Opening in theaters across the nation today is FilmDistrict’s Drive, which stars Ryan Gossling, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks. The film is being widely praised by critics and has an impressive 94% rating at Rotton Tomatoes. The film was shot entirely on location in Los Angeles, which is a very rare event these days.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn was committed to making Los Angeles a character in the film and said he believes in shooting the city “Like L.A. should be seen. As a unique place”:
What’s interesting about L.A. is that it’s an incredible visual and beautiful city, but it doesn’t have — for example — it’s own niche like New York films have. Some very interesting filmmakers use New York’s background so iconically that it almost becomes a character in the movie. L.A. doesn’t have that as much, so it was almost — for me — much more unknown territory. Which was interesting because it makes you more creative. It’s like being a stranger in a stranger’s land.
I think in terms of both the movie and using the city — so vital and so interestingly — I would say probably a movie like [Michael Mann’s] ‘Thief.” What I like about Michael Mann is that Michael Mann reminds me very much of a Western director. He would make Westerns, I feel. He would use the landscape of L.A. like a Western. He’s always been very good at photographing L.A. like L.A. should be seen. As a unique place. It was always hard to define L.A. because it doesn’t have the same familiarity that other urban cities have, like New York, Paris, London, Rome. They have a lot of things in common, whereas L.A. is unique.
Perhaps more important to many Los Angelenos than the on-screen portrayal of their city was the off-screen economic boost; Drive poured over $16 million into the local economy while in production. The film also employed a crew of 110 and a cast of 60. The amount of wages paid to the men and women working behind the camera in below-the-line positions (carpenters, electricians, camera operators, etc.) was just over $6 million. In the current economy, such jobs and wages are what matter most.
The countless people and businesses in California that benefited from the $16 million Drive poured into the local economy over a matter of weeks have the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program to thank for the much-needed boost. Under the program, feature films like Drive that had almost entirely ceased shooting in California with the onset of generous film incentives elsewhere in the late 1990’s are now able to stay in the state. The success of the program at reversing runaway production of feature films has been nothing short of spectacular. In 2010, on-location feature filming in L.A. increased after four straight years of decline. Feature film (movie) production days were still down 62% from their high in 1996 (this is up slightly from its record low the year prior). Had incentivized films not accounted for 26% of all Feature activity, 2010 would have been the worst year on record for the L.A. region.
Because of the Californian Film & Television Tax Credit and feature films like Drive shooting in the state rather than running away, the state’s economy is getting the help it needs to get back on its feet. Film Work for California.