YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Los Angeles

Cluff Defends Gift to Rival Movie Agency

Funds: The man in charge of troubled L.A. filmmaking office says there are good reasons for $10,000 donation to Pittsburgh film board.


The head of the quasi-public agency that promotes filming in Los Angeles on Thursday acknowledged donating $10,000 to a film commission in Pennsylvania that seeks to lure productions there.

He also said the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. has given money to state and national film organizations when asked to do so. Those contributions include money to support an awards event of the San Jose Film Commission and to host a party at the Assn. of International Commercial Producers in New York City.

EIDC President Cody Cluff, who is under investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for alleged misuse of funds, Thursday defended the donation to the Pittsburgh commission, saying it was made as a show of support for a film official who has "led the charge" to keep filmmaking inside the United States.

Breaking his silence for the first time since the probe became public, he said the EIDC gave the Pittsburgh Film Office $5,000 in each of the last two years to support its fund-raising efforts.

EIDC's spending has been under scrutiny for alleged misuse of funds, including money spent for personal expense accounts and political contributions made by the office to elected officials.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley sent letters this week to the EIDC board--composed of City Council members and county supervisors as well as industry representatives--warning them about using EIDC funds to pay for criminal defense attorneys.

Cooley's office maintains that the EIDC is a public entity, and his letters ask board members to "carefully consider your fiduciary obligation to ensure that public funds" are not being used in the legal defense of the EIDC.

The agency was formed by the Los Angeles City Council and the county Board of Supervisors in 1995 to provide one-stop shopping for film permits and to keep movie production in Los Angeles.

"I don't understand the validity for that kind of contribution to an out-of-city film office," said Vance Van Petten, director of the Producers Guild of America. "It just doesn't make sense to me from the standpoint of what the EIDC is suppose to do."

Cluff, whose office and home were searched by law enforcement officers on Sept. 5, said that EIDC expenditures were warranted.

He said the $10,000 contribution to the Pittsburgh office, first reported in the Los Angeles Daily News on Thursday, was given to help and recognize the efforts of Pittsburgh Film Commissioner Dawn Keezer, who as chairwoman of FilmUS, leads a national organization made up of 196 film commissioners. The group tries to stem the flow of film and TV production to other nations.

FilmUS has been lobbying Congress for tax relief for the film industry.

Cluff and Keezer have had a close working relationship and even attended the 2000 Academy Awards together. Both serve on the board of directors for FilmUS.

Cluff, who described Keezer as "a friend and a colleague," said the donation was made after he learned that the Pittsburgh office might lose its funding, which could result in its closing.

He said the EIDC decided to help the office "in recognition of the leadership role Keezer played in the federal tax relief effort and the critical need for an articulate, dedicated spokesperson who is not from Los Angeles."

FilmUS's work is important to the EIDC's effort to lobby for federal legislation, Cluff said, and Keezer "is the only person who has been willing to step up, assume a leadership role and do the work."

"EIDC wants to keep every production in Los Angeles to the extent possible," Cluff said. "But, if for some reason the environs of Los Angeles does not provide a film company what it is looking for, EIDC would rather the film company take its business to Pittsburgh, and not Toronto, because Toronto is more of a direct competitor than Pittsburgh."

Los Angeles Times Articles