Entertainment Industry

Category: On Location

On Location: Overall location filming down 2% in 1st quarter in L.A.

Hefner Franco Linda Lovelace
Feature film activity on the streets of Los Angeles rebounded in the first quarter of this year, but the gains were offset by a continued falloff in television shoots in the region.

Location filming for movies generated 1,019 production days in the first quarter, up 16% over the same period a year ago as the city and county benefited from several smaller movies, including Millennium Films' and Eclectic Pictures' "Lovelace," starring Amanda Seyfried and James Franco in a story about the late porn star Linda Lovelace.

That was a welcome turnaround from the fourth quarter of 2011, when feature production dropped 26%, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., which handles shooting permits on behalf of the city and county. Commercial production continued to grow, rising 11% in the quarter.

But the increase in features and commercials wasn't enough to prevent a 2% drop in overall location filming. TV dramas and reality TV each fell 19% in the quarter, which also saw an 11% drop in pilot activity. The pilot season typically runs from February through April and has been slower than normal.

Fox and CBS have ordered fewer pilots this year because their schedules are more stable and they need fewer replacement shows. The slowdown also comes as L.A. continues to lose business to rival locations, especially New York. That state, which allocates about $400 million a year in film tax credits -- four times as much as California -- had a record year for film production in 2011, with 23 prime-time series. About 13 pilots are expected to be filmed in New York City this year.

"We continue to feel the sting of last year's loss of television dramas and a softening in the reality production segment overall," FilmLA president Paul Audley said in a statement.


On Location: Mayor Bloomberg touts production industry in New York

'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded tax credit

On Location: New York City's TV production surges to record level

-- Richard Verrier 

Photo: James Franco will play Hugh Hefner in a film biopic about Linda Lovelace entitled “'Lovelace.” Credit: Mark Mainz / Getty Images

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

On Location: Mayor Bloomberg touts production industry in N.Y.

Glenn Close on set in Brooklyn

In a bid to further expand film and television production in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg along with the city’s film commissioner Katherine Oliver are touting the opening of five new soundstages at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The additional stages will add 45,000-square-feet to the studio, which has been home to such movies as New Line Cinema's “Sex and the City” and Universal Pictures' “The Adjustment Bureau,” as well as television series including HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and FX’s “Damages.” 

Bloomberg this week also announced the launch of new initiatives to support production growth in New York, including providing $500,000 in grants for digital training programs and a new entertainment component to the city’s partnership with NYU’s Stern School of Business.

"A little over a decade ago, New York City struggled to attract the lucrative production industry to film here," Bloomberg said. "Now the city is such a popular and prosperous home to hundreds of films and television shows, [and] we have to work hard to keep up with the demand for stages and production facilities.” 

New York City has enjoyed an increase in production activity in recent years thanks to an expanded film incentive program that provides a 30% tax credit on production expenditures. New York allocates about $400 million a year in funding for the program, four times the level in California.

Last year, 188 films and 140 television series filmed on location in New York City while at least 13 television pilots are expected to shoot there this spring.

“These new soundstages at Steiner Studios will create jobs, and expanding our workforce development programs with new grants will help the next generation of production professionals start their careers on the right track,” Bloomberg said.


'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded tax credit

On Location: New York City's TV production surges to record level

L.A.'s share of TV pilot pie gets smaller, FilmL.A. report says 

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: Glenn Close on the set of FX's "Damages" in Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / Los Angeles Times


On Location: HBO crew members out of 'Luck' with series shutdown

Stage used for filming HBO's 'Luck'Some uprooted their families to relocate to Los Angeles. Others recently bought houses or signed long-term leases and were banking on at least 10 months of steady work to pay down their debts. Many had turned down higher paying jobs to work for two of the top creative forces in the business -- Michael Mann and David Milch, executive producers of the HBO TV series "Luck."

Two weeks after HBO announced its sudden decision to shut down production of "Luck" in the wake of three horse fatalities, those who worked behind the scenes on the weekly TV series were grappling with the harsh realities of suddenly being out of work in a tough job market. "Luck" employed about 180 crew members, 23 actors with regular and recurring roles, 20 weekly or day player actors, in addition to dozens of extras.

