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County Creates Film Unit to Stem Industry Flight

July 30, 1986|TED VOLLMER | Times Staff Writer

A special office to try to halt an increasing exodus of television and motion picture productions from Southern California was created Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The action by unanimous vote followed studies showing that despite Los Angeles' international reputation as a movie and television capital, other cities and states have been highly successful in recent years in luring the lucrative film-making business out of Southern California.

Under the plan proposed by Supervisor Ed Edelman, the new office will try to clear away the red tape associated with on-location filming that producers for years have encountered with local governments.

In addition, Edelman said the office would promote film production in the region by acting as a liaison between local government and the movie industry.

The new office will augment a joint effort launched last year by the City of Los Angeles, the state of California and the county. The earlier effort, however, was limited to making it easier for a film maker to line up a permit to shoot in unincorporated areas of the county. The new action seeks to clear the bureaucratic path for film makers in the county's 84 incorporated cities as well.

One potential stumbling block in the plan is how the new office will be funded. Edelman's proposal said the film producers themselves should underwrite the cost of the office through permit fees. At present, those fees, representing about $100,000 a year, are not necessarily designated for any particular program.

County officials were ordered to return with a spending plan.

Continuing Concern

The Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, as the new program will be called, arose out of a continuing concern that a number of cities and states throughout the country have been enticing film producers with various advantages. These inducements, including tax breaks and free meals for film crews and cast, contrast sharply with the bureaucratic difficulties that producers say they have faced in Southern California.

According to a report prepared by the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County, "runaway" production has increased dramatically in recent years because producers are seeking more authentic locations and because equipment is lighter and easier to move.

Studios Elsewhere

But in recent years, well-equipped studios also have sprung up in nearly a dozen states, including Utah, North Carolina, Texas and New York. With these new studios have come skilled and experienced labor that does not have to be transported from Southern California, the report said.

Nearly 70 film commissions in other areas also have been created to try to entice producers from the Los Angeles region. Such advantages as free police and fire services, free studio rental, special hotel and housing rates and tax credits have greeted film makers in other cities, according to the study.

Edelman said area cities can no longer take the entertainment industry for granted.

"The weather and the climate are no longer enough," Edelman said.

Edelman said he does not advocate giveaways like those offered by other cities, but he said producers should not be asked to endure the frustrations of obtaining film permits that they now encounter.

In addition to creating a more workable permit system, the new office also will work with county departments to prepare a videotape of county government buildings and facilities that might be used for filming.

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