L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Film Tax Incentive: Let's Lift the Cap

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Film Tax Incentive: Let's Lift the Cap

New mayor gets grilled by TheWrap on improving the state of production in the city

The new mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has decided to make film and television production flight one of the priorities of his new administration, with plans to appoint a film czar before the fall and to lobby Sacramento tirelessly for more tax incentives. Will it move the needle?

Hizzoner was grilled by TheWrap a few days after his swearing in about his plans to make Los Angeles the entertainment capital of the world — again.

SHARON WAXMAN: Congratulations –
ERIC GARCETTI: [Laughs.] Be careful what you wish for.

Hollywood had a big role to play in the campaign. Do you feel a debt to those supporters?
Not a debt. I'm humbled and grateful to all my friends who supported me. I was certainly the underdog whether in Holllywood or City Hall. I'm not motivated by my supporters, I'm motivated by trying to make this a great town again. I want to see this city come back as the entertainment capital of the world.

So that's stipulated: Los Angeles is no longer the entertainment capital of the world?
We are one of them, and the strongest still. But it's not the undisputed one anymore in all categories in the way that we used to be. There's no one place as big as us, but collectively suddenly there are places bigger than us. This is a core part of our identity as well as the economy, it's a central lever for prosperity as well as a sense of who we are.

We have an obligation to align public policy and our culture to take advantage of that. Instead of taking it for granted.

Also read: Why Hollywood's Biggest Films Are Leaving L.A. for London

What can you do as mayor to move the needle on policy issues around production flight?
The biggest piece is the competitive tax incentive environment. We can do a lot to make filming easier here. To have communities embrace film, to market Los Angeles better, to humanize City Hall to the industry. That's a minority of the solution.

The majority part is increasing those tax incentives.

How far would you want the tax credit extended?
My ideal is not to have a cap at all and to expand the amount and categories. So premium cable, commercial production, multimedia have been cut off.

Looking at that, studies have shown 93 cents on the dollar brought back to state coffers. That is, ninety-three cents comes in before a dollar goes out. It's not up-front money. Other studies say it's a profit that is multiplied five times in the economy.

Well, if the data is so compelling, why hasn't Sacramento done it yet?
That's the question. I had a great discussion with the governor this week as mayor-elect. Some people don't believe it's as important as I do. I will use the power and prestige of the office to be a frequent lobbyer. I'm not going to go away on this issue.

Also read: California Tax Credits: 'Purge 2,' 'Entourage' Movie Among Projects OK'd

I sat down with the president pro-tem (of the legislature) to say — "Let's see what we can do to expand that if we can't get the cap lifted altogether."

There's a feeling out there, and there's no data to it — they just said, "We think this that and the other." The numbers  speak for themselves. There's more TV production than ever in California, but also a smaller percentage because the pie is so huge globally.

I hear you want a film czar.
Yes, by this fall. It's a priority of my first 100 days, and one of the top ones. We're outlining qualifications right now. When I suggested this to Mayor Villaraigosa a couple of years ago, he said he wanted to do it but didn't have time. We started getting so many resumes. This is a great job. We don't want a big name over big knowledge.

What will that person do?
The job is threefold: To be the face of filming in Los Angeles. To be the point of contact so everyone in the industry knows they can call and get help. To help organize at the state level. And to market Los Angeles to those who are no longer here, why they should stay if they are here and to folks who want to visit for tourism. It's classic brand management. We've let the brand slip.

How will you measure success on this issue?
'm interested in judging our administration by employment statistics. Second is the amount of investment coming here for filming. Three is looking at expanding facilities for industry. The old studios are looking to grow their spaces so we need to ask the industry if the city is a film-friendly place.

I don't believe that overnight we won't have a cap on tax credits. But we've been playing defense for a while. I want to get back on offense.