Alarmed by the increasingly successful efforts of other states to lure film production from California, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is fighting back with a new approach: It has produced a film.
Dubbed "Runaway: A California Crisis," the 22-minute documentary compares the film industry to the Kaiser steel plant in Fontana, now closed because of intense competition from non-California forces.
"We have got to do something to stop a very disturbing trend," said Bill Welsh, chamber president. "California is losing $1.5 billion yearly in film production to other states."
"The human costs in terms of unemployment is enormous," Welsh said. "We hope that the film will alert everyone in the state to the danger to our economy represented by runaway film production."
Narrated by Weaver
The film, narrated by actor Dennis Weaver, was scheduled for a premiere showing last week at the chamber's 65th annual luncheon in the Sheraton Premiere hotel.
The chamber plans to make the film available to groups interested in combatting the loss of film production to other states, Welsh said.
The film was financed with a $17,000 grant from the chamber. It would have cost at least $250,000 had it not been for the volunteer efforts of everyone connected with making the film, according to Charlotte Clay, the film's executive producer and co-writer, with Don Silverman.
The documentary focuses on the aggressive efforts of five states--Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Tennessee--to tempt producers to leave California to make pictures.
Ride on Governor's Plane
"In Florida," Clay said, "what film producer would not be impressed when he is taken on a ride in the governor's plane to scout locations? Yet that is exactly what happens there. The competition simply is fierce."
In New York, she said, everything is done to ease the job for film companies, from providing free police service to ignoring local complaints about noise and other distractions.
By contrast, Clay contended, film makers in California encounter nothing but resistance from residents, business people and, worse, from various city officials.
She described the reaction of a director who recently made a film in Beverly Hills and vowed never to make another one there because of having to deal with petty complaints throughout the filming.
"And he lived in Beverly Hills," Clay said. "What has happened is that we Californians have become jaded about movie-making. We have seen so much of it that we no longer are impressed or, sadly, hospitable to people in the film business.
"Combine that attitude with people in other states who do everything in their power to make the film maker's job easy and you can see the problem," she said.
Exact figures on the extent of film production fleeing California and, indeed, how much remains in the state are non-existent, according to Lisa Rawlins, director of the recently established, state-funded California Film Office, located in Hollywood.
She said that the conservative estimate developed in her office is a total of $4 billion to $5 billion produced in the state, with $1 billion produced in other states by California-registered companies.
Figures Probably Low
"The figures do not include films made by independent and unregistered firms," Rawlings said. "So our figures probably are low. But there is no question films that should be made in California are being made elsewhere at a disquieting level."
Clay mentioned that "Silkwood," a motion picture starring Meryl Streep, was shot in Texas even though most of the film featured "interior shooting" that did not require location shooting.
"This is the kind of film that, a few short years ago, was shot in Southern California," Clay said. "The reason it was shot in Texas was because the state gave the producers a better deal."
Rawlings said that her office is trying to educate Californians to the necessity of being more hospitable to film makers.
"Most residents do care about film," she said. "But there is an increasing attitude of 'Oh, no, they are not going to close my street again.' We are trying to get the word out that producers are not automatically going to make their pictures here.
"That is the way it used to be, not the way it is today."