Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where Does the Time Go?

Someone told me once that we have all the time there is.

That's a powerful statement,somehow indicating we have some control over our time. Of course we don't know when our time is up. As my mother's doctor told me when she was to undergo surgery at the age of 95, "we never know what the terminal event will be...". Is someone in charge of our last event? Is there a big MSN Calendar that has my name and date and time of departure? Maybe not; I rather think our lives aren't micromanaged to that extent. But before that terminal event we do have control of how we spend our time and it is based on the choices we have made throughout our life. If you think that everybody but you has control of your time, it's time for you to take some of that control back. Make conscious choices every day based on what is important to you.

I made a conscious choice to post everyday, because I felt the subject matter of this blog had merit. I think I lasted eight days before I lost the thread of my commitment. No one's fault but my own. I did disappoint myself, but I didn't beat myself up. I've learned to be kind to myself and to forgive my shortcomings. When we say we don't have time for something, what we are really saying is that we don't want to do that thing. So why did I not want to do something I felt was important. Sorry, I don't have an answer. Am I lazy? Maybe. Do I procrastinate? Always. Do I over-schedule my time? Frequently. Am I going to do better? I sincerely hope so.

So here I am again, making a commitment to post everyday. Let's see how that goes.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pickings Are Slim

I'm on location this weekend; Camping with my family in Morro Bay. Haven't camped in forever, and tonight I'll be sleeping in a super deluxe tent set up for Bob and I with a window that looks out on the surf.

I looked and looked for a new release that was filmed in California, and the pickings aren't just slim, they are non-existent. The two front runners are Salt, filmed in Washington DC and New York, and Ramona and Beezus filmed in Vancouver.

This is a short one today, I'm outside and it's hard to see the screen. I'll let you know how camping works out. It's way out of my comfort zone, but I'm a good sport, I think.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Have a Big Mac

I have a soft spot in my hear for McDonald's. Not because I indulge in a Big Mac very often, it just isn't on my diet plan. I do see them making an effort to provide healthier food, and at least give the consumer a fair warning about what they're consuming. I applaud them for that. But, the soft spot comes from the fact that they provide a lot of free food for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Los Angeles every year.

Now the frosting on the burger, McDonald's films their commercials here too.

Commercial filming is looking for tax incentives like everyone else. It's not a little business. According to Matt Miller the President of the Commercial Producers Association, commercial production employs an estimated 10,000 people in the LA area and supports about 220 companies; California is losing out to states that offer tax incentives and rebates that reduce the costs to producers.

Everybody wants a tax incentive, maybe we should simply lower taxes across the board. All of you in favor say aye.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The number of film production days for all types of filming was down last week. I know about not watching the pot boil. Does water really take longer to boil if you watch it? Monitoring these numbers so closely may not help any, it's the trend. As they say in the stock market, the trend is your friend. Meaning that the past gives an indication of the future, so your actions will be guided accordingly. In the stock market you have all sorts of moving averages, and if one moving average crosses another, it means something either really great or really terrible.

I think I'm going to create a 50 day and a 200 day moving average for production days by category. Then we can identify the trend. My husband is a self-trained technical stock analyist. I think I'm going to put him to work. I'll let you know how that works out.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

California Film Commission

California has a film commission CFC that by it's own web site claims to be "your one-stop office for film and TV incentives, permitting, location assistance, and filming resources throughout California". It is my understanding that the CFC oversees the applications for the tax incentive fund established by California two years ago. Those tax incentives have been credited for slowing down the outward migration of film production. So apparently they are spreading the money around where it has done some good.

The CFC Board Meetings are open to the public, and when Jim Horwitz asked me if I wanted to attend, to see what the commission is doing and to learn more about the challenges we face in keeping production at home, I was on it. Who's going to mind the shop while I'm gone is something I'll figure out later. This sounded like something of value, particularly when I heard that an agenda item was the "public education campaign" and that a report would be given on "marketing/outreach activity". This sounds like something we might be able to help with. You think?

