New L.A. Film Czar Tom Sherak: ‘For Me, Politics Is the Final Frontier’

New L.A. Film Czar Tom Sherak: 'For Me, Politics Is the Final Frontier'

Fighting a recurrence of prostate cancer, the former Academy president says his priority is to persuade politicians to keep production in L.A.

“I understand why production runs away from Los Angeles,” new city film czar Tom Sherak told TheWrap. “If somebody gives you a 30 percent reduction in costs, you get the plane tickets.”

Sherak's new job, which will pay the former Academy president and longtime marketing and distribution executive the grand total of $1 a year, is to stop that from happening. To do that, he said in an interview Thursday shortly after mayor Eric Garcetti's office announced his appointment, he will need to persuade politicians that the city and state should offer increased tax incentives and rebates of its own.

Also read: Tom Sherak Named L.A. Film Czar by Mayor Garcetti

“I have to convince politicians of how much production means to the economy,” he said. “And I know its not going to be easy – I didn't fall off the turnip truck.

“I've been around to see soundstages being built in Bulgaria. But we have those soundstages here, and we should be using them all. And the bottom line is, if I live and work in this business, I want a job and I want to stay home. I don't want to leave my family for six months at a time, and the studios know that.”

Sherak added that his own family was instrumental in his decision, which comes at the end of a rough year in which the industry vet has been fighting a recurrence of the prostate cancer he was first diagnosed with in 2001. While the cancer was originally treated with drugs, he has been undergoing grueling chemotheraphy treatments in recent months.

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

“I was not looking for this, and it was tough to make a decision about something like this when you're not able to walk from one chair to another,” he said. “But my family pounced on it when the mayor asked me – every one of them said, ‘You have to do this.'”

Sherak, who says “all my numbers are great and I'm gonna be fine,” has one final chemotheraphy treatment remaining next week. He expects to start work at his new position – which is non-exclusive – in early to mid November. Garcetti, he said, is fully aware of his condition.

“My first task is to hire a deputy,” he said, “and they've been interviewing already. And then I just have to figure out how to help the mayor accomplish his goals.

“What's that line from ‘Star Trek?’ ‘The final frontier?’ For me, politics is the final frontier.”

  • Joy

    This is great what Tom Sherak is doing! Hopefully, he will not forget film students, since they are Hollywood's future. LA is one of the most difficult places to film, and it's extremely expensive. That's why I moved to Colorado after hardly finishing a year of film school. It's ridiculous! If you want to invest in the future, then invest in students. The others are already used to multi-million dollar paychecks, but students will be happy if you just let them use things for free. Free is an incentive to students. Allow them to learn film and put roots down in Hollywood, and you'll be set for life.

  • Daniel Sterling Sample

    Hang in there, Tom, we are all rooting for you. Meanwhile, why not do something truly meaningful for the film and TV workers in Hollywood and California? The major studios all work in concert (an illegal monopoly) to keep the film business and its profits in the hands of a few greedy individuals. The studios produce billions in profit, but little of it stays in Hollywood or in America, for that matter, for taxation purposes. Now the Hollywood Studios are crying “foul” because the people of California won't subsidize their illegal operations. Tom, is this how you want to spend the remainder of your years in sunny California?
    Daniel Sterling Sample in Hollywood

  • Odd Hynnekleiv

    LA must be so grateful to get Tom to front these challenges. Good luck and good health!