Local Film Industry Is Healthy as Hollywood Begs for Taxpayer Cash

Local Film Industry Is Healthy as Hollywood Begs for Taxpayer Cash
Sterling Davis Photo/LA Weekly Flickr pool

State lawmakers are weighing an expansion of Hollywood tax credits, a windfall for a multibillion-dollar industry that has been lobbying for your money.

A strange thing happened before the industry could cash its check, though. Despite cries that the worst was happening - location shoots were leaving L.A. for states that offer rich moguls even more taxpayer money - production is healthy around these parts lately.

According to FilmLA, the folks who handle production permits for the city, the county and many local towns, ...

... "regional on-location film production" is up nearly 25 percent for the first quarter of 2014. "The category outperformed its five-year quarterly average by 39.4 percent," FilmLA states.

Filming of TV ads was up 2.8 percent, the organization said this week.

On-location TV production for the first quarter was down 9.2 percent, however. And FilmLA says local film production has still fallen precipitously if you track it from its peak in 1996.

Of course, FilmLA, an industry booster, was spinning the numbers opposite of the way you might think they would be massaged. You, the taxpayer, might be saying, Hey, Hollywood doesn't need more tax breaks after all. Things are back on track.

But the permitting group says 25 percent of area film production and 22 percent of area TV shoots were "generated" by current state tax breaks.

There's no proof that these productions would have gone out-of-state without your extra money, however.

FilmLA's Philip Sokoloski argues that the tax breaks specifically targeted these kinds of productions. "That's the built-in assumption with the California state program," he told us.

He says these numbers would have been worse "if incentives weren't in place."

In fact, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of tax giveaways.

Critics of the programs have argued that film production will bounce from state to state in search of the best giveaways, creating a game of increasing costs and decreasing returns for taxpayers.

Eyeing the glamour of Hollywood, many smaller states have jumped into the tax-incentive game with mixed results.

Local Film Industry Is Healthy as Hollywood Begs for Taxpayer Cash
Sean Russell/Flickr

See also: Should White Film Industry Titans Get a Tax Break as They Fail at Diversity?

What's more, as we've noted previously, Hollywood is almost apartheid-like in its favoritism toward white men. For example, nearly 9 out of 10 of working Hollywood writers and major agents are white men, according to a recent UCLA study.

This in a town where 1 in 2 of us in Latino and/or female. This in a state where Latinos were expected in March to become the biggest ethnic group in California.

Hollywood appears to employ an inordinate number of folks who come from out of state to follow their starry-eyed dreams, too.

The industry generates some good jobs. Really good jobs. Which is one key reason why it's so hard to buy a house or rent an apartment for the rest of us in Los Angeles.

And while production companies are often a collection of ragtag investors and new-money wannabes, the top of Hollywood's food chain is comprised of Wall Street-enmeshed mega-corporations like Fox, NBC Universal and Time Warner.

Despite all that, Mayor Eric Garcetti believes giving your money to these people is good for L.A. Call it trickle-up economics. Garcetti says:

This [FilmLA] report underscores the importance of our work to expand the film and television credit program to create jobs and boost our economy.

It's true: Some of the whitest, richest, most not-from-here folks in town need your money, Los Angeles. Donate now!

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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