there is concern that the spurt may not last. The incentive funds allotted for last year and this year are already gone.

There are complaints too that the incentives cannot be offered to big production.

"Inception" did not qualify. It stayed in Los Angeles because the director wanted the location. The same for "Moneyball," starring actor Brad Pitt, currently working out of the L.A. Times building. "Keeping production in California and in Los Angeles is still an uphill battle."

"We know, for example, we had one major feature company give us a budget at $110 million to film in Los Angeles," said Audley. "If they went to Connecticut and made the same film, they'd save $23 million, and it was based on this incentive difference. So how do you fight that? The only way to fight it is to compete with those states and we're finally beginning to do that."

The 2nd Street tunnel is one location that has been very popular for filming car commercials. Unfortunately for many production companies, this type of production for commercials is not covered by any incentive. Filmmakers hope that will change.

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