State Faces Intense Competition to Keep Business Here

State Faces Intense Competition to Keep Business Here

from: Tiffany Rider, LBbusinessjournal.com

Long Beach’s filming ordinance is up to the most recent standards of best practices in support of keeping the film and television industry in Southern California.

Facing intense competition from other states and countries for film and television production, four stakeholder agencies in California came together to support a business-friendly, standardized statewide ordinance, according to a statement from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC). These Southern California entities – the LAEDC, the Southern California Association of Government (SCAG), Film L.A. and the California Film Commission (CFC) – all support a revised “Model Film Ordinance and Best Practices” standard, adopted by the CFC on May 1.

“Given all the competition and incentives, it’s critical to create an environment that’s film-friendly and makes California an easy place for filmmakers to do their work,” Amy Lemisch, executive director of the CFC, said via e-mail. By July 5, the SCAG Regional Council approved a recommendation to support the revised ordinance and encourage its 191 member cities and six counties to align its ordinances with this new standard.

The standard was developed after significant stakeholder outreach in the Greater Los Angeles Region, inquiring the opinions of the guilds, unions, trade associations, studios and the statewide network of film offices. “Once a city is interested in creating or revising its film policies, the CFC helps it work through changes, and also reviews draft ordinances,” Lemisch said.

In Long Beach, the existing ordinance aligns well with the revised statewide standard, according to Tasha Day, the city’s filming commissioner. “Except for the weekly permit fee, everything else [in the ordinance] Long Beach was already doing,” Day said. “I’ve been here for 13 years, and [the Long Beach ordinance] was already in effect when I got here.”

Since Day was hired to work for the city’s department of special events and filming, the industry has evolved and grown.

“When I started with the film office in 1999, the city issued 90 permits a year,” she said. “We issue over 500 permits a year now,” with an increased amount of television and movie production coming to town. Pricing hasn’t increased or decreased significantly, though – maybe a few dollars a year to keep up with cost of living, according to Day.

“If you’re doing commercial filming today – if you’re Warner Brothers coming here to film your next feature – you’re going to pay $368 to turn in the application and you would pay $525 a day to shoot in the city,” Day said. “That’s the permit fee.” Student filing permits are $27. Still photography for a major advertising campaign is $132 for the application and $158 per day for the permit. “Most of the applications we get for [still photography] are from car companies, like Audi or BMW, or we get Tilly’s shooting for their catalog ad.”

Long Beach does not have a business license requirement for filming – a suggestion in the revised statewide ordinance. The ordinance requests cities establish reasonable permit fees that are comparable with those of surrounding cities. In the City of Carson has adopted a weekly rate permit structure, with $650 per week for the first week and $500 for subsequent weeks.

“We don’t have a weekly rate here because most of what we actually get in Long Beach are one-day shoots,” Day explained. “We have very few that are over a day. We may get two or three days here, but nothing that is a week or longer unless we have a major motion picture in town. Even then, a lot of our major motion pictures are usually one-day pickup shots.”

Day said she is supportive of the statewide ordinance. “I think it’s a great thing and it helps everyone come to a standardized level,” she said. “Long Beach is already on the map for filming. We’re fifth in the nation, pretty equal with Pasadena.”

Lemisch concurred. “Long Beach is a popular area for filming due to its efficient permit processes and availability of locations,” she said. “The city has an experienced, proactive film office that facilitates filming requests. Quick turnaround for permits and a proactive film office make Long Beach film-friendly.”

According to the LAEDC, the entertainment industry supported 176,700 jobs with $18.5 billion in total wages in Southern California in 2010. A study by the CFC in 2005 suggested that for every 10 “feature films” that don’t choose to do business in Southern California, there is a loss of $106 million in state revenues. In Long Beach, Day said the film industry has an annual economic impact of $1.3 million – a portion of which goes to the General Fund to pay back fees for park rentals and other expenditures, and another portion going to the Special Advertising and Promotion Fund for permit fees.

Long Beach lies within what is known as the 30-mile zone, a circle in Los Angeles County with a 30-mile radius from Hollywood – specifically the Directors Guild of America. Regulations on filming within the zone prevent extra charges on labor, according to John Robinson, president of Long Beach Locations. Robinson’s company works with location scouts to find appropriate filing locations for television and major motion pictures.

Although Long Beach resides in the 30-mile zone – the preferential area for Southern California filmmaking – he said the city is very film-friendly but geographically undesirable due to its location on the outer rim of the zone. “They would see a lot more if we were closer to West Hollywood,” he said. “Directors and producers tell their scouts, ‘I don’t want to go to Long Beach.’ The city doesn’t hear this because when they call the city, they already know they are going to get their film permit and know they are going to film in the city.”

Scouts call Robinson far before they call the city so he can help them find a bar, a bowling alley, a business, an office, an apartment and more. Though the city does have more filming today than 10 years ago, Robinson said some directors and scouts shy away from Long Beach.

“I get a little more of a dialogue with the location scouts and managers to their general unhappiness about our geography, or the perception,” he said. “Dexter films here. A lot of shows that are not Miami-based film here. And there are a lot of areas in town that are not Floridian. But there are more palm trees in our city than deciduous trees, and the filmmaker hates that because when you see a palm tree in the camera, the guy in Iowa knows its either Miami or Southern Cal.”

Robinson, who is a former contract employee for the city’s special events and filming department, said he thinks the revised statewide ordinance is geared toward other cites that aren’t as friendly to film. “I think this substantiates the California Film Commission, because they haven’t done much,” he said. “They haven’t done much for our state as far as keeping runaway production from leaving.”

To review the statewide filming ordinance online, visit http://laedc.org/strategic/filmfriendliness.html.

For more information on filming in Long Beach, visit http://filmlongbeach.com.

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