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L.A. mayor vows to do more to help film and TV industry (updated)

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks to the Sacramento Press Club during an Aug. 16 luncheon. Credit: Steve Yeater / Associated Press  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he would consider taking further steps to help the local movie and TV industry, including lowering permit fees and speeding up the film permitting process.

Speaking to a small group of Hollywood producers, location managers and film industry executives Wednesday, Villaraigosa outlined a series of steps the city has taken to assist the entertainment business, including offering free parking on city lots and working with the Department of Water and Power to install more electrical power nodes downtown. The City Council also is considering offering a 1% sales tax refund program for qualified film production expenditures.

But the mayor acknowledged that the city could do more to make L.A. film-friendly as the region struggles to keep productions from choosing states that offer richer incentives to filmmakers.

“We're doing some things, and that’s nice and good, but we can do a whole lot more,” Villaraigosa said at a forum hosted by the industry trade publication Variety. “This is one of the most important industries for us.”

The entertainment industry in Los Angeles County directly employs about 140,000 people, not including thousands more whose livelihoods are tied to the film and TV businesses.

When one filmmaker at the meeting complained about the time it takes to get permits and the high costs when filming outside the city, the mayor pledged to consider ways of cutting fees and expediting the permitting process. FilmL.A., which handles permits for the city and many unincorporated areas of the county, has actually worked to expedite the film permitting process in recent years, with a typical turnaround time of 48 to 72 hours.

Villaraigosa cautioned, however, that the city is constrained by its tight budget, noting that L.A. is facing a $200-million deficit. “There are limitations to what we can do,” he added.

The mayor also called on the Legislature to pass a bill that would extend California's film tax credits beyond 2012. The state allocates $100 million annually in film tax credits. A state Senate committee is expected to take up the bill Thursday.

Villaraigosa said he called the meeting with film officials to solicit their ideas on how to support the industry, not to bolster his image in Hollywood, where he has sometimes been criticized for not being more hands-on in backing the industry.

“This is part of a larger initiative to talk to the business community and ask them what we can do to create more jobs and make it easier for them to do business in the city,” Villaraigosa said in an interview.

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-- Richard Verrier 

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks to the Sacramento Press Club during an Aug. 16 luncheon. Credit: Steve Yeater / Associated Press  

 
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