California should focus on saving film industry

California should focus on saving film industry


California needs to rescue its $17 billion film industry.

We still have the Academy Awards in Hollywood and the Palm Springs International Film Festival to celebrate the stars, writers, directors and producers, but much of the production has been lured away by incentives from other states and Canada.

Advocates for extending and expanding tax credits for the film industry issued these alerts last month as legislation was being introduced:

• Of the 54 big budget films of 2012 and 2013, only one was shot exclusively in California — “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

• From 2005 to 2013, California’s share of the 1-hour TV market declined from 64 percent to 28 percent, which cost the state 8,500 jobs.

• In the past 15 years, feature films in Los Angeles fell nearly 60 percent.

Since 2009, California has offered incentives that allowed film and TV productions with budgets of $1 million to $75 million to apply for 20 percent to 25 percent tax credits against income and sales and use taxes. The program has a $100 million cap and is set to expire next year.

New York state offers up to $420 million in tax breaks. New Mexico and Louisiana also offer projects more attractive than California’s program.

Riverside County and some Coachella Valley cities have their own incentive programs, not only for film but for fashion shoots and car commercials. The county’s Economic Development Department recently opened a new Film and Television Office, a one-stop shop for vendors seeking permits, vendors and locations.

The county waives permit fees in un­incorporated areas and offers the free use of any county-owned building.

The Coachella Valley, with its 350 days of sunshine and dramatic vistas, benefits greatly from the county’s incentives. Of $13,592,500 spent by media productions in 2012, about three-quarters was spent in county District 4, which includes the valley. That was a $10.5 million economic boost.

Palm Springs was the first city in the valley to waive film permit fees and remains the only one to do so.

It also offers a limited amount of $5,000 grants to production companies if they spend at least $25,000 in the city. One of the grants went to Barry Barnholtz, producer of the TV movie “Hidden Away,” about a rebellious teenager whose family moves to the desert. However, after the show was picked up for 12 episodes, production moved to Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Desert Sun applauds the efforts of Riverside County and Palm Springs, but without greater help from California it could be a losing battle.

At least five bills have been introduced in California Legislature to extend or expand the incentives. The latest push is AB 1839 by Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra, both Los Angeles area Democrats. It has 64 co-authors, more than half of the legislators, including our local Assembly members Republican Brian Nestande and Democrat V. Manuel Pérez. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee for a hearing this spring, although no date has been set.

On Tuesday, the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau emailed its members urging them to support the bill. The Desert Sun joins that call to action.

California has almost every imaginable backdrop for a film, and the Coachella Valley has many spectacular views. We support the effort to revitalize the industry that has been such a huge part of the Golden State’s success.


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