EXCLUSIVE: Michael Nyman, co-chairman and CEO of public relations firm PMK•BNC, is the new chair of the California Film Commission, which administers the state’s $330 million annual film incentives program and is charged with stemming the flow of runaway production.
Formerly the commission’s vice-chair, he takes over for Steve Dayan, the secretary-treasurer of Hollywood’s Teamsters Local 399, who was appointed to the commission in 2011 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – and who has served as chair for phe last three years.
Dayan, who will continue to serve on the commission’s board, praised Amy Lemisch, the commission’s executive director, and her staff for the work they have done to keep industry jobs in California. “I’m very proud that during my term we got the incentives – Tax Credits 2.0,” he told Deadline. “I have to say that Amy and her staff have done an incredible job in managing the new tax incentives program. I am very proud to serve on the board.”
Thom Davis, 3rd international vice president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and business manager of IATSE Grips Local 80, has been elevated to vice-chair of the commission’s board.
Bonnie Goldfarb, co-founder of Harvest Films, which produces TV commercials, digital content and short films, is the newest member of the board. The Democrat was appointed to the non-paying post by Gov. Jerry Brown. “I look forward to working with Amy and the rest of the board to further the amazing opportunities the commission has created and continues to create in our state,” she said in a statement. “California is truly experiencing a renaissance and we will continue to tap in to the innovative businesses and creative talent here that make up our industry.”
The board is made up of 21 members — 13 appointed by the governor and four each appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Pro Tem.
Politicians on the board include:
- Ian Calderon, Assembly Majority Leader
- Kevin de Leon, President Pro Tempore of the State Senate
- Zach Friend, a Santa Cruz County Supervisor who worked for Barack Obama and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns
- Fiona Ma, a member of the California Board of Equalization.
Those currently working in the industry who serve on the commission’s board include:
- Lindy DeKoven (secretary), president of DeKoven Entertainment
- Fred Baron, EVP feature production at 20th Century Fox
- Jerry Ketchum, SVP physical production at Walt Disney Pictures
- Janet Knutsen, producer and unit production manager (Boston Legal and The Practice)
- Ricky Nierva, art director/production designer at Pixar Animation Studios
- Ayuko Babu, executive director of the Pan African Film Festival
- Alexander de Ocampo, managing director of the Saban Capital Group
Former industry execs serving on the board include:
- Debra Langford, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives at the USC Marshall School of Business. She previously she held corporate VP-level positions at NBCUniversal and Time Warner.
- Christine Essel, president & CEO of Southern California Grantmakers. She’s a former senior vice president at Paramount Pictures.
Board member Eric Alegria, however, has never worked in the entertainment industry. He’s VP clinical services at Monarch HealthCare. A Democrat, he was appointed to serve on the commission’s board in 2016 by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Alegria was elected to the Palos Verdes City Council in November with the backing of Rendon and fellow Democrats John Chiang, the state’s treasurer and a gubernatorial candidate, and Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.
Algeria, who told Deadline that he has “a passion for public service,” had been appointed by former Assembly Speaker John Perez to the California Board of Occupational Therapy and to California’s Prison Industry Board, from which he came straight to the Film Commission.
Asked if he thinks a background in in the entertainment industry is helpful to serving on the Film Commission, he said: “Does it help? Of course, but I’m fortunate to be surrounded by commissioners who have that experience, and I’ve learned a lot about the industry through them.
“I have a different background in health care and public administration,” he said. “My focus has a lot to do with the operations of the Film Commission, and that’s the perspective and the insight I have to bring to the group.”
Hilary Armstrong, a crisis counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area, recently stepped down from the board. She has only one know film credit – as the executive producer of a 2011 documentary about the governor’s father, California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown. Pat Brown, who died in 1996, was her grandfather.