Many local prop houses and vendors that had supplied services and equipment to the HBO series also lamented the demise of one of the higher-profile shows filming in Los Angeles at a time when fewer dramas are shooting locally because of competition from New York and other states.

Although TV shows are often canceled, it’s rare for one to be scrapped in the middle of production, especially after it has been ordered for a full season, as was the case with "Luck." When HBO halted production, it was filming just the second episode of the second season for “Luck,” the low-rated racetrack drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte.

“This is the only time in our history that we've done this and we don't take this decision lightly,'' said Michael Lombardo, president of programming at HBO. "It has some real costs in terms of dollars and in terms of the emotional costs. The fact that people made life decisions based on their expectation of employment for a 10-month period was not insignificant to us.”

Lombardo declined to say how big a financial toll this took on the network, cast and crew. To help cushion the blow, the Time Warner Inc.-owned cable network is setting up a fund to assist affected crew members, Lombardo said. “We have asked producers to put together a list of people on the crew who are in a challenging life circumstance because of this decision so we can figure out a way to make the landing a little bit more comfortable.”

Mann said he feels responsible for many of the crew members, several of whom had worked with him on other films and TV shows.

“We've got folks who relocated from New York to L.A. and committed themselves to one-year leases and now don't have a job,’’ Mann said. “You're talking about hard working men and women who are carpenters, assistant camera operators, sound editors, location managers, in a community where there is not a lot of production."

The shutdown was especially difficult because of the strong bonds formed on the set, Mann said.

“There was a unified spirit," said the director of such movies as “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Public Enemies.” “Every time you walked on the set you couldn't help feeling that everyone wanted to be there. A lot of folks had given up higher paying jobs to work for 'Luck.'”

The timing couldn’t be worse for Peter Clarke, prop master on “Luck,” whose wife is about to give birth any day.

“I’m concerned about how I’m going to make rent in four weeks,’’ said Clarke, a veteran prop master. “The job market is pretty lean right now. I can’t pick up and move to Louisiana because we’re about to have a baby.”

Production designer Tim Grimes moved from New York to Los Angeles last year to work on “Luck.”  Grimes, who rents an apartment in Hollywood, was making good money -- about $3,600 a week -- on the show, but most of that was going to pay off debts. After the first season ended, he had to collect unemployment benefits because work in L.A. was so sporadic.

“We were thinking we would be paid until December and having the carpet pulled from underneath us was the biggest blow,’’ he said.

James Kent, set decorator on "Luck," moved from western Massachusetts to Los Angeles last year to join "Luck." He said the shock of the show’s cancellation was compounded by anger over how crew members have been depicted. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals "wanted to make us look like villains,’’ he said. “We were all very proud of the show and protective of the animals.”

"Luck’s" closure was felt far and wide in Los Angeles because the series filmed and spent heavily throughout the region, mainly at Santa Anita Park, but also at such locations as the Beverly Hilton, Hustler Casino in Gardena, Rod’s Grill in Arcadia and Marina del Rey.

HBO executives would not disclose the budget for “Luck,” but people who worked on the show said it was among the more expensive local TV dramas, spending about $140,000 per episode on prop rentals and purchases and set construction alone.

Among the beneficiaries was GMT Studios in Culver City, which rented three soundstages for “Luck.”

“The entire production community is hurting because filming is going out of state and this was one big show that was pretty substantial,’’ said Frank DiPasquale, president of GMT Studios. “They had a contract to be here till the end of October. It was definitely a setback for us.”

"Luck" was also a boon to the Santa Anita racetrack, which generated $10,000 to $20,000 a day in site fees from the series. About 75 people who work at the track earned extra income working as riders, gate guards and extras.

“It’s a big blow to us and something I don’t think we’ll be able to replace any time soon,’’ said Peter Siberell, director of special projects for Santa Anita Park.



'Luck' raises stakes on animals' use

"The Hunger Games" fuels Hollywood's appetite for North Carolina

"Walking Dead" producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded film credit

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Workers rebuild part of a stage at GMT Studios in Culver City as the set of the HBO show "Luck" is dismantled. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

Working Hollywood: An armory of costumes for 'Wrath of the Titans'

In a Hollywood obsessed with futuristic CG effects, Simon Brindle does things the old-school way — really old school.

