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Santa Monica to Support Film Tax Credits

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

July 2, 2014 -- Elected officials from Santa Monica are acting to bring film production jobs back to California, boosting State revenues and benefiting those in the industry who work in the beachside city.

Assembly member and former mayor Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) is one of the principal co-authors of legislation that would renew and increase the state’s income tax credit for film and television production designed to lure back jobs.

During its meeting last week, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to support AB 1839 and provide support through lobbying efforts directed to state lawmakers and the Governor.

“Right now, New York filming of TV pilots has overtaken California for the first time,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor, who cited a survey showing that 24 TV drama pilots were filmed in New York, while only 19 were shot in Los Angeles.

The annual survey by Film L.A. Inc. also found that 44 percent of the 203 pilots produced in the past 12 months were filmed in the L.A. area, compared to 52 percent the previous season and 82 percent in the 2006-07 pilot season.

The motion to support the bill was made by Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who cited a 2007 study that found that 43 percent of Santa Monicans made at least part of their living in the creative arts, more than any other city.

“Because we’re proximate to Hollywood, a lot of those people work in TV and film,” said McKeown, who recorded voice-overs for radio and served as General Manager of KROQ in 1977.

“TV and film jobs have been increasingly going to other states, other countries,” he said. “I think as a city that is home to many people in this industry, we should support the bill.”

Known as the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act of 2014, the bill would extend and possibly expand a program that began in 2009 to provide $100 million annually in tax credits for certain feature films, made-for-television movies and new television series.

The goal of AB 1839 is to increase financial incentives available to the state film commission to encourage producers to film in California and not be lured away by better deals offered by New York, Louisiana, New Mexico and Canada, which offer reduced tax rates to production companies for bringing business to their areas.

This has reduced California film shoots by nearly half in the last 15 years, and is seen as a serious threat to the state’s prolific movie industry, according to Bloom.

“We cannot stand by and let one of California’s iconic bedrock industries be victimized by the predatory practices of other states and countries,” Bloom said in a statement.

“We must stem the flow of runaway production, and then support industry growth with the goal of reclaiming California’s position as the World Capital of the Entertainment Industry,” he said.

The bill has already passed the State Assembly and is currently in the State Senate’s Appropriations Committee. 

Political observers expect the Senate to approve the bill but are unsure Governor Jerry Brown , who has remained non-committal, would sign it into law.

Supporters of the bill have called for an increase of $400 million to the annual film tax credits, which is approximately how much New York City has invested.

According to the bill, film productions that qualify for the credit include productions with budgets between $1 million and $75 million, movies of the week with a minimum budget of $500,000, new TV series produced in the state with a minimum budget of $1 million, independent films, and TV series that relocate to California.

Also, at least 75 percent of the production day must be in California and production must be complete 30 months after applying for the tax credits.

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