Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Runaway Productions Returning?
Walking our dogs the other morning we met a friend in the production business. Down by the beach was a large production base camp working on a week-long location shoot, and she had phoned a friend on the shoot to say hi and chat about the scarcity of on-set jobs. She’s been in and out of work a lot lately and was bemoaning the decline in overall movie production, particularly in California. She was hoping California’s just-announced package of benefits to film-makers might help reverse the trend of productions taking the bait of subsidies and tax breaks from other states and countries like Australia and, of course, Canada. Unlike many other US states California has never before offered production subsidies to movie-makers, hoping that just being around Hollywood is cachet enough for producers.
There has certainly been a regular flow of productions hitting the highway including some high-profile ones like the Ugly Betty TV series. However there have also been some glitches such as states running out of subsidy dollars too quickly to make their plans sustainable, on-location resources not matching up to film-makers’ needs and more societal feedback from some places where it’s felt that giving money to highly-paid Hollywood types may not be the most politic thing to do. Some far-flung states have begun to show signs of “film finance fatigue” as it dawns on them that perhaps it isn’t going to be the boon they thought it might, with the economic benefit from inviting movies to town hard to quantify and, more importantly, to justify.
Most producers don’t set out looking for reasons not to film in California: in fact most who end up on location elsewhere for purely fiscal reasons would probably be quite happy filming closer to home. However money always talks and there are usually compelling reasons why productions relocate. Big subsidies do talk big. A major element in movie budgets these days regularly comes from subsidies and tax breaks so there’s no ignoring the obvious.
So, it was refreshing to see the announcement a few weeks back and yesterday’s hurrah from the Governor that already dozens of productions have remained in California that may have skipped town but for his recent package of measures. California has stepped up and the package does help, especially emotionally, but there’s always more than just getting the tax back. Hollywood is here, after all, and it’s got to be good for the business for studios and streets to be busy with moviemaking. We strongly believe that there are always new and innovative ways to finance movies, and getting the most for your money - subsidies and all - is only good sense. The formula morphs endlessly, we're all working on it.
The Out Of Obscurity Team.