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California and the West

L.A. May End Fees on Filming at City Sites

October 21, 2005|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that he wanted to waive filming fees at all city-owned buildings as a first step in a plan to keep entertainment jobs in the region.

The mayor said the cost would be negligible to the city, while the move would send a positive message to companies that were considering moving movie and TV production to more-affordable areas.

"We cannot stand idly by while other states enact incentives to lure jobs away from California," Villaraigosa said at a news conference.

For the fiscal year that ended in June, Los Angeles took in $187,000 in fees from production companies that used city buildings, said Steve MacDonald, president of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., the nonprofit agency that is under contract to the city to coordinate permitting in Los Angeles.

Last year was a record one for local film and TV production, with permits issued for more than 52,707 production days, a 19% increase over 2003. An explosion in television work has been driving the growth, although feature film activity turned up after a long decline. But competition is growing for a chunk of Los Angeles' signature film industry from New York, Canada and even Morocco.

The migration of film production has been especially worrisome given the shrinkage of other L.A. industries such as aerospace, Villaraigosa said. He noted that film, TV and commercial production contribute more than $25 billion to the economy of greater Los Angeles, with the entertainment industry providing more than 200,000 jobs.

The fee-waiver idea must be approved by the City Council. Villaraigosa said it was the first of a number of plans he had to keep film work in town.

He did not elaborate on them Thursday, but on his campaign website and in meetings with the film industry, Villaraigosa said that he would probably institute a mix of tax credits, reduced costs for security on film sets and a streamlined permitting process.

Lisa Rawlins, Warner Bros. senior vice president of studio and production affairs, said waiving fees in city buildings was a good first step for the mayor.

"I think it's a very good signal that this mayor's paying attention to the issue of runaway production," said Rawlins, who also is a member of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. board.

Villaraigosa said he would also continue to support the effort, currently stalled in Sacramento, to give a statewide tax break that could save production companies as much as $100 million annually.

Villaraigosa has held out as a model a package of incentives approved in New York City in January. New York gives a 5% tax credit on production costs, provides discounts for bus and bench advertising and offers other perks to make dealing with city bureaucracies easier.

MacDonald said a number of other governments, including the state of California, allowed free filming in their buildings. "This is something to put us in a better playing field with other jurisdictions," he said.

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