Whoever wins the November runoff election between Sheila James Kuehl and Bobby Shriver, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will get at least one new board member this year who vows to make the County more film friendly.
At least that’s what we heard from both Kuehl, an actor best known for The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis who later became California’s first openly gay elected state official as an Assembly member and state senator, and Shriver, a Kennedy clan scion who helped launch Product (Red) before becoming a Santa Monica city councilman.
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Both were responding to a recent Deadline investigation that found filming in the County is much more difficult and expensive than in the city of Los Angeles. The 4,752-sq.-mile county has 10 million residents, 87 other cities besides Los Angeles and vast unincorporated areas that have more than 1 million residents. The five-member Board of Supervisors oversees a $26.4 billion budget, all those unincorporated areas, and a wide array of other municipal services provided to dozens of the smaller cities. But both candidates said county government often overlooks or is even hostile to one of its biggest industries.
“County government too often treats film and TV production as an intrusion,” said Shriver. “As a member of the Board of Supervisors, I will work to protect it as an important part of our economy.”
Kuehl said “There has not really been a champion on the board for the industry, and because of my background, I want to be that champion on the Board.
Both are running for the county’s Third Supervisorial District, to replace the termed-out Zev Yaroslavsky. The district includes the Westside of Los Angeles, the Hollywood Hills and the San Fernando Valley, as well as smaller cities such as West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Burbank and Malibu. The studios for Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros., Lionsgate and Fox, along with two CBS facilities and lots of other entertainment-industry businesses are in the Third District.
Many County fees are double those charged in the City, the Deadline investigation found, and regulations governing filming on County beaches are so restrictive that one location manager recently told an L.A. City Council hearing that, “You could not make Baywatch in Los Angeles today.” The county manages most of the area’s beachfront territory, whether it’s technically owned by a city, the county or the state.
“I want to make the process for filming cheaper and more efficient,” Shriver said. He would work with the county’s Beaches and Harbors Department and other county agencies to cut permit turnaround times and costs, an issue the he said drives away production.
“County facilities have to take a hard look at ways to drive down costs and in some cases completely eliminate fees,” Shriver said. ” The full-cost-recovery model that drives up fees does not take into account the jobs and revenue created by keeping jobs here. We need to look at both sides of the equation when determining costs.”
Kuehl is about jobs, “more than anything. The industry has for decades provided thousands of jobs – good jobs, middle-class jobs – in the County. I want to increase those jobs again. But it’s important to understand that it’s not only up to County government.”
Kuehl took credit for authoring the Film California First tax-credit bill (AB 484) in 2000, when she was in the state Assembly. The bill would have created the Film California First program within the state’s Trade and Commerce Agency, and authorized reimbursements up to $300,000 for any one film. Though the bill didn’t get funded, Kuehl said, “it was the beginning of the creation of a tax credit fund. Fast forward to now, and there is still discussion about putting more money into the fund. I would continue to lobby my former colleagues to ensure that the tax credit fund is increasingly funded.”
“California and Los Angeles County must defend its most important cluster industry – film and television,” he said. “These are good middle-class jobs that are essential to our economy. The film and television industry is the core to a wide variety of local jobs and is a feature of our arts, culture and the creative energy of our business community.”
Kuehl said she would reduce or eliminate many of county location fees, which she said are “very high.”
“Some are reimbursements for real costs, like public safety, but some are simply for the use of the facility itself. I would like to lower or remove the fees for the use of the place, if possible, and encourage the use of even more County facilities for more productions.”
Noting that Internet and new media productions are increasingly important job creators, Kuehl said, “I would like to make the County more attractive to those new businesses to locate or relocate here. There are also a lot of auxiliary businesses that have fled the state, like post-production, special effects and music scoring. I don’t know what the county could do to help those businesses stay, but I think that working together to encourage all kinds of production will help.”
It’s just too bad they both can’t win; the Board could certainly use more than just one voice representing the industry and its workers, because right now there really aren’t any in a county that, with more than 10 million residents, is larger than all but eight U.S states.