The death of Tom Sherak could be a significant blow to Hollywood’s efforts to keep TV and film production in Los Angeles and California.
Sherak was named in September by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti as the city’s first “film czar,” charged with stemming the flow of runaway production and leading the legislative effort to pump up TV and film tax subsidies.
Rajiv Dalal, Sherak’s deputy, will head up the TV and film production office in the short term, a spokesman for Garcetti said Tuesday after Sherak’s death. Former Motion Picture Association of America executive Bob Pisano, who was considered for Sherak’s position and named as an informal advisor by Garcetti in November, will likely take on a larger role as well.
“I am devastated to learn of the passing of my close friend and advisor Tom Sherak,” the mayor said in a statement. “Tom was a true Hollywood original, moving up the ladder to promote blockbusters, running the Oscars and having a bulging Rolodex filled with not just A-list contacts, but so many close friends who were smitten by his humor, drive, and spirit.
“In just a few short months, Tom laid a policy foundation that my Administration will stand on for the next four years. Tom’s work will continue through my office and the many charities to which he devoted so much of himself.”
Sherak’s official title in his role with the city was Senior Advisor and Director of the Mayor’s Entertainment Industry and Production Office, for which he took a salary of $1 a year. Despite his fight with cancer, Sherak had been active in his role, and had participated in a briefing of the mayor on Friday.
It was a significant assignment, especially this year. Sherak was expected to be the point man in Sacramento as the city and industry leaders mounted a campaign with the state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to increase California’s TV and film credits. The state’s incentives lag behind those offered by many rival states and countries, and the exodus of films and TV shoots has taken a major economic toll on the region that has hit a critical juncture.
Prior to his assignment in the mayor’s office, Dalal was executive director of Time Warner’s public policy program in Asia‐Pacific. He earlier worked for MPAA in Los Angeles and Mumbai, and previously practiced law with Dorsey & Whitney.
Pisano has stepped into the breach in a key role before. He was interim chief executive at the MPAA before Chris Dodd took over and president before that. Prior to joining the MPAA, Pisano led the Screen Actors Guild and served in key exec roles at MGM and Paramount.
California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch said Sherak made a major impact in the short time that he held the position.
“He was able to lay the foundation for the city’s efforts to boost production. I know that others will be able to build on that foundation,” she said.