Santa Monica-based economics research institute The Milken Institute published a report in late February that is stirring up angst in the Los Angeles entertainment community. The report brings together economic data and analysis about film and video production in California today, held against the growing success from former Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting commish Katherine Oliver and a supportive Bloomberg administration, helped by legislation pushed by Gov. Cuomo and groups like the Post New York Alliance.
The 35-page Milken Institute report (available for free by clicking on a link on this page) mixes in data point analyses along with interpretations of the national and international production and post scene. Useful info includes a short couple of paragraphs that sound like the beginning of a Sherlock Holmes tale (here ‘The Strange Case of Visual Effects’) wherein we learn that note that the “main argument for the success of overseas visual effect locations is their ability to create and develop local clusters of employment, which U.S. states outside of California have only limited success in developing.”
According to the report, Vancouver developed a strong visual effects scene over the years by courting Los Angeles-based studios with incentives. Starting from a much smaller position, New York has only recently added in incentives for visual effects and postproduction. England has been very aggressive with incentives via a new 25 percent film credit with an additional £15 million (about $25 million) for “innovative digital media content creation”.
BBC reporter Tim Masters covered a protest by “hundreds of visual effects artists” that was held in Hollywood prior to the Oscars. In his article on the BBC site, the reporter said that blogger and visual effects artist Daniel Lay called for a tariff to be placed on films that used overseas talent on U.S. films. The studios, represented by the MPAA, said that digital work was a service not protected by trade agreements.
Kevin Klowden, one of the researchers on the Milken Institute report, was interviewed on Brian Lehrer’s show on WNYC this past Monday. You can hear that interview here. The Hollywood Reporter, in a February 27th article by reporter Tina Daunt, said that California Gov. Jerry Brown remained “uncommitted” on increasing the state’s $100 million a year tax credit under a new state legislature proposal. New Los Angeles film commish Ken Ziffren has been quoted in a conference call to reporters that California was in a “bad spiral” in its loss of film production.
Reporter Michelle Breidenbach throws a little water on all the good news in New York in her Syracuse.com investigative report ‘How much tax money did New York give ‘Wolf of Wall Street?’ State won’t say’. She faults New York’s Empire State Development division – which administers the tax incentives – for its refusal to give out detailed numbers on what film and video projects received what specific amounts of money. The state legislature had changed the program last year to reflect exact amounts for each film, Breidenbach notes, but that info is still being held back. Part of her report presents critical statements from Sen. John DeFrancisco, chairman of the state’s Senate Finance Committee. The Syracuse-area senator says that the tax incentives should be scaled back as the program is turning into a subsidy for the film industry.