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A Special LA 411/Variety Round Table With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

City of Los Angeles

By: Marjorie Galas

On August 24th, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with independent producers and executives from production companies and studios that included Fox, Odd Lot Entertainment, Walt Disney and Morgan Creek at the Variety offices for a round table discussion.  Presented by Variety and LA 411 and sponsored by Entertainment Partners, the event was organized with the intent to share information about the developing Los Angeles incentives and to gather feedback from the attendees.


Film LA‘s President Paul Audley reported a turning point in the way Los Angeles city officials regarded film production came when his staff visited with all city office department heads.


“We wanted to change how the city dealt with film production,” said Audley. “Some of the officials felt they didn’t have a responsibility in fostering the production industry.”


While many initiatives are still in development, several changes that benefit productions have been put into place.  Working with the Department of Public Works, the Film and Parking Task Force was developed.  They have lowered parking fees for film productions, and allow set ups for film base camps to occur. Filming in city facilities, such as libraries or the Los Angeles Zoo, may occur with no charge, which can help a production save thousands of dollars a day.  Power nodes have been installed at locations such as City Hall and Griffith Park for a production’s complimentary use to save on electrical costs.  There is also a dedicated police unit that enforces an ordinance preventing disruption of film sets.


A business tax advisory has also been established to work on Los Angeles specific tax incentives.  Some initiatives they are focused on include a 1% Sales Tax refund program for qualifying film production expenditures, an extension of the state film tax credits for income and sales and use tax, and an increase in the cap for the production tax from 2.5 million to 5 million.


“The biggest thing we can do is extend this credit,” said Villaraigosa.

California Film Commission Director Amy Lemisch discussed specifics about the California incentive program.  She stated that for every tax credit approved, $1.13 is returned to the state. The incentive program has kept many productions local and has even helped some television productions, such as “Body of Proof” return to California after shooting elsewhere, the limitations and the lottery aspect of granting incentives can’t help all deserving productions.


“Not all shows are so lucky,” said Lemisch.  “Some end up taking their productions out of state.”


Before opening the floor for comments, suggestions and feedback from the attendees, the mayor discussed a few of his thoughts, which included bridging Northern and Southern California and creating one major package.  A potential means of creating this bridge is incorporating the technology industries.


“We need to identify the high tech players that would have an interest in Hollywood,” said Villaraigosa.  “We need to find a way to foster the interest that has begun in Silicone Valley in purchasing tax credits.”


While many of the attendees shared feedback that ranged from the difficulty of a smaller budget production to film in Los Angeles, the effect digital production is having on the Los Angeles production community, and the suggestion of incorporating websites such as “Kickstarter” as a means for finding additional financial resources, a key conversation revolved around the cost of permitting and hiring the required officials for a production.  For example, a fire marshal is required to be on site the duration of a shoot that takes place in the mountain regions.  This individual can cost $100 an hour.


“We have to look at all these issues if we want to stay competitive with states like New Mexico and Louisiana,” said Villagriagosa.  “I want to develop a relationship with line producers and the other people behind the camera.  They understand these details a lot better, and they are going to know the details a lot more profoundly.”


While no specific agenda has been set for further community discussions, Villaraigosa indicated he would like to work with the production community further in establishing additional incentives in the coming months.


A webinar of the event has been posted on LA 411.  To view the webinar, visit: