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Villaraigosa Outlines Filmmaking Incentives

June 10, 2005|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa offered a sneak preview Thursday of his plan to provide incentives for film and post-production companies to keep their work in Los Angeles.

"Our focus on the entertainment industries is essential," Villaraigosa told 50 business leaders, including executives from the film industry, at a breakfast at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The meeting was held by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

"It's going to be absolutely a priority. We are going to look at what New York has done, what Chicago has done, and we are going to focus our efforts to create the kind of incentives to keep film production here."

The mayor-elect, who takes office July 1, expanded on his proposal later during an appearance at Universal Studios to promote the launch of a theme park attraction based on the television show "Fear Factor."

Villaraigosa said his incentive program would be phased in and was likely to include a mix of tax credits, reduced costs for film-set security and further expediting of film permits.

He cited as a model for his plan the incentives approved in January in New York. That city offers a 5% tax credit on production costs, gives film companies discounts for city bus and bench advertising of films made in the city and provides a "concierge service" that, for instance, smooths the way for approving the shutdown of a bridge for filming.

The city also helps with scouting and securing locations. Police officers are provided to film sets free.

Villaraigosa said his plan might include "efforts to reduce the cost of security on film shoots," but he declined to elaborate.

Villaraigosa listed on his campaign website other changes he would pursue, including creation of one location fee for filming on city property, allowing filming free at City Hall and other prime locations and promoting locally filmed movies with banners on major city streets.

Last year the area's film, video and television production industry set a record, with the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. issuing permits for 52,707 location production days, a 19% increase over 2003.

However, Los Angeles continues to lose productions to Canada. Three television pilot shows that recently were filmed in L.A. have since been approved to film their season episodes in Vancouver, according to Donna Wells of the industry development group.

The problem of runaway production was a major issue in the recent election campaign, with Mayor James K. Hahn proposing to provide up to $15 million annually in tax credits to companies that make a movie in L.A.

Villaraigosa did not identify the studio executives he is consulting, but his transition team includes such industry figures as Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Pictures.

Film company executives who attended the chamber breakfast included Chris Essel of Paramount Pictures, who is also chairwoman of the California Film Commission.

"I'm pleased and encouraged by Mayor-elect Villaraigosa's remarks this morning," Essel said. "The entertainment industry is a vital part of the region's economy, and it's important for the city to do what it can to keep filming local."

Thursday's events were not all serious. At the "Fear Factor" attraction, Villaraigosa presided over a contest between two stunt performers who raced down a long wire on a zip line. The loser had to eat a large cockroach.

The mayor-elect told reporters for entertainment television programs including "Access Hollywood" that he would be willing to race on a zip line but not to eat a bug.

"That looks nasty," Villaraigosa said as the stuntman ate the insect. "I'll bet it tastes worse."

The public won't eat cockroaches, but competitors will be offered a chance to drink smoothies that contain bugs, head cheese and other daunting ingredients.

At the chamber event, Villaraigosa was asked about his decision to wear a pink tie.

"I was looking through my tie rack and I said, 'I'm going to Hollywood,' " he explained.

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