State legislators and the office of Gov. Jerry Brown last week agreed to give one of California's wealthiest industries, Hollywood, $330 million a year of your tax dollars.
Backers say the incentive will save some of the best, well-paying jobs in Los Angeles County by encouraging potential "runaway production" to stay put instead of taking advantage of similar tax programs like one in New York. But the California Legislative Analyst's Office concluded in a report last spring that such tax giveaways aren't worth it: They only encourage a downward spiral of competition among states vying for film and TV productions, with little positive change in the locations used.
Perhaps proving that point, a recent email by Motion Picture Association of America chairman and CEO Chris Dodd promises that an upcoming conference on the East Coast will prime officials from other states about how to get money for Hollywood out their own taxpayers.
Now, keep in mind that this is the same Dodd who lobbied for that California tax break. He said this last month:
It once again makes California a viable place to film the big budget movies and TV shows that generate thousands of jobs and millions in revenue and spending at businesses all across the state.
But the recent email, which was apparently first revealed by Deadline Hollywood, has Dodd saying that the Sept. 29 MPAA/Film Commissioners Summit in Washington, D.C. will show officials from outside California "how to better garner legislative and other political support for your jurisdiction’s production incentive program."
In other words, the summit is aimed at showing other states how to give money to Hollywood and get some of that business, and some of those jobs, that California is trying to keep. The email appears to show the MPAA playing both sides of the runaway-production game.
The email is said to have been sent " ... just days after the state Senate voted overwhelmingly to increase and expand California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program to $330 million," according to Deadline.
Yep, that's the same $330 million of your money that the MPAA, Hollywood unions, producers, directors and actors, not to mention L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, just begged for. It's sorely needed cash in a state that has some of the worst roads in America, a higher-education system that is increasingly being priced for the elite, and decaying public schools.
In a statement to the Weekly, the MPAA seemed to be saying the story was overplayed—that the summit had been planned in its current form since early summer and that the press is making a lot out of nothing:
We work closely with state film commissioners every day on a wide array of issues from physical production issues to state incentive programs. This meeting is just another opportunity for us to discuss ways to enhance our productive relationship and be helpful resources for each other moving forward. The meeting was planned this summer – the first invitation went out in July — to take advantage of the film commissioners’ schedules since many of them will already be on the East Coast for an AFCI meeting at the end of September.
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We reached out to the office of state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, co-author of the tax incentive bill, for his response, but we received to reply.
This isn't the first example of Hollywood beggars not really being choosy about where they ask for the hard-earned cash of taxpayers.
In March we reported that the first annual Location Managers Guild of America (LMGA) Awards, held at a time when Hollywood was heavily lobbying for more of your money, was to be attended by president Cheryl Boone Isaacs of the Academy Awards organization.