As the costume armor supervisor for “Wrath of the Titans,” the sequel to the 2010 Warner Bros. film “Clash of the Titans” due out March 30, Brindle and his team fashioned the suits of armor worn by Sam Worthington and other actors using leather and wooden mallets and other tools and materials employed by the ancient Greeks.

For the 44-year-old Brindle, it wasn’t too long of a journey from his parents’ farm near Liverpool to the mythological Mount Olympus. As a young boy, he took advantage of the ample space and old pieces of leather and wood that surrounded him to develop his skill for hand-crafting goods.

Q&A: "Wrath of the Titans" director promises "vast and epic sequel"

Armed with a passion for sculpture, history and epic films such as 1963’s “Jason and the Argonauts,” Brindle pursued a degree in fine arts sculpture at Manchester Polytechnic. After graduation, he got his first taste of costume design and manufacturing when he landed a job at a theater company that mounted historical productions.

Since then, he’s fashioned armor for films such as 2001’s “A Knight’s Tale,” 2004’s “Alexander,” “Clash of the Titans” and the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

“I love to create things, and this gives me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “But the best part of it is to see your lead guy or your key actors try their armor on and stand up straight and really get a feel for the characters they’re going to play.”

Greek to him: For “Wrath of the Titans,” Brindle’s 15-person team fabricated armor for the principal actors and prototypes for the armies based on costume designs by Jany Temime, who had recently completed work on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” “A Greek picture requires essentially Greek skill sets, so it’s literally using wooden stakes, wooden forms, hammers and mallets; trimming away with sharp knives; and shaping and forming and so on,” Brindle said. “So the tools are quite basic — hammers and files, sandpaper, nothing too complex. It’s really what you do with them that counts.”

Best chest forward: To lend authenticity, much of the armor was inspired by the Greek muscle cuirass, a type of armor molded to fit and mimic the wearer’s torso, nipples and all. “They’re based on a perfect anatomical model in a piece of beaten bronze,” Brindle said. “They have a wonderful sculpted chest and abs, and they enhance the appearance of the wearer.”

Flax your muscles: As the king of the gods, the character of Zeus, played by Liam Neeson, required special armor. “Zeus is in a woven, soft-bounded leather and a compressed linen, which is another Greek armor technique,” Brindle said. “They compressed dozens of layers of linen together under an awful lot of weight, and it actually became impervious to blades. So Zeus’ armor was layers of linen and felt and woven leather with fine metal bounding running up and down the surface of the armor — just little bright details that catch the light every now and then.”

Fit for a lady: Brindle constructed Andromeda’s armor from a combination of rigid and soft leathers with etched brass metalwork around the neck and waistline. “The etchings were ancient Macedonian warriors in procession from archaeological finds, Greek vase paintings,” he said. “And that was really nice armor to make, because it’s very well tailored and fits well. It’s got a great line and silhouette to it, and it’s lovely deep reds and burgundies. It looks regal like a piece of armor, but it’s still quite feminine.”

Scale model: The character of Perseus, played by Worthington, needed particularly tough armor given his habit of battling sea monsters and gorgons. “Perseus’ armor is a lamellar armor, which is a series of overlapping leather scales that slide across each other,” Brindle said. “They were something like three by two inches, so it was hundreds of overlapping scales meticulously laced together. And lamellar armor was used in Greece, and it was also used in ancient Japanese culture. So it has an almost slightly samurai silhouette to it.”


Working Hollywood: Creating the universe for 'The Tree of Life'

"The Hunger Games" fuels Hollywood's appetite for North Carolina

"Walking Dead" producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded film credit

-- Cristy Lytal

Photos: Left, Simon Brindle, costume armor supervisor for "Wrath of the Titans." Credit: Nicky Jones. Right, Sam Worthington, as Perseus, wears lamellar armor in a scene with Danny Huston playing Poseidon. Credit: Jay Maidment / Warner Bros.

On Location: Cameras rolling on Sofia Coppola’s L.A. crime caper

Sofia Coppola began production on "The Bling Ring," starring Leslie Mann and Emma Watson, in Calabasas this week

Independent film darling and Oscar winner Sofia Coppola began production on "The Bling Ring" in Calabasas this week, according to the city clerk's office. The majority of filming, however, is expected to take place in Los Angeles.

