Emphasizing his commitment to making Los Angeles more hospitable to television and movie production companies, Mayor Richard Riordan on Tuesday appointed Cody Cluff, currently executive director of the Los Angeles County Film Office, as the city’s new film czar.
As assistant deputy mayor for the entertainment industry--a new title for a job that was created by the City Council in March, 1992--Cluff, 34, will serve as a liaison between television and film producers and city agencies. His mission will be to help stem filmmakers’ exodus from Los Angeles.
“We have to improve the level of service immediately,” Cluff said in a telephone interview Tuesday, estimating that so-called runaway productions represent an annual $3-billion loss to California.
At a news conference announcing Cluff’s appointment, Riordan called the entertainment industry the city’s “most valued commodity.”
Recently promoted to executive director of the county office, Cluff has been with the agency since 1991. Film producers say the county agency, a private, nonprofit division of the Economic Development Corp., has been more effective than the city in expediting the permit process and solving problems. For example, responding to a longstanding complaint from the industry, high-paid fire safety officers are no longer assigned to locations when they are not needed.
But the county office, which has jurisdiction over five small cities and unincorporated areas, issues only 2,500 permits a year, compared to about 4,000 for the city. The county does not have to deal as often with conflicts arising when film companies roll their cameras into residential neighborhoods, Cluff conceded.
Political infighting over whether the film industry would have its own lobbyist within the mayor’s office had stalled creation of the film czar post for years and continued to plague Cluff’s predecessor, Beth Kennedy, who reported directly to Mayor Tom Bradley.
Although some critics were put off by her aggressive style, Kennedy won high marks for her tenacity. Patti Stolkin Archuletta, director of the California Film Commission, cited Kennedy’s efforts last February in cutting through bureaucratic resistance so that the producers of “Demolition Man” were able to blow up an old Department of Water and Power building.
In contrast to Kennedy, Cluff, who also holds the title of director of business retention for the Economic Development Corp., will serve under Al Villalobos, deputy mayor for economic development. But he said the new arrangement will not hamper his effectiveness.
“I will have the same access to the mayor that Kennedy had,” Cluff said.
Hailing Cluff’s appointment, Archuletta said he will have an easier time than did Kennedy, who was ousted when the Bradley Administration left office.
One obstacle for Kennedy was Charles M. Weisenberg, director of the Motion Picture Division of the Board of Public Works, the office that actually issues location permits. Weisenberg, a civil servant who had long made known his opposition to the establishment of a film czar, was recently reassigned.