This year Los Angeles’ movie industry celebrates a centennial. One hundred years ago in 1909 the first motion picture filmed entirely within Los Angeles was shot downtown at 8th and Olive. Film production became a signature industry for our region and state, as its products were exported throughout the world.
Unfortunately, movie industry jobs have been exported as well. The phenomenon of “runaway production” is certainly not new, since productions began leaving the state for cheaper locales decades ago. But, the flight of productions has accelerated over the last ten years as states and countries mounted aggressive campaigns to lure filmmakers with financial incentives (as almost all states except California hav done) and to build studio and crew infrastructures of their own.
On a $110 million movie, film companies can save $9 million by filming in incentive-giving New York or $23 million by filming in Connecticut. Incentive-less California is not competitive. When deciding where to film, many major studios don’t even create budgets for California. Those that include California in their comparisons only do so to demonstrate how much they will save by filming elsewhere.
The state film commissions of New Mexico and New York just released studies showing their incentives generate more money in tax revenue than is given through credits. Whether film incentives are sustainable and help cultivate an industry that will remain if incentives disappear is uncertain. What isn’t debatable is the decline of major studio pictures shot locally and the rise of less expensive television programming that employs fewer people and provides less of a boon to the local economy.
We as Angelenos don’t have to be resigned to the loss of our film industry. Every member of the public can play a role in “incentivizing” the industry by recognizing that filmed entertainment is a linchpin of our local economy and by being patient when responsible film crews are in local neighborhoods. If inconveniences become problems, please call us so we can address them.
By taking collective ownership of our movie industry, we can contribute to creating an environment that brings filmmakers back and roots the industry in our region for another 100 years.