The movie, inspired by true events, is about fame-obsessed teens growing up on the fringes of Hollywood celebrity culture who become burglars targeting the homes of stars.

Leslie Mann and Emma Watson star in the film along with a crop of fresh young faces, including Taissa Farmiga, Katie Chang and Maika Monroe. Coppola, daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola, also wrote the script and is producing alongside her brother, Roman Coppola, and Youree Henley.

Representatives for Coppola and San Francisco-based production company American Zoetrope declined to comment.

The real Bling Ring, also known as The Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, was a group of L.A. teenagers that burglarized numerous celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, by using the Internet to track down their whereabouts and addresses. The group allegedly stole more than $3 million worth of clothing and jewelry in 2008 and 2009.

The burglaries have already inspired adaptations. In the 2010 premiere episode of "Law & Order: Los Angeles," the fictional detectives tracked down a young group of thieves that robbed the rich and famous. A made-for-T.V. movie, also titled "The Bling Ring," aired on Lifetime last year.

This will be Coppola's second consecutive film to tell a uniquely Angeleno tale. Her last picture, Focus Feature's 2010 release "Somewhere," starred Stephen Dorff as an idle Hollywood actor going through an existential crisis while living at the legendary Chateau Marmont.


"The Hunger Games" fuels Hollywood's appetite for North Carolina

The Directors: Sofia Coppola takes a floor at the Chateau Marmont

"Walking Dead" producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded film credit

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: Sofia Coppola on the set of Focus Features' "Somewhere." Credit: Franco Biciocchi / Focus Features

'The Hunger Games' fuels Hollywood's appetite for North Carolina

Jennifer Lawrence stars in 'The Hunger Games' From “Blue Velvet” to “Bull Durham,” North Carolina has a long filmmaking tradition. With the release of this weekend’s much-anticipated debut of “The Hunger Games,” state film officials are hoping the state will re-emerge as one of the top shooting destinations outside of California.

The post-apocalyptic tale based on the first of three bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins is expected to be one of the highest grossing movies of the year -- a major selling point for the state that hosted the production last summer.

“The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, is one of the biggest productions North Carolina has hosted. With the film’s budget exceeding $80 million, Santa Monica studio Lionsgate spent an estimated $60 million in the state, employing 180 crew members and more than 4,000 extras.

PHOTOS: 'The Hunger Games' premiere

“This is going to impact us in the way that ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ did,” said Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office. “It shows the industry that North Carolina can handle these large films and that we have the talent and resources to make it work.”

The film office has wasted no time taking advantage of the hype surrounding the Lionsgate movie, sending out an email blast to filmmakers proudly touting the locations used in “The Hunger Games.”

Over four months last summer, the crew filmed throughout the Charlotte area, including at an old cotton mill outside of Hildebran that was transformed into a coal-mining village that is home to the movie’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen. They also shot at a former Philip Morris cigarette manufacturing plant in Concord and in the dense forest areas near Asheville and Black Mountain that served as the backdrop for “The Hunger Games,” in which teenagers fight to the death on live television.

PHOTOS: Meet the cast of 'The Hunger Games'

“The Hunger Games” contributed to North Carolina having a record year for production in 2011, generating $220 million in film and TV spending, up from $75 million in 2010. Other productions in the state included such TV series as Showtime’s “Homeland” and the CW's young adult drama “One Tree Hill,” as well as several movies, among them “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which filmed partially in Wilmington.

This year, North Carolina will host another big film, Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man 3,” starring Robert Downey Jr. The production, which will soon begin filming, is expected to spend $80 million in the state.

North Carolina’s film office attributes the increase in activity mainly to the decision by the state legislature to beef up its film tax credit in January of last year. The state, which offers a 25% refundable tax credit on qualified production expenses, increased the cap on how much individual projects could receive to $20 million from $7 million.

Although North Carolina provided ideal locations for “The Hunger Games,” the film tax credit was a key factor, said Todd Christensen, the movie's location manager, who also worked on the Oscar-nominated picture “Moneyball,” which filmed in California.

