New Film Czar Ken Ziffren Calls Runaway TV, Film Production a ‘Devastating Blow to the Middle-Class’

New Film Czar Ken Ziffren Calls Runaway TV, Film Production a 'Devastating Blow to the Middle-Class'

The veteran entertainment attorney, introduced by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, says the fight is at “critical moment”

Ken Ziffren, the veteran entertainment attorney introduced Monday as the city's new film and TV czar, said maintaining Hollywood's grip on production won't be easy, given the huge toll already taken by the exodus of projects lured by tax and and other financial incentives.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced Ziffren, who is replacing Tom Sherak, the former film executive and film academy president who died earlier this month after being named to the post in September.

“This is a critical moment for our industry and our economy,” Ziffren said. “If we don't fight back now, these jobs are going to be lost for good, and that would be a devastating blow to our middle class.”

Also read: Attorney Ken Ziffren to Succeed Tom Sherak as L.A.'s New Film Czar

Of the 45 big budget feature films of 2012 and 2013, only one was shot exclusively in California, representing a loss of thousands of jobs to other states and countries. From 2005 to 2013, California's share of the one-hour TV series market declined from 64 percent to 28 percent.

Ziffren stressed that the benefits of keeping film and TV production here go beyond the entertainment industry.

“This is about jobs for carpenters, electricians, makeup artists — good jobs that leave enough over at the end of the month to save for retirement, save for the kids’ college, and to spend in our neighborhoods.”

Also read: Film, TV Shoots Surge in 2013, but Hollywood Production is Hemorrhaging

In his new role as point person on the industry's lobbying efforts, Ziffren will be making that same point with state legislators who will decide soon whether to extend and expand California's tax incentive program.

It's been severely oversubscribed since its inception in 2009, and with a $100 million annual cap, it can't match the offers of other markets. New York, for example, makes more $420 million available annually.

“Ken will be a powerful leader in our fight against other states that are taking our jobs,” Mayor Garcetti said, “and he will be aggressive about streamlining government so red tape doesn't contribute to driving production away.”

Ziffren, a founding partner of Ziffren Brittenham, is one of the nation's foremost entertainment lawyers and was a key player in resolving the 2007 Writer's Guild strike and has represented the NFL in negotiating network TV contracts.

After earning a B.A. from Northwestern he earned his law degree from UCLA, where he was editor-in-chief of the UCLA Law Review. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and is co-chairman of the UCLA School of Law Board of Advisers and chairman of its Entertainment & Media Law Program.

Ziffren will have key support in his position from the director of the Mayor's Office of Motion Picture and Television Production, Rajiv Dalal, and former MPAA head Bob Pisano, who will continue as an outside advisor.

  • Matt Clayton

    The biggest question of all: why should most film and TV projects stay in California? Sure the major studios are based there, but the state's financial problems go deeper than trying to solve it with a tax credit.

    Some things are easier to get done outside of California and money going farther due to lower costs in other states or countries. Simple economics, and California has priced itself out of the competition going to New York, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Florida, et al.

  • Robert Ranson

    Sometimes you have to laugh at these things. It's ironic really because runaway production actually put LA on the map contrary to popular belief the industry was not born in SoCal it was created in NYC/NJ, 100 years ago no one had heard of Los Angeles, it was just some town on the Pacific Coast that is until Edison's greed and the relatively primitive filming equipment of the era forced filmmakers across the country to the West Coast where the year around sunny weather permitted for excellent shots and it's topography could almost pass for any place on Earth. However that was then and this is now.

    Movies and TV shows nowadays can be made anywhere and everywhere. LA will never be as it once was, the world has changed and the industry has changed. They don't get it. California's problems are complex and deep throwing tax incentives at it won't change things. Bringing back jobs? Easier said than done. Sure the headquarters of many of these studios are in LA but you think these shows and movies will somehow uproot what they've built in places like New York and Vancouver for LA?

    They can make California a business friendly place again by lowering taxes and fees, cutting the red tape stuff like that not throwing more money at it.

    • beenthere

      Robert, one thing you are leaving out of your equation as you chase this topic all over the internet is that the film making infrastructure in California dwarfs that which exists all in all other US cities and the UK combined. Yes, there has been severe damage done to the once thriving California industry but let's be honest about the fact that if it weren't for other US States and the UK throwing money at the studios most of the work would still be here. You may be too young to remember the studios and lots built in other states which became ghost towns when local politics changed and the incentives went away. I guarantee you that all things being equal in terms of incentives the studios and production companies would much prefer to stay home and enjoy the sunshine.

      • Robert Ranson

        Sure but for how long? James Cameron is digging deep in New Zealand, Avatar will film their sequels down there, the Star Wars sequel is filming in the UK. Do you believe it's only money that is the solution? As Matt said California's problems go deeper than that. How about lowering taxes for filming? Cutting fees?

        Also from a creative POV, back lots and sound stages are becoming a thing of the past. Yes I chase the topic, it's a very interesting topic because of what it originally was. Runaway production made LA into the film making capital. They can remedy this situation.

        I'm only speculating but perhaps the studious would find another place outside the US or UK rather be gouged by the fees and taxes. I'm not being smug about it. But you have to admit, they let this happen, this is their own fault.

        • fitzfilmfx

          Guys…this has absolutely 0 to do with infrastructure. All of the production will leave anywhere at anytime, at the drop of a hat. It has nothing to do with talent being better, or cheaper in other countries. It has everything to do, with the bizarre phenomenon, of other countries heavily subsidizing the movie and tv industry in an attempt to attract them permanently to their country or state, which for some reason, they have no idea will never happen. The studios will always ALWAYS shoot in the cheapest place. Vancouver nets a loss trying to do this. The VFX community is suing over this very thing. That stands the as the best hope for film and tv workers.

      • Robert Ranson

        If you honestly believe that alright, the work would still be there and those working would still be getting gouged by the bad business regulations California and the City of Los Angeles has imposed. But let's think for a second why film in a back lot in Burbank making it look like it's New York City when you can film in the real city for much less? Why use a sound stage when you can film in the streets for much less? Beenthere times have changed, the world has changed, LA is clinging onto something that doesn't exist anymore. They can evolve or die but thinking about it, what about the other industries that have fled LA and California for greener pastures? What's being done to bring those back?