Who's to Blame For L.A.'s Crippling Production Crisis?
The film industry reels today from the news that area location shoots have plunged -- a lot -- since 2007. The Los Angeles Times offers humbling data showing an record-low number of permitted production days in 2008, noting also the number of features shot on location has dropped more than 55% since this time last year. (Commercial shoots fared slightly better, plummeting only by a third.) Between long wheezes of grief, the city's legions of actors, technicians, and honeywagon drivers are wondering what happened to their paychecks -- and who to blame. Let's point some fingers!
1. The SAG imbroglio -- The rank-and-file stayed busy-ish in the first half of '08, when studios rushed atypically high numbers of films into production ahead of SAG's June 30 contract expiration. The six months that followed, meanwhile, saw a precipitous drop-off when insurers refused to issue completion bonds on films threatened by a potential strike. On the bright side, negotiations are faring better today between the union and its studio nemeses, and those bonds may be cheaper and/or more forthcoming. On the not-so-bright side, it's too little, too late for '09.
2. The WGA imbroglio -- Ironically, the writers' strike was a boon for some TV production, if only because it forced reality and other unscripted programming to the fore. The downside was that the "productions" didn't require crews, and once the strike was over, it took networks and studios months to revive the momentum they'd had for series on location. Not cool.
3. The California Legislature -- Lawmakers in Sacramento resisted tax incentives until it was too late, and still with much resistance. Then in Februrary, three months after Gov. Schwarzenegger asked for his "runaway production provision," it finally made the budget -- to the paltry tune of $100 million. Budget gap or not, they clearly forgot the state is competing with...
4. Everywhere else -- Sure, Louisiana's film apparatus is known for graft and corruption, and there's no real way to know if the $1.6 billion reportedly pumped into its coffers via film and TV production is inflated or not. But either way, the 20,000 production jobs lost this year in California went somewhere. Was it New York, which is attempting to push through another $350 million to revive its own popular tax incentive program? Or maybe New Mexico, with its 25% production cost rebate? Or all of the above, compounding matters for Hollywood even worse?
5. Detroit -- As the LAT also points out, advertising spending by Ford, GM and Chrysler slid 15% in 2008. Now would be the time to feel guilty for relishing entire commercial breaks bearing no reference whatsoever to Employee Pricing.
6. Mumblecore -- Step back and consider for a moment: Maybe this whole crisis is our heads. Maybe the plunge in permitted shooting days is really attributable to all those little brats simply shooting their sad break-ups on a cell phone with a budget of $10 and a sandwich, skipping the whole permit-and-crew prereq altogether. Except they're not shooting in L.A. anyway. Whatever. They can't get away with everything.
7. Harvey Weinstein -- Between Inglorious Basterds and Nine, Weinstein fled Hollywood for Europe and took half the talent with him. A Quentin Tarantino film is worth at least a couple hundred jobs in the Valley. Jerk.