“They hadn’t done a big film in North Carolina for some time, but they had a great attitude toward us as a film crew and letting us do what we needed to do,” Christensen said.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, North Carolina was one of the busiest states for filming outside of California and New York, thanks to a string of movies including the baseball drama “Bull Durham” and Academy Award-winner “The Last of the Mohicans,” which filmed in the Pisgah National Forest among other locations.

Despite its reputation for being film friendly and a so-called right-to-work state where non-union crews are welcomed, North Carolina lost its competitive edge when Canadian provinces and other states such as Georgia and Louisiana began to grab larger shares of the business by offering generous film tax credits. Now the state is enjoying a comeback, industry officials say.

“The industry is seeing us as a serious filmmaking state,’’ said Bill Vassar, an executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems, which operates a 10-stage production facility in Wilmington that will be rented to Marvel for “Iron Man 3.” “It’s elevating us again.”



On Location: 'Iron Man 3' lands in North Carolina

'Hunger Games' ads coyly don't show the Hunger Games

'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded tax credit

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Jennifer Lawrence, left, portrays Katniss Everdeen and Liam Hemsworth portrays Gale Hawthorne in a scene from "The Hunger Games." Credit: Associated Press / Lionsgate, Murray Close

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

'Luck' horse deaths renew debate on use of animals in film

luck horse race

HBO's decision this week to halt production on "Luck" in the wake of three horse deaths has renewed debate about how animals are used in filmed entertainment.

HBO said it couldn't guarantee more accidents would not occur on the low-rated drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, but it also took pains to isolate the "Luck" case as unique given the dangers of horse racing — a point backed up by some experts.

The incident has put a fresh spotlight on the American Humane Assn., the nonprofit group that monitors more than 2,000 productions that use animal performers and is partly funded by the Screen Actors Guild. The AHA, criticized in the past for having overly close ties with the industry it's charged with monitoring, has vigorously defended its handling of the horses on "Luck."

Read more on the story in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times.


'War Horse' tapped veteran trainer Bobby Lovgren

On Location: Raleigh Studios looks to expand into Utah

'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded tax credit

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Horse races on the set of "Luck." Credit: Gusmano Cesaretti / HBO


'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded film credit

Gale Anne Hurd is one of Hollywood’s top filmmakers, having been a producer on such big hit action movies as “The Terminator” and “Aliens” and now AMC’s successful zombie drama series “The Walking Dead.” But Hurd hasn’t worked in California for nearly a decade, largely because of more favorable film tax credits and rebates offered in other locales. A fourth-generation Los Angeles native, Hurd would like to see that change. She’s among many high-profile film and television producers who are hoping California will extend and expand its tax credit to make it more competitive with the likes of Georgia, New York and Illinois. Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) recently introduced a bill that would extend the program, which launched in 2009 and is set to expire next year, through 2018. Hurd, co-founder of the Producers Guild of America’s annual Produced By Conference, spoke to On Location about her views on the state credit and what Sacramento could do to strengthen it.

Hurd Walking Dead California Film Tax Credits

You live in L.A. but rarely shoot here. Why not?

I film my TV series [“The Walking Dead”] out of state and have not filmed in California since I produced “The Hulk” in 2003. As much as I would like to sleep in my own bed at night and employ many of the incredibly talented California-based crew members, I have filmed instead in Georgia, Toronto and Detroit and many other [places] with much higher incentives. I have a project that’s about to shoot in New York that’s called “Very Good Girls” [a feature starring Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning].

So is California’s film tax credit not effective?

It’s fantastic that we have a program, but it can’t be viewed in a vacuum because producers and financiers look at all of the available options and the pros and the cons and you want to limit the number of cons that you have.

If you had a message to send to California lawmakers, what would it be?

The film and television industry is one of the most productive businesses in California, and employs thousands of residents as crew, cast and in executive positions. We pay taxes, we shop locally, send our children to school here and keep allied businesses [restaurants, dry cleaners, retail stores, car dealerships] in profit. The impact from lost production to other states and countries amounts to billions of dollars. With a competitive tax credit, California can reclaim its position as the entertainment capital of the world. Currently, our tax credit is not on par with those of New York, Georgia, North Carolina and New Mexico, among others.

