Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Commercial Filming is Down - Bad Sign for Economy?

Commercial film production in California has been a bright spot for some time. Until lately it has been fairly robust. Now it is down about 8% over last year. Is that because companies are filming their commercials somewhere else, or have they given up on trying to seduce the public to buy and are simply not advertising?

Fortunately ad agencies and the media won't notice it if their bottom line is negatively affected by the loss of revenue from corporate advertising, because it will be more than made up with political ads for the next two years. (Heaven help us.) But what does it mean if corporations are not making new commercials? They have plenty of money, but they're not hiring, they're not expanding, and now they're not advertising?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

More Good News

There has been a lot of good news about the effectiveness of the California tax incentive program to keep film production in our state. The LA County Economic Development Corp. announced that the incentive program pumped $3.8 billion into the California economy and created 20,000 jobs in the last two years.

Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes from Sylmar proposed a bill to extend the program for five years after the current program expires in 2014. The bill has passed the Assembly, and goes before the Senate in the next two weeks.

Call your State Senator and tell him or her that you want them to support the proposed legislation. It's a pretty fair bet that senators from LA County will support it. The question is, will the senators in other districts support it? Do they get it? Do they understand that the program benefits all of California?

By the way, Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts was filmed in our back yard. So let's support Hanks and his Playtone Production Company.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Who Received a Piece of the Pie?

Earlier this month, the California Film Commission, headed up by Amy Lemisch, announced which productions would receive a piece of the California Tax Incentive Program.

The breakdown of projects selected (based on type of production) is as follows:
- Feature (Studio) -- 4 projects (14.8%)
- Feature (Indie) -- 10 projects (37%)
- TV Series -- 10 projects (37%)
- MOW (Studio) -- 0
- MOW (Indie) -- 1 (3.7%)
- Relocating TV -- 2 (7.40%)

Based on information provided by each applicant, it is estimated that these projects will
spend more than $662 million in California, including nearly $234 million in qualified wages.
They will employ an estimated 3,048 cast members, 3,307 crew members and 49,778
extras/stand-ins (calculated in "man-days").

Interesting footnote to this latest distribution of funds is that a hefty portion went to TV productions. One of them, Body of Proof, which looks to have a long run, moved their production from Rhode Island when that state discontinued/cut back their incentive program. As other states reevaluate the cost/benefit of their own incentive programs, there will continue to be an industry on the move. Can we get the hens back in the hen house? Time will tell.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Filmed in California: Avatar Will be Produced in Manhattan Beach

Filmed in California: Avatar Will be Produced in Manhattan Beach: "Build it and they will come served to be prophetic when Jon Landau of Lightstorm Entertainment saw the MBS Media Campus in Manhatttan Beach,..."

Avatar Will be Produced in Manhattan Beach

Build it and they will come served to be prophetic when Jon Landau of Lightstorm Entertainment saw the MBS Media Campus in Manhatttan Beach, where he plans to film the next two James Cameron Avatar movies. He signed a five year lease for two buildings that will house over 200 employees.

The 'almost perfect production paradigm' - big sound stages, state of the art intrastructure, and then all the accutrements for the regular non-blue people. The other tenants on the campus, equipment vendors and suppliers, make it possible to obtain much of what Lightstorm needs, right in their back yard.

Another piece of good news is that Body of Proof is moving to LA after Rhode Island's tax incentive plan looked shaky.

All in all, a good day.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm Sorry to See the Film Department Go

Last year Jim Horwitz and I met with some officers from the independent film production company, The Film Department. They were gracious and forthcoming about the issues facing independent producers. At the time of our meeting, they informed us that only about 25% of the independent producers were still in operation (about 11).

I'm sorry to say now there is one less, because The Film Department, despite making over $90 million dollars could not obtain financing to continue in operation. They were left with a film starring lovely Catherine Zeta Jones that was still looking for a distributor and might have to go direct to DVD. What a shame, they were the brightest and the best, and found it impossible to wring the necessary dollars out of the money-men to keep on making good and entertaining movies.

What is wrong with this picture. Everything! (I think that was a pun, but we'll let it pass.) They had to film where they could receive the best tax incentives, and guess what, it wasn't California. So we don't have to worry about their productions running away from California, because there is no longer a production company.

Oh, these talented people will find a way to make movies, or not. Maybe its too darn hard. What do you think?


Friday, April 15, 2011

Filming in California Still on the Decline

Location production of feature films in the city of Los Angeles and nearby parts of the county declined 5.3 percent in the first quarter versus last year.FilmL.A. who keeps track of this sort of thing pointed out that the decline in filming came despite the tax incentives offered by the state.

