POLITICS - On September 12 I published a position paper in The Huffington Post entitled "Outsourcing Hollywood, Billions Leave Local Economy, Families Separated," spelling out the economic crisis that we face in Los Angeles and introducing the basic premise of my plan to bring Hollywood home.
As an expansion on my initial platform, I am now introducing a new plan to bring entertainment jobs back to Los Angeles. This plan is called the Los Angeles Production Benefit and it brings independent film production and union crews together.
The Los Angeles Production Benefit model is a simple and workable way to keep entertainment jobs in LA and to bring independent film productions to LA. The Los Angeles Production Benefit allows independent productions to be union films in a way that the independent production can afford to pay union wages.
This model takes direct advantage of the "down time" of union workers and of studio space -- and replaces that "down time" with good-paying entertainment industry jobs.
Here's how it works ...
A database of available crew members is created and maintained in the Entertainment Industry Liaison's office within the Mayor's office. These crew members are union workers with experience in film and television production and want to work in Los Angeles (set decorators, construction coordinators, prop makers, costume designers, make-up artists, camera operators, boom operators, key grips, gaffers, visual effects supervisors, etc.).
By signing up to participate in the Los Angeles Production Benefit, each crew member is agreeing to work at an adjusted rate (to be agreed-upon between the independent production and the crew member). Independent film producers that agree to shoot their films in Los Angeles will have access to the database and will agree to hire their crew members from the database.
If a producer agrees to shoot his or her film in LA, these union crew workers (who are otherwise off of work or in-between productions) agree to work on the independent production at an adjusted rate. In other words, union employees in Los Angeles that are off of work are matched with independent film productions that want to make their film in LA and need a crew.
On the same production, in order to fill empty blocks of time on the studio lot, studios that participate in the Los Angeles Production Benefit agree to work the independent production into otherwise open schedules on the lot for a discounted rate in order to sell its services to the independent production (much like a hotel that discounts its rates to a certain level in order to sell an otherwise empty room for a night). This way, the studio is maximizing the lot's availability and the numerous jobs related to the production.
Added benefits to both sides can also occur when the independent production uses the same studio for post production. And finally, the studio could then have a first right-of-refusal for the distribution rights for the film as well. This becomes a packaged production which is a win-win for the unions, the independent production, the studio, and Los Angeles. The union crew workers and the studios keep their calendars full, independent producers can afford to be union productions and to film in LA, our city keeps film production here at home, and the surrounding economy sees significant monetary benefit.
Money that is equivalent to a tax incentive is saved by the independent film production because the union crew is working at an adjusted rate and the studio space is provided at an adjusted rate -- during what would otherwise be "down time" when no money is being made by the crew members or the studio for the available space.
Independent film productions are often left out of the available California Film and Television Tax Credit Program, yet they employ thousands of Angelenos in the entertainment industry and provide great economic benefit to LA's local economy. This part of my plan to bring Hollywood home is not intended to replace film incentives (which we must maintain to better compete with other states and countries that have attracted filming away from LA), but rather to be a realistic way to provide savings to all parties involved in the process without having to find hundreds of millions of dollars from already cash-strapped municipal budgets.
It is important to note that the Los Angeles Production Benefit model has already been implemented and achieved success with the 2012 film "The Bronx Bull" directed by Martin Guigui with a cast and crew of over 150 people filmed at Universal Studios in Hollywood, the Riverfront Stages in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles, DC Stages in downtown Los Angeles, and Lacy Studios in Los Angeles.
Credit for the foundation of this plan and the success of its pilot project in connection with "The Bronx Bull" belongs to the film's director and writer Martin Guigui, to producer Dahlia Waingort, and to the Teamsters, the studios, and the other industry unions that were involved in the project. Dahlia Waingort negotiated this business model with the unions and studios and saw it through to success. I look forward to partnering with the Bring Hollywood Home Foundation and other important entertainment industry groups in Los Angeles in implementing this plan.
(Kevin James is an attorney, radio broadcaster, former Asst. US Attorney, and candidate for LA Mayor … and occasional contributor to CityWatch.) –cw
Vol 11 Issue 3
Pub: Jan 8, 2013