California has been the undisputed leader of film and television production. But like the polar ice caps, California's film industry is melting away.
Film productions provide a shot of adrenaline to the local economy. Bay Area-based TV, movie and commercial productions employ approximately 100-plus people each day, including film technicians, actors, production and location managers, drivers, caterers and safety personnel.
And, for the most part, we all live here and spend the money we make in our neighborhoods.
Many years ago, I worked as a prop assistant on "The Dead Pool," a Clint Eastwood-produced feature film shot in San Francisco. I made about $20 an hour, plus benefits. Every Friday, I got my paycheck and deposited it in the bank to cover looming bills, less a few dollars for pizza and a couple of beers at my neighborhood restaurant. Multiply my spending by 100 crew people.
In just one week during 2010, the Oakland-based film production of "Moneyball" generated $1.7 million in local spending.
Unfortunately, California lost $3 billion in film crew wages between 2004 and 2011 when productions fled to other locations.
Other states and countries lure film productions with large tax credit incentives. With manufacturing in retreat, film productions promise relief from continued unemployment. Canada began offering tax credits in the 1990s, with Louisiana becoming the first state to do so in 2002. Today, 42 states and more than 30 foreign countries offer film production incentives.
As film incentives grow, will California's film industry lose its competitive edge?
Not yet. But if we don't act now, our landmark entertainment business will become another relic of a bygone era. We can stop the bleeding.
California has had a film and television production tax credit since 2009 that has preserved more than 50,000 jobs and injected $4.7 billion into our local economies. But it's capped at $100 million a year and set to expire soon.
While that may sound like a lot of money, it's less than a quarter of what the state of New York offers, which continues to enjoy record increases in film production and jobs.
This year, 497 film and TV projects applied for the California tax credit, while only 23 will receive them because of funding limits.
Assembly Bill 1839 will extend and enhance California's film and television tax credit program. Our goal is to level the playing field and rejuvenate local film production throughout California, preserve middle class jobs and pump money back into our state and local economies.
Please email your state legislators today urging them to pass AB1839. We can't afford to surrender our film industry to the rest of the world.
F.X. Crowley is a labor relations consultant and secretary/treasurer of the Bay Area Theatrical Federation. He lives in San Francisco.