UPDATE, 3:45 PM: Looks like one of the biggest stakeholders in the expansion of California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program have forgiven Kevin De Leon for temporarily turning against the issue. Soon after the influential state Senator did an about face from yesterday’s lack of support for the widely supported and multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act and today said he was “100% committed” to seeing the legislation passed, the California Film and Television Production Alliance came out with a statement of their own saying they are “pleased that Senator De Leon has clearly expressed his strong and unequivocal commitment to passing an expanded and extended California Film and Television production incentive this year.” (see full statement below)
The CFTPA includes the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, the MPAA, Teamsters Local 399, the PGA, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the California and Nevada arms of the National Association of Theatre Owners among its members – AKA a lot of people you don’t want to lose the support of if you are an ambitious LA-based politician.
PREVIOUS, 3:03 PM: Kevin De Leon has shifted his stance on California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program for the second time in 24 hours. “In the interest of protecting good jobs and safeguarding one of our signature industries, I’ve long been an outspoken champion for California’s film and television tax credit, and I’m 100% committed to passing an extension and expansion of that credit this year,” the LA Democrat said in a statement Wednesday. Today’s remarks by the Senate Appropriations Committee chair and upcoming President Pro Tem come after an email Monday from one of his key aides that said the rising politician had “decided he will not support the extension of the current lottery allocation system.”
Although the senator walked back from that statement today, he still wants to see changes to the lottery system that hands out incentives to applicants. “At the same time, having had exhaustive conversations with industry leaders and workers about the effectiveness of the current program, there seems to be growing consensus that the program can and should be strengthened to better ensure its primary objective of job creation and retention,” De Leon added today. What that tangibly means was left unsaid.
Being that there is less than a week before the widely supported and multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act is scheduled to go before De Leon’s committee for the adding of amendments and a vital vote, yesterday’s email from De Leon’s Chief of Staff Dan Reeves sent Sacramento politicians and Hollywood execs into a lather over what many saw as a last-minute hijacking of the issue. “This could kill the bill and if the bill dies, you might as well turn off the lights in LA because the little production that there is here will be gone too,” a studio exec told me before De Leon made his statement today.
With the strong support that the bill introduced in late February by Assembly Democrats Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra has attracted from labor, the studios and state representatives, some felt that this expansion of the 5-year old tax credit program was the last chance the Golden State had to halt runaway production to more financially welcoming states like New York (whose $420 million incentives are the highest in the nation), Georgia and Louisiana, Canadian provinces and the UK. “The people who are pushing for this in the industry won’t have the appetite to push again in a year,” said insider of the prospect of the Act to expand the program to an estimated $400 million not going through. Others took a more cautious approach to the email from De Leon’s office yesterday. “This just delays the process which is harmful but it does not derail it,” another industry source noted.
Still sources tell me that there was a flurry of angry calls yesterday and this morning to the state Capitol and De Leon’s office. “This has to get done and it has to get done now,” said another studio source of the expansion. “Changes to the lottery can be dealt with down the line, but we can’t lose momentum.”
That sort of response seems to have stifled De Leon’s immediate concerns over the present lottery system and getting the pending legislation to the Senate floor for a vote in the next three weeks and to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for a signature. “In the remaining month of this Legislative session, I will work with my colleagues and stakeholders across the spectrum to make a good program even better – and I have every hope and confidence that we will deliver a smarter, stronger program that will keep the cameras rolling in our state for years to come,” the state Senator now says. De Leon is scheduled to meet with industry leaders and others on the legislation tomorrow afternoon at the state Capitol – that will now be a very different meeting than it was looking yesterday.
Full California Film & Television Production Alliance statement:
“We are pleased that Senator De Leon has clearly expressed his strong and unequivocal commitment to passing an expanded and extended California Film and Television production incentive this year. Across the state, working men and women, businesses large and small, local governments, and many others who are impacted by the dramatic loss of motion picture and TV production in California are hurting. Having worked with the Senator over the years, we are well aware of his longstanding support for the working men and women of our industry. We are equally aware of the importance of his leadership to our effort. We are eager to discuss with Senator De Leon his thoughts on how the program might be strengthened to ensure its long term success. We look forward to working with him and his colleagues toward the outcome we all want – to keep motion picture production, its jobs, and its place as an indelible part of the California culture and heritage here in our state.”