The meeting is in the AFTRA Conference Room on July 30th. I'll report back on what I learn.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception Wins by a Landslide

I guess it's no surprise that Inception won the movie audience lottery this week. I thought the race was between Sorcerer and Inception, but it didn't turn out that way: Despicable Me came in second.So much depends on how a movie is marketed, and how it is reviewed. All of the critics don't get to weigh in at that same time; some are able to see the movie earlier than others. So you tend to get sort of choppy results that tend to confuse prospective audiences. Maybe, if you rely on how the critics view a movie before you put down your hard earned dollar, it is better if you find a critic on your wave length and simply rely on that single voice.

So our partially filmed in California candidate beat out the rest. That's good.

I have a Kindle that I really appreciate. It's a bit of technology that I've grown to depend on and when it froze up last week, I was stressed. Amazon, who markets the Kindle, had a new reader in my hands the next day. I was impressed. That meant I was able to download a new book by a University of Toronto Professor, Richard Florida, titled "The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post Crash Prosperity". According to Professor Florida's research, California has the highest Creativity Index in America, which uniquely positions it to recover from this last economic downturn. The factors that result in California scoring so well on the Creativity Index which will help us power through the mess we are in: technology, talent and tolerance. He believes that our technology and entertainment industries and green lifestyles will be driving forces in our recovery.

I'll share the contents of his book over the next few weeks. What I know to be true is that we must not be afraid. The times they are a changing. How exciting is that?


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday is Potluck Day

Potluck means you don't know what you're going to get, therefore, Potluck Saturday's blog could be about anything. In fact, I am willing to entertain subject suggestions or even host a guest blogger.

You may have figured out I have a clothing boutique in Woodland Hills; I'm a fanatical advocate on women's health issues, especially breast cancer, and a big supporter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; I'm interested in politics and the economy; and I have a huge curiosity about quantum physics. So don't be surprised if those subjects are tossed into the pot on Saturday sooner or later.

What you'll hear about often is info about breast cancer, early detection and Susan G. Komen. I'm a twenty-three year survivor of breast and cervical cancer. I billed myself as "The Happiest Woman in the World" in a video I made on You Tube. Because that's just what and who I am; I have had an opportunity to live a long life because my cancers were detected early. And the gift of that important knowledge is what I have spend my life since trying to share.

Today, on Potluck Saturday, a dear, long time customer, came into my shop and told me her 42 year old sister has been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer that has already metasticized. A lump was first noticed while she was pregnant just a few months ago; but the doctor brushed the symptom off with a cavalier, 'it's just a swelling in your milk duct'. Not true. Now she is caring for a two month old infant while undergoing chemotherapy for an agressive form of breast cancer.

I had a hand casted silver figure of a woman on a leather cord in the store that had been made a few years ago by an artist in Topanga. I gave it to my customer to give to her sister to wear as a reminder of all the women still living and thriving today. Even with metastatic cancers. Is that how anyone would choose to live their remaining years? If I had a tiny baby, I would.

This story has saddened me today, so I'm going to put the lid on the pot, because the taste is bitter.


Sunday is TV Fundamentals

I don't subscribe to Showtime, but I'm going to try it for the month of August. It costs $15.99 a month, but I think it may be worth it. Not only does Showtime have some critically acclaimed programing that frequently ends up receiving Emmys and Golden Globes, they are filming much of it in California. Weeds and Californication are both filmed here; Dexter is filmed here and in Miami; and the new reality show The Real L Word is also filmed here. As we get further into the season I will research more of Showtime's schedule, but this is a pretty good start.

One thing that Showtime seems to specialize in is dark comedy that skirts an outrageously fine line. All the way from a suburban mom who sells drugs, to a serial murderer who is trying to lead a normal life, to a writer who appears to have a sex addiction, to a reality show following six lesbians. Cable TV can't boast the audiences that the networks have, but by the blogosphere conversations, they engender some fanatical fans.

The only one of these shows I have seen is Dexter and I found the serial killer very appealing. I know that sounds strange, but if you watch it you'll see what I mean. Dexter is a serial killer with rules and principles; that doesn't make the killings right, but since he focuses on bad guys, somehow it becomes more acceptable.

I'm going to try to contact someone from Showtime. I want to understand the reasoning behind their decisions to shoot so much of their schedule here. If they can do it, why can't others? I'll get back to you on this one, but in the meantime, check out Showtime if you're tired of the more homogenized fare the networks provide.


