I am always amused by how little the brain trust in Washington DC actually knows about Hollywood and how it works. This ignorance is manifest in their quick rejection of a $250 million tax relief in the yet to be agreed upon stimulus plan. However great their overwhelming lack of knowledge, it never holds them back from dogmatic opinions that get echoed throughout the country by everyone else who enjoys a similar ignorance.
Years ago I gave a speech where I described Hollywood as a job creation factory. Job creation! Is that not the essence of the stimulus plan? I thought the idea was to get Americans back to work so they would begin spending again and could be taxed on their earnings. That is the very essence of Hollywood.
In the eyes of many in Washington Hollywood is Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg, programs like Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and TMZ. They see nothing but rich people, who support democrats, host parties for the elite and enjoy first class treatment in all endeavors. For the very few that is true. Spielberg, Hanks and Streep are treated to the best accommodations because they are the best in their class. Not unlike how the Senators live, probably better than their fellow house members, certainly better than you and me.
But the real Hollywood can be found in the movie theater when the credits are rolling. The only people sitting in the theater while the post clean up crew is vacuuming are the people who actually work in the business. What they see on the screen is a list of hundreds, if not thousands of people, companies, services and facilities that were employed to make the film. Job titles many people might not even understand rolling along side titles like carpenter, electrician, driver, caterer and many, many more basic ordinary tasks performed by Americans in all areas of the economy.
Every time Hollywood decides to make a film they will spend, more than $100 million dollars stimulating JOBS. And they will do that more than 100 times per year. There are more than 260,000 people in Los Angeles alone employed directly in the industry and countless others who are indirectly affected by it. Small businesses like cleaners, restaurants, printers, hardware stores and many more have a stake in the film business. The list of affected businesses reads like a tenants list in a mall or on Main Street. If targeting small business is a companion to job creation in President OBama’s stimulus plans then it is significant that 80% of the companies who actually produce the film employ fewer than 10 employees.
If the true vision behind the stimulus plan is to hire people and invest in small businesses and kick-start the economy there cannot be a better place than Hollywood.
The influence and power behind Hollywood production spending is apparent everywhere else in the world. Virtually every other enlightened country throughout Europe, Asia even Africa is competing intensely for the money spent on film production, and the jobs it creates. There is no hesitation to offer national tax breaks, financial incentives and in kind support. They know the value of money spent on production and how it affects their economy.
In the face of a national stimulus plan predicated on job creation, finding an industry that hires people, spends money and invests in small businesses every single time it makes a product, it seems clear to me we should be encouraging it to make more, not finding ways to make less.
The rest of the world gets this. Why don’t we?