Dan Swartz is the newest member of the FilmL.A. Board of Directors, having been appointed in May 2009 as a community representative. An architect and real estate developer, Dan is a Midwest transplant (1979) who has loved being a resident of downtown Los Angeles since 2005.
To learn his perspectives on FilmL.A. and the Los Angeles film production environment, our staff posed the following questions:
You’re one of the board’s newest members. Given your limited experience on the board, what do you find most surprising about FilmL.A. as an organization?
DS: I am really surprised about the rapidly decreasing level of filming in the Los Angeles region. While it is clear this is a long-term trend, as a downtown resident I can feel the dramatic fall-off in the last year or so. Now, as an “insider” I am really disturbed by how little progress local government has made to turn things around. On the positive side, I have been really impressed by how hard FilmL.A. is working to improve relations between the industry and the downtown community.
What do you think is the biggest challenge to film production in the Los Angeles region?
DS: It’s ironic that for a long time the obvious challenge was integrating filming operations into neighborhoods. Now the problem may be solving itself with a new bigger problem — the exodus of filming to other states and countries. I don’t think that is the solution we really had in mind. It is clear that other states and countries have decided that filming is a major source of high-paying jobs and great local PR. These locales are willing to pay to have the industry film at their locations. There is a financial competition to attract filming, and the Los Angeles region really isn’t in a position, at this point, to compete.
What is your perspective on filming as it is and has previously been conducted in downtown Los Angeles?
DS: It is clear that downtown was an unofficial back lot for years. With only a minimal residential base and venues as diverse as the historic core, industrial districts and shiny high-rise districts, the industry could get the whole world without leaving sunny Southern California. Just about the time I moved downtown (from the Westside) the residential base started to increase dramatically. The industry was very slow in recognizing that they had to share the neighborhood. Establishing this new balance has been a real challenge. There is no doubt that a few shoots did not play by the rules and created a great deal of tension. It is also clear that a cool feature of living downtown is having our “hood” prominently featured in so many films, TV productions and advertisements.
You serve on FilmL.A.’s Community Relations Subcommittee. Can you tell us what that group has been working on lately?
DS: We just completed a new Community Relations Plan (view Plan summary) to integrate our community outreach standard into all aspects of our operations. This is really critical to maintaining our neighborhood credibility.