Friday is Movie Review Day

There are two movies duking it out at the box office this weekend; only one of which was filmed here in California. At least Inception was partially filmed here. The other film vying for an audience is The Sorcerer's Apprentice filmed in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

I always think you should see a film before you review it, but I don't have that luxury, so I rely on a little help from my friends. Besides, I'm not critiquing these films per say, my main role is to alert you to which films are shot in California; however,I don't mind passing on the reviews of others as well as give you some other tidbits I've mined in my research.

Inception by far has received the strongest praise from the critics. It is very creative in it's plot; the idea of being able to enter someones dream life is actually quite scary. Since kids have problems with dreams anyway, it's probably not a good idea for them to see it. They would tend to take the concept literally if they understood it at all. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is more of a family film, and I understand that, whereas it's not great, it is entertaining. I have always enjoyed Nicholas Cage, and I like the idea that he is trying to make entertainment for the family. It was filmed in NY however, and even though I lived in Brooklyn for 20 years and would like to see my old neighborhood, it doesn't past the test for made in California movies.

Inception was filmed in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Calgary,Tokyo, and some other exotic location I don't recall. I know this Dark Knight Director is supposed to be a hot shot, but what is that all about. Is the movie so much better because he shot all over the globe? It's half special effects anyway isn't it? At least some of the production was shot in California, so add that fact to the good critic reviews, and go see Inception , but leave the kids at home.


Thursday is for Commercials

My husband, Bob, swears that the ratio of commercials to TV programming has finally reached the point where we are watching more ads than programs. I use the commercial breaks to do the dishes, cook dinner, do the laundry, paint the front porch; it's amazing how much work you can get done on a commercial break. So, I don't mind the number /length of commercials. In fact, since so many are filmed in California, I'm actually happy to see them proliferate.

During the last quarter, on-location commercial filming grew a whopping 35% over the same time frame in 2009. I don't know how much of that is due to Meg Whitman's political ad avalanche, but now that I think about it, I remember reading that she hired all sorts of pr/advertising support from outside California. Do you think that's true? What's that about Ms Meg?

I've mentioned some of the companies that film commercials here in past blogs. You can add to that list, Chevron, Ford, AT&T, Nike, Adidas, and Miller Lite. But, it goes beyond whether or not a commercial was filmed in California. We really need to support that whole made in the USA campaign. You probably know that our trade deficit is growing again. But do you know that we pay less for Chinese imports than the Chinese people pay at home? Are they trying to create such a dependency on their products that we give up all of our production facilities here and then they'll jack the price up for us too? China is an old, old country; they have a long planning horizon. Are they setting us up? Probably.

Back to the commercials filmed in California. Have you seen the new Ford Mustang?


Wednesday is Numbers Day

Last week overall production days for TV, film and commercial shoots was down over 14% from last year. However, love that word however, because it spells hope. However means, forget about what I just told you because there's something more going on that sounds better.

This sounds better. FilmLA released a report on Tuesday that shows "across the board gains for on-location filming of movies, commercials and TV shows in the three months that ended June 30." Remember, a production day is one crew's permission to film at a single location over a 24 hour period. In the second quarter of 2009, production days numbered 9,597; compare that to 1,134 production days in the same quarter for 2010. That's a good, fat, juicy however.

One driving factor in the increase has been the tax credit program enacted by the State of California last year. So far 16 productions have taken advantage of the tax credit. Would they have filmed here anyway? Who knows. What we have to keep in mind is that California must continue to come up with innovative ways to make this State competitive. If you are in a position to ask Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown or any of your elected officials what their position is on tax incentives for the film industry, we can help position this issue up front where it needs to be. Ms Whitman put out a comprehensive marketing piece that focuses on her position on jobs and tax incentives for everybody else, but no mention of the film industry. And as for Jerry, he hasn't even begun to campaign, so who knows where he stands.

Let's be pesky.


Tuesday is for Looking at Production

People ask me, how can you write on a subject of which you know absolutely nothing? Geez guys, that hurts. Another question I get is, how can you possibly make a difference, when all the leaders in the entertainment industry are pretty certain that it's too late to reverse the trend and bring film production back to California. Now you're really making me mad.

