Congressional Candidate Elan Carr on Hollywood Issues: ‘We’re Handing Our Businesses a One-Way Ticket Out of Town’

The former prosecutor, who’s taking on Ted Lieu for Rep. Henry Waxman’s congressional seat this November, discusses issues near and dear to Hollywood’s heart: tax credits, production flight and piracy

Elan Carr

Elan Carr is used to a fight — which is good, because he’s in for one against Democrat Ted Lieu. The two candidates are battling over Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Beverly Hills) soon-to-be vacant congressional seat.

The former military officer and Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney is running for California’s 33rd Congressional District, which spans West Los Angeles and the South Bay — neighborhoods home to many of Hollywood’s top executives, filmmakers, actors and agents.

While Carr spoke with TheWrap about issues close to his heart, he also addressed some of the biggest issues currently facing Hollywood, including tax credits, production flight and piracy.

Also read: Congressional Candidate Ted Lieu on Hollywood Issues: ‘I’m Thankful to Have Had the MPAA’s Support’

TheWrap: What are the most important issues in this race — both to you and to the people of California’s 33rd District?

Elan Carr: The issues most important to me and to the district both are that we move the country forward. I think people are deeply frustrated with what they see as hyper-partisanship in Washington and a climate of bickering and blame, and not one of compromise and progress. This is something that is vexing to the public. We’ve got real problems and real issues, and we’re very concerned about public safety, [and] taking care of our kids in our community.

Also read: 84 Percent of Projects Denied California Tax Credits Film Elsewhere

How important is Hollywood to this race?
Hollywood is very important. Well, Hollywood proper is not in the district, the Hollywood people are, and so Hollywood is very important to this race. But Hollywood is important to this race for a different reason: I’m not just talking about the voters. Hollywood is important because Hollywood is one of the main central engines of progress and economic health for the state of California. It’s not the only one, but it’s one of the most important ones. And, sadly, what’s happening in Hollywood is emblematic of what’s happening in California.

Hollywood isn’t immune from it, and that is a tremendous pressure and incentive to leave. And that incentive is not unique to Hollywood.  You’ve got companies fleeing from Torrance — like Toyota, Honda, and so on — but Hollywood as well. It’s one thing to … talk abut ‘authentic shoots,’ but pictures that are set in L.A. aren’t being shot in L.A. There’s a lot of places like New York, and you think, New York — it’s not exactly a place that is known for having low taxes, but yet New York is more attractive for production than we [are].

I was with Governor Bobby Jindal about a year ago. We were talking about this, and he was beaming, crooning with his Southern accent telling me, ‘Well, you know, Hollywood, they want to come to my state. They don’t want to shoot in California because we’re in Louisiana, we’re business friendly.’ He was kind of smiling ear-to-ear, of course appreciating the ridiculous irony of this topic: People coming to Louisiana to shoot pictures, so we’ve got to be crazy doing things like this. Basically, we’re handing our businesses a one-way ticket out of town and very rationally, they’re accepting the invitation.

Also read: ‘Scarface,’ ‘Beach Boys Musical’ Among 26 Projects Qualified for California Tax Credits

Would you refine the system in terms of the tax incentives for Hollywood productions? How?
Yeah, of course, I think you need to have tax incentives and you need to have tax incentives for productions. You need to have all kinds of streamlines, because taxes and regulations too are oppressive and suffocating in California so often. So it’s a combination, it’s a double-barreled blast from a shotgun in the sense that you’ve got taxes that scare away businesses, but then you’ve got suffocating regulations. All of that needs to be streamlined.

Part of it is federal, part of it is state, and so I think a congressman needs to first of all work on this on the federal side, but then sit down with the state, with the Secretary of State, with the county, and with the city and say, ‘Look, we need to work together to come up with a global plan addressing every level … where everything is taken together.’

Also read: The $420 Million Question: How Much Will California Set Aside for TV, Film Tax Credits?

What about piracy? Where do you stand on that versus the production flight — which is a bigger problem?
I think it’s an enormous problem. In my private years as an attorney, I worked in corporate law firms that did a lot of intellectual property litigation, on behalf of plaintiff’s work. As I saw it, I lived it, because unless you protect intellectual property rights, you’re going to destroy the incentives that give rise to that issue.

The only reason we have intellectual property rights is to incentivize innovation, otherwise we wouldn’t have them at all — we wouldn’t need them. So if you’re going under that assumption — which is, inarguable — than … any attenuation of that protection undermines the entire framework and the entire purpose of assigning and protecting intellectual property, and piracy is a clear example of this. And so we really need to …  crack down on this — and this is a federal issue, because, of course, the chief violator of this is China, and we need to deal with this. We need to deal with this in a robust way, that protects our intellectual property holders.

Also read: Forget Piracy, Here’s a Movie You Can Share for Free Once It Opens in Theaters

Also read: Henry Waxman’s Retirement: Though He Never ‘Went Hollywood,’ the Industry Loses a Strong Liberal Backer

What’s going to decide the race between now and November?
Well, I think the messages you just heard are going to decide the race. We’re in a climate of real worry about our future: Our future here in California, our future in terms of America. In the climate we’re in today, of that kind of worry combined with absolute frustration — I mean total disdain — for the kind of inaction we see in Washington and the bickering and the hyper-partisanship, in that kind of climate, people are looking at issues. They’re not looking at labels, they’re not even looking at parties, they’re looking at issues, and they want to know who is going to take care, who is going to really get it done. No B.S., and not engage in childish partisanship and blaming, but who’s going to really work to take care of me.