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LA to film crews: come home

Marketing Hollywood has never been shy about self-promotion, except when it comes to touting its own backyard.

New York touts a "Made in N.Y." program featuring local film and TV production crew members who share their work experience in the city.

Los Angeles, however, has been low key -- some would say complacent -- when it comes to singing the praises of filming close to home at a time when rivals beyond California's borders are grabbing a bigger share of the production pie.

Now, a coalition of industry, labor and city officials wants to remedy the situation by launching a broad-based public education campaign that would herald the economic benefits of the film industry to Los Angeles -- while thanking local residents for putting up with the occasional inconvenience of crews in their neighborhoods.

The details are still being worked out, but the marketing blitz, expected to be unveiled by April, would likely feature ads on billboards and bus benches, as well as public service announcements on radio and TV, and even in local movie theaters. Expect to see production trucks plastered with banners trumpeting how many jobs were created on a given show.

"With so much competition, L.A. and the region has to really step up and make the community aware of the value of our industry, and how many people earn their living from it," said Pamm Fair, who chairs FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit film permitting clearinghouse that is spearheading the campaign. "We need to do everything we can to keep jobs here."

The idea of selling L.A. as a filming destination isn't new. In fact, city officials and film promoters have talked for several years about launching such a campaign, but it never took off.

Pressure to do something, however, has mounted as the region has lost thousands of production jobs to other locales, sapping an industry that still generates an estimated 250,000 jobs in Los Angeles County.

Although California's new film incentives have helped to slow the decline, on-location filming last year suffered its steepest drop since tracking began in 1993, reflecting a long-term flight of filming not only to international rivals such as Toronto and Vancouver, but also to Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico.

The state's share of U.S. feature film production plunged to 31% in 2008, down from 66% in 2003, according to the California Film Commission. And only 57% of all TV pilots were shot in L.A. in 2009, down from 81% in 2004, according to FilmL.A.

Cinematographer Ed Gutentag, who recently launched a website called shootmoviesincalifornia.com devoted to keeping film projects in-state, says a campaign to promote local production is critical.

"People need to be made aware of this before it's too late," said Gutentag, who is filming a documentary about the effects of runaway production on local crews. "This is a critical issue, not just for grips, electricians and camera operators, but all the businesses that service the industry."

FilmL.A. will contribute about $25,000 to help the campaign get set up with a slogan and logo, but the goal is for much of the overall cost -- estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to be borne through donated services provided by film editors, producers, local talent and vendors. A theater chain has agreed to provide free use of its trailers at local theaters. Hollywood's major unions also will be asked to pitch in, while the city is expected to offer use of its space for ads.

The city is considering expanding FilmL.A.'s marketing role, among other steps to help the film industry, such as offering free parking on city properties to film crews.

The nonprofit group handles film permits on behalf of the city and unincorporated areas of the county. Its predecessor, the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., previously played a larger role in marketing and promotion of the local industry, but that function was scaled back after a scandal forced the ouster of former chief Cody Cluff in 2004.

The fallout prompted a series of changes to improve oversight and management, including establishing independent audits and a board run by industry, labor and neighborhood representatives, rather than politicians.

-Richard Verrier
Comments () | Archives (4)

About time, but even more helpful would be figuring out more tax incentives.
Everyone should remember: what brought production west from the east coast originally was the lower prices, endless sunshine and the ability to get away with not paying Edison his "royalties". Break that down: back then it cost less to do productions out west.
Same rules apply today.
No amount of "rah-rah" advertising will change the basic reality of the bottom line. As long as LA charges a premium (ie: not matching tax incentives, inflexible union rules, etc) it will continue to lose productions to the rest of the world.
Texas, Florida and Canada now have established crews and facilities that are not going away anytime soon.
Michigan is working on it.
Meanwhile California and it's Actor/Producer Governor can't seem to pull it together. Ironic and sad.

I'm all for keeping production in LA, but the film crews need to learn to respect the people who live in the area that they are filming. There are millions of stories about the lack of consideration shown by film crews and their old-timer rent-a-cops (who have no authority, yet continue to wear LAPD uniforms) to the residents of downtown LA by preventing access to their homes for extended periods.

As a guy who works in this business for 15yrs, it's very sad and awful that other states are taking our business, because CA won't pay the incentives to keep the shooting in this state. Bad gov't won't ever understand that the movie industry will bail out C.A. Not sure what else will turn ca around. Gone is the car industry, areospace and soon to be countless others. We will have a state full of people who don't work and don't pay full shares.
Oh wait we have that now. Wake up CA it's been 5 years too late to wake up and dream big. Reality is the weather is so great here but the job situation is killing CA at a fast pace. Movies and TV belong in CA not Michigan or Mass or the other states.

This entry raises an interesting and relevant concern about the declining value of the film industry in Los Angeles, which has seen out-of-state competition "grabbing a bigger share in the production pie," such as New York, Louisiana, and even internationally with Toronto. As someone who has worked in the industry, I have yet to fully grasp the seriousness of this current phenomena of local job loss, and I applaud you for raising awareness of the industry's internal "broad-based public education campaign" to promote L.A. as a production mecca that will also keep public concern for inconvenience in mind. I ask you however, does the campaign simply wish to "thank" residents for putting up with production traffic or will it reward them in some means? The promoter, FilmL.A. Inc., seems to be undertaking a massive marketing campaign via all routes- from TV ads to bus benches- to keep jobs alive but fail to acknowledge that many industry veterans still work, production is simply set in a different locale which offers better tax credits, such as Louisiana's total 35% incentive.

This is not to dispute your claim that thousands of jobs were lost, as evident in your statistics that production shares fell to 31% in 2008, from 66% in 2003 (this is quite a significant drop). This has to be a result of the national economic recession, not simply an industry fallout since almost all industries have suffered due to the recession, because the box office continues to spark massive returns (hello Avatar). But rather than creating elaborate campaigns I argue the industry needs to face the city itself, even Sacramento, to provide the solution to all this: more competitive tax credits, such as the "free parking" example you provided. I find your entry quite engaging and informational, and am curious as to what you think the studios find more luring: a 35% tax incentive or one hundred local hands?


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