The answer to the first question is, there's very little that one can't find out through research. And eavesdropping. I don't claim to be an expert on anything really, but I am good at listening and asking questions.

One of my resources is a data base I subscribe to called Below the Line; it's a wealth of information about all of the productions and where they are being filmed. Jim Horwitz from City Councilman Rosendahl's office suggested that it could be a good source of identifying projects that hadn't made a location decision yet. And perhaps we could identify actions the City might take to make it more attractive to film here. This data base is what I refer to when I recommend that you at least consider a film or TV show that has been filmed in California. So, now you know I'm not just guessing.

As for the question about making a difference or swimming up stream, or banging my head against the wall. Maybe that can best be answered by telling you that I am a Taurus, stubborn as heck and I never ever give up what I believe in. People have a right to work if they want to, and the precious natural resource that is the California film industry is a treasure trove of jobs. I think we have to secure that natural resource and I'm looking for ways to help make that a reality.

An old Chinese saying suggests that you should never tell someone who is doing a job, that it cannot be done.


Monday is for Counting the House

Every Monday I will give you an update on the movie or movies that cleaned up over the weekend and where they were produced/filmed.This last weekend it was all about a clever, 3D animated film titled Despicable Me. I watched the previews on TV and it tickled my fancy a bit. I am a huge Steve Carroll fan; he plays the #2 biggest villain in the world who has plans to steal the moon until three little orphan girls get under his skin and lodge firmly in his heart. According to some of the critics, it played a little weak to adults, but was loved by the audiences to the tune of over $60 million at the box office, knocking the Twilight sequel back into the deep woods.

I'm glad that Universal Pictures has an animation hit on their hands through the new animation label Illumination Entertainment; I'm sorry that they felt they had to contract the animation work out to a French company (money again). At least they hired a 67 piece ensemble from the Hollywood Hills Symphony.


Picking up the Pace

Now that I have gotten more comfortable with the concept of blogging, I realize that it's time to step up my game. I'm going to develop a regular schedule for regurgitating into cyberspace, like everyday. Do I have that much to say? I have no idea, but, if I don't take myself too seriously, maybe it will be fun.

Last week, feature film production was down 27% over last year. That's pathetic and sad, and scary and disheartening. I had to layoff the last of my sales staff in my store. My customers are not working and they look a little green around the gills. And that's not even this year's fashion color.

I don't want another politician to tell me things are getting better. I'll let them know when things are getting better. And it ain't happening yet.


Sunday, July 4, 2010


It occurred to me that you might not know what FilmLA does for the community. You can go to their website and learn a lot about what they do as well as why LA county is a great place to film. But here are a few facts I lifted from their mission statement page which gives you a good idea of FilmLA's value.

"FilmLA, Inc. is a non-profit, public benefit corporation that acts as a crucial link serving production companies and the communities in which they film."

Not only do they provide a one-stop location for a producer to obtain all the permits needed, they help to resolve issues that the producer may have and act as a liaison between producer, the community and local governments.

Their mission is to help create a collaborative environment between all of the principal players so that the Los Angeles area retains its worldwide leadership position in film, TV and commercial production. Some may say the horse is long gone, and the barn door is hanging from one hinge. FilmLA is one member of the posse that doesn't think so.


Atlas Shrugged

Who is John Gault? Remember that? With the economy in the tank and people leery of the growing governmental beauracracy, it is no wonder someone thought of remaking Atlas Shrugged. Atlas was a paean to individualism. It should be interesting to see how it plays against the background of today's problems. But I'm not writing about it because of it's message, although I think it will resonate with many. I mention it because it's being filmed in Los Angeles.

In fact, quite a few things were filmed in LA the latter part of June. That's the good news. FilmLA keeps track of overall production days in three categories: feature films, TV and commercials. Usually the number of production days in the feature film category are flat or down from the same period last year. The week ending June 27th 2010 was up 9% over the same period in 2009. Don't ask me to tell you how it compares with 5 - 10 years ago. It will make me cry. And I refuse to cry on the 4th of July. It's a day to celebrate the wonderful country that we are blessed to live in.