In what way?

There are so many restrictions. The tax credit is not a transferable credit [except for independent projects with budgets under $10 million]. You can’t sell it like you can in other states like Georgia. You have to apply by June 1 and even if you are awarded the credit you have to start rolling your cameras 180 days after you're notified [of an approval]. But if your cast member isn’t available until January or February, then it doesn’t work.

As a producer, you have to go with a known commodity. That means shooting where you know you will be qualified so you can keep very precious finance, cast and budget schedules intact. To me, the tax credit should be a rolling situation like it is in most states, so that when you have your project together, you can submit it and be considered. That would be a first step.

What else would you like to see changed?

Raising the limit [on the annual tax credit allocation] from $100 million to $200 million a year is a minimum when you consider New York has $420 million a year. When you think about the number of people working in the industry, there are far more people based in California than in New York, but New York right now has more than four times the incentive.

Skeptics would say California can’t afford such an expansion. What do you say to that?

If you look at the impact that the industry has on the state in terms of taxes paid, in terms of the multiplier effect for each dollar that’s spent, I think it’s ridiculous... Part of what they’re saying is that projects will shoot here anyway, but that’s simply not true. ["The Incredible Hulk," the 2008 Marvel reboot of the big green guy's franchise that Hurd also produced, was filmed mainly in Canada.]

Why did you select Georgia as the location for shooting “The Walking Dead?”

The series is based on a comic book that is set in the South. Georgia [also] has a 30% tax credit. It was absolutely essential. For many independent financiers, their financing is incumbent upon tax credits or rebates. It’s part of their business plan. Those financing entities cannot shoot where they cannot be guaranteed a tax credit.


On Location: Raleigh Studios looks to expand into Utah

Louisiana film industry expects strong growth in 2012

Report: film tax credits pumped $3.8 billion into California's economy

— Richard Verrier

Photo: Gale Anne Hurd , CEO of Valhalla Entertainment, poses for a portrait at Valhalla Entertainment in Los Angeles on March 13 with a model of a zombie from the AMC series' "The Walking Dead," for which Hurd is the executive producer. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

On Location: Mississippi bill aims to raise incentive caps


With an assist from "The Help," the Magnolia State is vying to become more attractive to filmmakers by expanding its movie incentives program.  

A bill that would raise incentive caps was passed by Mississippi’s House Ways and Means Committee this week and is expected to go before the full House next week.

Launched in 2004, the program reimburses filmmakers for 25% of production expenditures and offers an additional 5% rebate for hiring state residents. The proposed legislation would double the annual cap on incentives to $40 million and would increase the limit for a single production to $10 million from $8 million. It would also broaden the rebate available for individual hires — including actors and directors — to $5 million per person, up from $1 million.

The sought-after increase was spurred by the success of DreamWorks' production of "The Help,” last year’s civil rights era movie about black maids in Mississippi, said Ward Emling, manager of the Mississippi Bureau of Film and Cultural Heritage.

The film, for which Octavia Spencer won this year's Oscar for supporting actress, cost $25 million to make and received $3.5 million in incentive rebates.

"The Help" was shot almost entirely in the small town of Greenwood, 100 miles north of Jackson, and resulted in an estimated $13 to $15 million in direct spending for the state, while generating $207 million in global ticket sales.

“It was the first time in a long time that we had a film focused in one community,” said Emling. “It was a really great test sample for everyone to see the impact.”

Other recent productions in Mississippi include the History channel’s new series “Full Metal Jousting,” which was filmed on a horse farm in Jackson; and Relativity’s “Act of Valor,” the Navy SEALs movie now in theaters, which was partially shot at the John C. Stennis Space Center in the southern part of the state.

Mississippi attracts mostly small-budget and independent movies, and the proposed bill does not significantly threaten Southern production strongholds like Louisiana and Georgia, which have uncapped programs and higher incentives. Nonetheless, Emling expects the higher caps to make Mississippi a more enticing film destination.

"Our locations are now in play," Emling said. "We may not have deserts, mountains, or a big city but we have plains, the Gulf Coast, the Delta, the Mississippi River — a lot of really great water locations." 


