Chris Dodd couldn’t help himself: The MPAA Chairman-CEO and former Senator from Connecticut took a swipe at Congress before cheerleading for Southern California film and TV production on Friday, opening his remarks like any late-night host might these days — with a government shutdown joke.
“It feels really good to be out of Washington right now. As you all know, things are a bit chaotic there these days. Someone asked me the other day ‘Do you miss Congress?’ I said ‘I do – but not this Congress.'”
The entertainment industry’s top lobbyist gave the keynote at the Valley Industry and Commerce Association in Burbank, touching on favorite talking points: piracy, and search engines’ responsibility to help stop it.
“These search engines have the ability to stop directing audiences to sites with illegitimate content, and I am still hopeful that we can work with them in the coming days to find ways to make this happen,” Dodd said.
But he lavished extra love on the problem of runaway production in California, suggesting that Sacramento needs to seriously up its tax incentive program – or face continued erosion of its underpinning economy. And Dodd named names, pointing out several major productions that were recently made outside the 30-mile-zone: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (New York), “Breaking Bad” (New Mexico) and “Man of Steel” (Michigan), to name a few.
Dodd acknowledged that it’s not his job to stump strictly for Los Angeles – “American movies and TV shows are being made in all 50 states, as well as Canada and a number of locations around the world,” he said – but the problem is fundamental enough to the industry that it’s worth his advocacy.
“My job at the Motion Picture Association is to advocate on behalf of my studios, not the locations of their productions, but I know the studios I represent would prefer, everything else being equal, to make their films and television programs here in California, for many reasons.”
Dodd highlighted some bright spots: “The industry is betting on California’s future … Disney, Paramount, and NBCUniversal have all announced large, long-term expansion plans for their facilities because they plan on being here for the long haul,” he said.
But to make the industry sustainable, Dodd called for specific – and hard-to-achieve — changes to the state’s tax-credit program: “For starters, the size and number of available tax credits need to be increased and bigger productions must be allowed to qualify for them. We also need to give long-term productions, particularly television series, the ability to plan further ahead than their current season.”
Dodd hailed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s hiring of “my good friend” Tom Sherak as film czar, ending his remarks on a positive note:
“I am optimistic that Los Angeles and California will remain the premier location for making films and television shows. We may have some tough work ahead of us.”