Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Welcome Home Happy Cows

Remember when I told you back on April 24th that all those California cows had lost their jobs because the 'happy cow' commercials were going to be filmed in New Zealand? Well, bless State Assemblyman Ted W. Lieu from Torrance who introduced a bill that basically says that if a commercial is promoting a California product and California tax dollars are being used to make the commercial, it had better darn well be shot in California. Amen. Step right into the Hero's Hall of Filmed in California Fame, Mr Lieu.
Maybe the funniest part of this story is that the Milk Advisory Board, who made the decision to shoot in New Zealand, claim that they were still going to use California cows in the commercials. Right. Tell me another cow story.

Now drink your milk and go to bed.


Some Issues Discussed with IFTA

I mentioned before I fell off a cliff that I had a really great meeting with the President and CEO of the Independent Film and Television Alliance. It's taken me this long to write up the notes, and as I promised, I am sharing them with you.
Fact Finding Mission

Identifying What can be Done to Keep Film Production in California

June 15, 2010

Meeting Participants:

Jean M. Prewitt - President and Chief Executive Officer - IFTA
Jim Horwitz - Advisor to LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl
Sharon Spencer Schlesinger - Council District 11 Volunteer


Identify specific actions that the LA City Council could take to encourage individual film productions to remain in California.


There are many groups, organizations, and individuals that have come to the obvious conclusion that California has lost it’s premier position as film capital of the world, or at a minimum had the foundation of that industry severely undermined. Horwitz who has the support of Bill Rosendahl, LA City Council from the 11th District is meeting with various industry leaders to identify what the City can do to make it easier/more feasible to film in California. Schlesinger is a small business owner who has seen the devastating economical impact of unemployment and agreed to volunteer for this fact finding mission.

Preliminary Findings from the Meeting with IFTA:

Jean Prewitt, as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) provided insight into the issues faced by the independent film producers and what real world solutions might make a difference.

According to Prewitt, “California is coming late to the party…” They’re drinking our milkshake to paraphrase a recent movie line. The ‘they’ meaning, many other states in the US as well as countries around the globe.

We are not marketing ourselves to the international producing community. Other states and countries are actively pitching their locations in the different international film markets. In November 2010, the American Film Market (AFM) will be held at the Loew’s in Santa Monica. Prewitt has never seen anyone marketing California. Will anyone be there? Do we have comprehensive marketing materials that show why anyone would want to film here? All of the progress that the LA City Council, Film LA, the State, the CA Film Commission and others have made needs to be quantified in collateral materials that explain why producers should film here from all around the world.

California’s true advantage is in it’s wealth of choices: many locations have one production facility, California has a myriad of facilities. That is just for starters. But if we don’t market ourselves, we will continue to lose market share.

Seventy percent of films are made by independent film makers, yet they cannot make their own deals with the unions. They are required to follow the same contracts that have been negotiated by the studios. In 2000 there was a failed attempt to negotiate a separate contract between the unions and the independent film makers. Independent film producers have been able to make use of California’s Tax Incentive Programs because the majority of their films have budgets of less than $75 million which is the cut off for application to that program.

Ms Prewitt stated that CA is “not that bad a place to film”. In fact, she suggested that we focus on the number of amazing films that have been made in California. Tourists and producers alike might find a tour of film sights exciting and thought provoking. What better marketing tool do we have than the catalogue of diverse work that has been filmed here.

It was suggested that we look at the comparisons of the different jurisdictions that each producer considers when making a decision as to location for filming. (Usually the comparison is between three different jurisdictions) It would give us some idea of the factors used to made that decision, although at the end of the day the question is, “can you make your numbers?”

Two markets we might focus on are the TV movies of the week made by Lifetime, Sci-Fi, Bravo, Oxygen. Most are made in Canada and the goal is to deliver a movie that looks like it had a budget of $1.5 million for just $750 thousand.

Some additional leaders in the industry that might help us understand the issues are:

NuImage Trevor Short, Avi Lerner, and Danny Dimbort
Cinetel Paul Hertzberg
Morgan Creek

Two other issues of concern discussed were piracy and media consolidation.


Ms Prewitt was generous with her time and very open. She is on the Board of FilmLA and is a supporter of the effort to make California more competitive to the entertainment industry.