Louisiana film industry expects strong growth in 2012

Atlanta studio opens as filming in Georgia booms

On Location: Report shows state film tax credits pumped $3.8 billion into California's economy

— Dima Alzayat

Photo: A scene from DreamWork's "The Help," filmed in Greenwood, Miss. Credit: Dale Robinette / DreamWorks.


On Location: Shoe repair shop makes a footprint in Hollywood

Raul Ojeda of Willie's Shoe Service

For a recent episode of the TV series “Modern Family,” Raul Ojeda crafted a pair of shoes covered in red sequins for actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. His character, Mitchell, shows off the shoes for a "Wizard of Oz"-themed birthday party he throws for his partner, Cam.

A decade ago, Raul Ojeda was working as a shoe shiner. Now the 29-year-old is leaving his own footprint in Hollywood, supplying custom-made shoes to the stars, from Steve Carell to Sally Field.

Ojeda is the owner of  Los Angeles-based Willie’s Shoe Service, a shoe repair shop that has been providing footwear to the entertainment industry since 1956, when Willebaldo “Willie” Rivera opened a small business across from Paramount Pictures on Melrose Avenue. The operation quickly became a staple for made-to-order shoes for the film and TV industry.

Willie created the sandals worn by Charlton Heston in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic film “The Ten Commandments” and the boots worn by the Starship Enterprise crew in the 1979 movie “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” (to this day, Trekkies place orders to purchase them), as well as several pairs of bright red clown shoes for Ronald McDonald.

Ojeda, Willie’s apprentice for nearly three years, bought the business in 2007 and has carried on the old-fashioned handmade methods he learned from his former boss, while introducing new styles and launching an offshoot called Don Ville to make custom shoes, located on La Brea Avenue.

The companies together employ a staff of eight and generate nearly $500,000 a year in revenue, with about one-third of the business coming from Hollywood sales. Ojeda’s recent clients include the TV shows “Mad Men,” “Modern Family” and “Glee” as well as such upcoming films as “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” and Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

He charges $1,800 to $3,400, depending on whether a client wants to refurbish a shoe, or create a new one from scratch.

Ojeda, a native of Mexico who was raised in L.A., began his career in 2000 as a shoe shiner, working at several stations before joining Willie as an apprentice. Without any formal business education, or even a high school diploma, Ojeda still leaped at the opportunity to fulfill his longtime dream: owning a custom shoe service and repair company, especially one that played such a vital role in the movie industry.

“For me, it is so rewarding to know that we are part of the magic of theater, television and motion pictures,” Ojeda said. “It is a way to immortalize the craft of shoe-making with the satisfaction that my grandchildren will tell stories about Willie's working for certain movies that one day will become classics.”

When creating a pair of shoes for the costume designer of a film or television show, Ojeda will frequently only have the designer’s verbal description to go by — he rarely sees an image.  Most often, costume designers approach Ojeda to refurbish shoes rather than make them from scratch, bringing their own fabric or shoe to meet their description.

“I always compare my work to cooking — you can either get the bean, clean it up, boil it, marinate it and serve it," Ojeda said. “Or you can just open a can of beans and pour. That’s one of the things that makes us different.”

For the upcoming December release "Lincoln,” Ojeda spent three weeks creating the boots and the slippers to be worn by Sally Field’s character, Mary Todd Lincoln. The film’s costume designer, Joanna Johnston, provided the horsehide leather to be used for the boots and had an extensive discussion with Ojeda on how she wanted the shoes to look.

He fashioned a pair of red-velvet boots covered in rhinestones worn by Carell in the forthcoming comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”

Allison Leach, assistant costume designer for “Mad Men” and “Glee,” turned to Ojeda and his team when she needed help crafting a pointy Mexican cowboy boot made out of snakeskin. The boot was worn by Cory Monteith’s character, Finn, in a recent episode of the hit Fox series.

“Whether it's 1960s or snakeskins, the quality of the workmanship is always great and they always meet their deadlines and that is indispensable in the film industry,” Leach said.



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Photo: Raul Ojeda, owner of Don Ville shoe store and Willie's Shoe Service in Los Angeles, at his shop on La Brea Avenue. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

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