Well, that certainly looks like a kick in the teeth to the home of Hollywood. Just days after the state Senate voted overwhelmingly to increase and expand California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program to $330 million for the next five years, the MPAA has announced it is hosting a shindig in the nation’s capital to help other states compete. “We will discuss how to better garner legislative and other political support for your jurisdiction’s production incentive program,” said the studio lobby group’s Chris Dodd in an email that went out to state film commissioners across the nation. "Hear from film comissioners how MPA can help with your production incentive program." That’s what Georgia, Louisiana and the more than three dozen other states with film and TV tax credit programs want to hear. Dodd was inviting the commissioners to gather in Washington D.C. for the self-described MPAA/Film Commissioners Summit on September 29. No word if California Film Commission executive director Amy Lemisch would be attending the meeting later this month.
While Lemisch might or might not be there, her fellow film commissioners from north, south, east and west likely will be. Having pulled productions and jobs out of California during the past decade thanks to lucrative incentive programs, the states are worried that the tax credit resurgence in the Golden State could turn the tide the other way. “We want the studios to know that there is a lot to gain by filming here and that we are still a good investment,” one film commission-connected Peach Stater who saw Dodd’s correspondence told me. “We’re going to need the MPAA’s help if we’re going to stay as competitive.” While states such as Georgia, Louisiana and New York -- which, at $420 million a year is the film and TV tax incentive leader in the nation -- have yet to react openly to California’s more aggressive approach, it is only a matter of time say state and industry sources. “New York has always been a healthy production center, but Louisiana and Georgia didn’t put all that money on the table and build up all those sound stages and crews just to let California take it away from them,” said a studio exec also familiar with Dodd’s email.
Last week, Dodd praised the vote in Sacramento and said he looked “forward to Governor Brown's signature on the bill.” Which is partially why the MPAA says this is much ado about nothing special. “The meeting was planned months ago, the timing is coincidental” MPAA spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said today, calling the get-together routine. “The film commissioners do not determine the shape of the incentive packages in their states. This is a meeting about a wide array of issues. It is patently untrue to suggest that this is the result of action in California.” Perhaps, but anyone in Hollywood could tell you – timing is everything, and the timing here looks bad.