California lost more than $1 billion to runaway production last year. And yet, as film and TV productions flee to more hospitable locales, the California Film Commission has seen its budget whacked by nearly 30% since 2009 and its staff cut by more than half in the past 10 years. State budget documents show that the CFC’s current annual budget is $1.43 million – the same as last year but down $593,000 from a high of $2.02 million five years ago. States and cities across the country are pouring money into their film commissions to lure film and TV productions and jobs. And while legislators in Sacramento contemplate passage of a new film and TV incentives package, the CFC must combat runaway production with a meager staff of 10 – down from more than 20 in 2003.
The competition is outspending and out-staffing California by at least 20-to-1. Unlike rival commissions, the CFC is fighting a defensive battle, trying to keep other states from poaching its film and TV jobs. In that sense, the CFC is battling 49 other film commissions singlehandedly all at once. And while the CFC may have the largest operating budget of any state film office, it is badly outnumbered in a 49-to-1 fight. And relative to its state budget, California is giving less to its film commission than every other state in the Union.