L.A.’s New Film Works Program: Will it Silence Moaners, Lessen Runaways?

Film Works suggests there are several clear problems it can address and begin to fix, with the encouragement, support and action taken by filmmakers and L.A. residents

This week saw the launch of a new public and privately funded film production campaign in Los Angeles called “Film Works L.A.,” which aims to bring filmmakers back to Hollywood.

Billed by its organizers and supporters – who range from NBC’s “Law & Order: Los Angeles” to Mann Theaters and from Warner Bros. studios to the Screen Actors Guild – as “a stakeholder-driven education and outreach campaign centered around filming in Los Angeles,” this bold multi-media and marketing program aims to combat the problem of runaway production (when filmmakers and studios leave California to shoot elsewhere in America or around the world, because it is more cost-effective to do so) by showing the Angeleno communities just how much L.A. needs the movie industry.

And, as importantly, Film Works' job will be to highlight the double-edged sword that will hopefully persuade locals to stop moaning about film shoots happening in their neighborhoods (and welcome film crews with open arms instead, possibly offering them some home baked cookies whilst they're at it) at the same time as asking movie Locations Managers to do their jobs right, politely and make sure residents and businesses are happy, well-informed and actually know they may have their garden's flowers crushed during a car chase today.

A pretty tall order, it seems. But Pamm Fair, the Chair of L.A.’s film permit authority FilmLA, feels that both the people of L.A. and filmmakers are up to the challenge. She thinks they have to be for the future of film in Southern California and if they want, as the Film Works tagline suggests, to make a "reel impact" on movie industry jobs in L.A.

"This campaign is really about keeping and creating jobs,” said Fair at the Film Works launch in downtown Los Angeles at the L.A. Center Studios on Monday, where city officials put on a movie showcase on the studio’s back lot.

“Film Works is a call for Angelenos to support the local film productions that create solid, middle-class jobs and sustain numerous small and medium-sized businesses. We who work in this industry are family, friends and neighbors. We’re voters and consumers and we want nothing more than to earn and spend our wages here in the L.A. region."

There is no denying it (the Film Works vodcasts even say it if you watch them): locations managers, studios, directors and producers love L.A. but think it’s just too expensive to shoot in. They’d rather head for New Mexico, Illinois, New York, the U.K., New Zealand or Canada to save a buck or 10 million. New York, for instance is offering over four times the level of tax breaks that California is offering right now. And yet the irony of this is, LA desperately needs the economic viability and spendability of the studios to keep the city alive and kicking. Okay, let’s face it, to help keep California alive and kicking.

Putting aside Hollywood’s desperation to remain the worldwide capital of the movie industry, Film Works seems to be suggesting there are several clear problems it can address and begin to fix, with the encouragement, support and action taken by filmmakers and L.A. residents.

One of these problems, it seems, is people’s mindset about being involved in and being able to help the L.A. film industry thrive. Film Works seems to want to address the “re-launch” of a new community spirit – a kind of zeitgeist conscience of positive action – with a mission to bring everyone together to believe they are all part of fuelling the movies and LA’s economy.

Put simply, if you own, run or work in, say, a bakery and you provide bread for the canteen at 20thCentury Fox or Sony Pictures then you’re helping fuel the movie industry. If you hire classic cars to production companies shooting period pieces you’re in the movie industry. If you make the signage that goes up around neighborhoods when a film shoot is taking place, you’re in the movie industry. If you’re a retired cop who guards camera equipment during shoots, you’re in the movie industry.

Yet many people in L.A. do not think this way. They’d rather stick to believing that being involved in movies must be what someone else does because, quite frankly, those bloody film crew people just get in the way when they want to drive to work in the morning. Those bloody film crew people are always lining up to buy donuts and coffee when they want theirs instead. Those bloody film crew people are always taking up all the hotel rooms, eating in restaurants, spending their hard-earned cash…

Except, of course, “those bloody film crew people” are the ones working tirelessly, many hours a day, to make a blockbuster filmed in LA such as Inception, that those “not involved” in movies will go see at the cinema this weekend.

So, I’d say “Film Works” is an excellent idea and I hope it works. It will need time to grow, I think, but could well develop into a kind of interactive sounding post for industry workers, producers, talent, commentators, studio bosses and location managers airing their views about how best to bring film production back to Hollywood.

Let’s just hope it results in Sacramento politicians hearing their cries, because the only way L.A. will really stem the flow of runaway productions will be for California to match New York’s $450 million tax incentive program.

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