Shooting for television productions was also down in the first quarter -- by 3.7 percent -- with reality television shows showing the greatest decline, 6.4 percent.

FilmL.A. Chairman Ed Duffy said, "The latest data suggest a softness in the industry, but not a full loss of momentum. Pilot production is up and we have a couple big features in production, so we're optimistic about a better set of numbers come July."

So, where would we be without the tax incentives? Scary thought, even though the level of awareness of the importance of keeping filming in California for a boost to employment and a safety net for the economy is higher than ever before; more and more people are listening. But turning an ocean liner takes a long, long time. And the entertainment industry is a mammoth ship of industry.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good for You Gutentag

I'm proud to say I know Ed Gutentag. Why? Because this guy is making a difference. Can you say that? Can I? Not so much.

Ed started on Facebook I think, and then developed a full blown blog at where he has thousands of followers. He keeps us up to date on the progress or lack thereof, in the fight to keep film production in California. Ed's wife used to shop in my store in Woodland Hills (before I closed it down because so many of my entertainment industry customer's lost their jobs and no longer had the luxury of doing that shopping thing).

I've had some good conversations with Ed, starting with his objections to the non-profit lobbying group Bring Hollywood Home that I'm involved in, and developing into discussions of what needs to be done to save the entertainment industry. He's a passionate, articulate man who has become a sounding board for the disenfranchised below the line worker bees, who made the entertainment industry godzillions of dollars.

Last Tuesday Gutentag teamed up with FilmworksLA.Com and Tia Carrere to shoot the first of many PSA's that will air in The Mann Theater Chain around Los Angeles explaining why film production is so important to our economy.

Mike Kehoe and Ed Co-directed the shoot with a cast and crew of almost 100 people. Todd Lingren,VP of FilmLA was able to secure a deal with The Mann Theaters to run these PSA's in front of the movies that play at The Mann Theaters in Los Angeles.

Way to go. Now, you can see the PSA before you watch a movie that was probably shot in some other state or country.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Filmed in California: Superman Has Flown Away

Filmed in California: Superman Has Flown Away: "Zack Snyder seems to have deserted LA for the Windy City. He's flying a lot of people in from California to make the latest Superman film (..."

Superman Has Flown Away

Zack Snyder seems to have deserted LA for the Windy City. He's flying a lot of people in from California to make the latest Superman film (for obvious reasons, this is where the talent lives). At least our people will be working, even if small business won't be getting a needed shot in the arm from a really, really big budget ($175 million)movie. Some other prominent movies filmed recently in Chicago include Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

I don't know what the incentives are for the individual films, but of course California has nothing on the table for big budget films.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

International Women's Film Festival

I had an opportunity to actually bring two divergent parts of my life together this weekend. Even though I try to explain the connection between filming in California and the economy and women's health issues, it never became easier for me to draw that connection than at the International Women's Film Festival.

The first night of the festival was devoted to showing "Pink Skies", a documentary about the successful achievement of a sky diving record when 181 women from all over the world, many of them breast cancer survivors, Jumped for the Cure together. It was a stunning sight. I can only imagine the intense connection these women must have felt as they linked hands in air high over the Arizona desert.

The opening of the festival benefited Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Los Angeles County, and we have Diana Means, President & CEO of the Alliance of Women Film Makers to thank for always supporting the cause. I spoke to the audience about the importance of what Komen has achieved, also against great odds; just like the women spread out across the summer sky, Komen has brought together hundreds of thousands of people across the world to join the fight to end breast cancer for ever.

During my remarks, I tried out a new tag line that I thought of one night when I couldn't sleep. Actually Stewart McKeough, head of Corporate Development for five of the California Affiliates asked me to think of a theme for a new campaign that he would like Komen LA to launch, to try to fill the gap between services available for screening and diagnosis and the actual need. If you think of the 1,144 people who will die of breast cancer in LA County this year, it's obvious that a lot of people are not being screened early enough. An Affiliate raises money, the majority of which stays in the community where those funds are raised to save lives. Yes, it's true that Komen has raised extraordinary amounts for research, but they also have a mission to keep people alive through early detection and encouraging healthy life styles. The tag line that I test drove is I Deserve to Know (if I have breast cancer). And that right to know extends to every person regardless of their situation.

I was pleased to speak to women in the film industry. They have a tough road to walk in an industry that has been an all-male boys club. You go girls. And please, try to film in California.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

More on Portantino Hearings

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, at a hearing at Pasadena City Hall last Friday, claims the California Film and Television Tax Credit is working. "The credit is working and it is auditable," he says.

Portantino and Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes have introduced A.B. 1069, a bill to extend the tax credits beyond their planned 2013 sunset.