Respectfully submitted
Sharon Spencer Schlesinger

Monday, June 28, 2010

Out of the Loop

Now I know I can't fly. Silly me, tried it anyway. I wanted to spend some quality time with Bob, my husband, on Father's Day. So, we picked up a picnic lunch at Bristol Farms and took our grandma & grandpa chairs to a beach in Malibu. The only problem that we ran into is that I fell picking my way over the rocks on my way down to the beach. And I really can't fly, not even close. I took such a tumble that I must be graced with a fast thinking guardian angel who guided me to the only tiny patch of sand in the middle of a huge rocky patch or I would have been in deep doodoo.
People came running, wanting to help or maybe see if there was any blood splatter. Bob was standing on the top of the hill, not knowing how to get down the hill as quickly as I had, and frustrated because of it.
We have two of a lot of body parts for reasons we take for granted. I've been without the use of my left arm for a week. It's only sprained, but it is a useless appendage. All I can really do is waggle my fingers a little. I haven't been able to write because I haven't figured out how to hold down the shift key with my nose. So if there are no caps in this piece, you know why.
I am grateful that I wasn't hurt seriously, but really disappointed to find I really can't fly. Maybe if I lose some weight?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Learned a Lot Yesterday

Yesterday, Jim Horwitz from LA City Council Bill Rosendahl's office, and I met with Jean M. Prewitt, President and CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. Ms Prewitt was gracious and forthcoming about the problems of the film industry, and about the campaign Jim and I have started to keep production in California. I want to remind my readers that Jim and I are both passionate about the subject, but such outsiders in the industry that when someone of Ms Prewitt's background and position so generously gives of her time and experience it is more a statement about her kindness than about anything Jim or I bring to the table. I feel as if I just took a master's class.

I can't wait to share everything we learned and what we plan to do. But, for the moment, I need to collect my thoughts a bit. I just wanted to share my excitement.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Are Things Really Getting Better?

I've always been an optimist. And I'm not going to change. I know things will get better eventually (economically speaking), but this is painful! I wonder that we sit passively by and wait for better days. We just went to the polls and expressed disenchantment with some incumbent office holders; is that it?

I saw a bit on a news show about a small community in Florida that banded together to build a barricade of barges to keep the oil spill from damaging their beaches. It worked. Government and Coast Guard alike were reluctant to let the town go ahead with their barge plan. The head of the group told the powers that "we're going to do it anyway." And they did.

I started this blog because I perceived a way to encourage producers to film here, creating local employment, by trying to build an audience of Californians grateful to watch their products if they were filmed here. Will it make a difference? All I know for certain is that I will not stop trying.

What else can we do as individuals? Do you have ideas? It really is up to us you know.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Did You Notice?

The Fall TV schedule is shaping up nicely to include less reality and more fiction. Scripted shows tend to be more expensive to produce. I mean how expensive can Big Brother be, they never go anywhere. Amazing Race may be more pricey, especially now that airlines charge for every little thing, but Survivor? No budget for stylist or caterers there. But in general, reality shows cost less to produce, and consequently employ fewer people. So it is good news to see that we have some interesting new fictional fare to sample this Fall. The advertisers must like it too. Scripted shows, especially the family type of drama or comedy are more predictable and the sleaze factor can be controlled better.

I'll let you know where the new slate of shows will be filming. All I ask is that you check out those that are filmed in California.


Michael Bay is My Hero

I don't know this man, but he is going to be inducted into my Filming Hero's Hall of Fame. Mr. Bay is the second who has been inducted, the first being Tom Hanks. Mr Bay, don't take this award lightly; with it comes the gratitude of all of the people you hired to work on the third installment of Transformers and all the small businesses that benefited in California from the dollars that flowed into the economy as a result.

Mr Bay is the Executive Producer and Director of the Transformer series ( a recycler's wet dream - all of those big scary monsters made out of cars and trucks and miscellaneous junk). The first two movies were also filmed in part here. Bay mixes it up a bit and shares the filming wealth with other communities like Detroit and Chicago. The important thing to know is that Transformers has too large a budget to take advantage of the tax incentives offered by the State, so the fact that any of the movie is being filmed here when they are receiving attractive rebates elsewhere is a blessing. California is the recipient of six and 1/2 weeks filming of the 4 and 1/2 months required to complete the movie, so, thank you Mr. Bay.