Monday, March 21, 2011

I Started Another Blog Today

My new blog has a singular purpose: to sell the books I write. Writing a novel may be the easier part of the process; finding someone who wants to read it may be more difficult.

First you must find a literary agent who will read the book and want to represent you and it. The process from completing a manuscript to bringing it to market and selling one or any is analogous to threading your way along a narrow path; on one side is a sheer wall of rock, on the other side of the path is a drop of a few hundred or thousand feet, depending on how resilient you are. You can fall off the path at any point. If you're optimistic, the fall is not so far; if you're not, the fall might be a few miles and impossible to recover from.

The literary agent sells the book to a publisher who gives you a boost up the path, but soon you're slogging along under your own steam again, and watch out, here you can fall off the path again, for you are responsible for building a base, spreading the word, and touting the heck out of this book you thought was the great american novel that no body seems to want to read.

So I've created a new blog with my name on it. Really, it has my name on it. Sharon Spencer Schlesinger is the title of the blog. And I'll take you along on this journey, and maybe when we reach that point in the process, you'll buy one of my books. And maybe you'll learn how to get your own book published.

Sharon Spencer Schlesinger

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tax Credits have Generated $2.2 Billion in Economic Activity

There was a hearing on Friday about the effectiveness of the state’s film and television tax credit program. It was led by State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D – La CaƱada Flintridge), chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Preservation of California’s Entertainment Industry.

This all came from an article written by Joe Piasecki in the LA Times.

State tax credits designed to keep film and television shoots from leaving California have generated $2.2 billion in economic activity since 2009, according to testimony given Friday during a public hearing in Pasadena. Since the summer of 2009, the state has issued $300 million in tax credits to film and television companies in order to compete with incentives offered by other states and countries that over the past decade have lured billions in industry spending away from California.

“California’s film industry is under threat, and its dominance has been threatened for at least 10 years. We no longer take this industry for granted,” said Amy Lemisch, director of the California Film Commission, which administers the tax credit program.

Lemisch argued that film and television shoots stimulate the state economy by spending $100,000 or more per day per on-location shoot in California. The short-lived FX series “Terriers,” for example, spent $16.4 million filming one season of episodes in San Diego, she said.

In total, the state’s tax incentive program has resulted in 116 projects spending an estimated $2.2 billion filming in California rather than in other states and countries. That figure includes $728 million in wages to below-the-line workers (basically everyone but actors, directors, writers and producers).

“We’re talking about something that’s not just Los Angeles-centric,” Portantino said in reaction to those numbers, which included shoots that took place throughout the state.

Sounds like the advocates for continuing/expanding California's tax incentive program did a good job on Friday, now is anyone listening?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On Sunday I Went to the Race for the Cure

I've been volunteering for Susan G. Komen for the Cure for many years. I can't even guess how many hours I've devoted to one event or another, or how many other volunteers that I have recruited and trained. I don't mention this because I'm looking for approbation, a pat on the back, but because I know there are thousands like me. Thousands and thousands.

I am just one in an army of men and women who work away, diligently, receiving their reward from their own sense of doing the right thing and possibly moving the needle closer to a world without breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter. Or at the very least, pushing cancer into a corner where it may rush out every so often, but there is someone or something to put it down for the count. Take that you slimy, perverted asshole bastard!

I saw some of that army on Sunday at Dodger Stadium at the LA County Race for the Cure. It took a whole year to prepare and a handful of hours later it was over, but such a rush, such a sense of community and hope. We raised a boatload of money, 75% of which will go for diagnosis and screening for the under-served in LA County. Did you know that early detection, i.e. a mammogram, can reduce mortality rates by 15 to 30%. 40,000 plus will die of breast cancer in this country this year. If we could detect the disease early, we could save 6,000 to 12,000 from dying. Did you know that? Do you think that breast cancer is the least of your worries when you can't find a job? Think again.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Breast Cancer Doesn't Take a Break During Bad Economic Times

I haven't blogged in quite a while. I've been watching the film production statistics, met with execs at Sony, and wrote two books.

But where I have been spending most of my time, and the reason I haven't been back to blog is because I've been devoting hours and hours volunteering for Susan G. Komen for the Cure on their marquis event, the 2011 LA County Race for the Cure. Because of the economy, the loss of jobs with the associated loss of insurance coverage, Komen has a huge job to provide screening and diagnosis for the under served community this year.

I am hearing more and more devastating stories of loss and sorrow, and I am determined to raise my voice even louder. If social media can take down despotic governments, then maybe it can create an environment that creates a tsunami of outrage that there is no cure for a disease that takes mothers from their children and their families.

The Race for the Cure is March 6, 2011 at Dodger Stadium, and then I'll be back talking about how to preserve our economy through maintaining a healthy entertainment industry.