Industry groups keep distance from film lobby
A nonprofit organization aimed at keeping Hollywood film production in California isn’t getting much support from the very groups it would try to help: local unions and other workers in the state.
The Bring Hollywood Home Foundation has begun an aggressive fundraising drive for an expensive media campaign to convince voters and lawmakers of the film industry’s economic importance.
The group is inviting political and movie industry VIPs to a “gala fundraising launch” at Drai’s nightclub at the new W Hollywood Hotel this month.
“We can’t stand by and watch our golden industry -- that brought California out of the Great Depression and is part of the birthright of Californians -- move,” said Sharon Jimenez, the group’s executive director.
But the workers and studios that would benefit from increased film and television production in California aren’t buying the program, created in February by state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello).
They are leery not only of requests for contributions of as much as $100,000 but also of the motives of an organization created and run by Calderon associates. Jimenez, for instance, a political and public relations consultant, is the wife of Calderon’s communications aide, Bob Jimenez.
“I advised them not to respond” to the solicitation, said Barry Broad, a Sacramento lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents blue-collar film industry workers such as drivers. “I was deeply suspicious of their high-pressure tactics.”
The foundation has drawn up an ambitious five-year plan for hosting a variety of fundraisers, polling the public about the film industry, conducting political education and public service advertising campaigns, lobbying elected officials and sponsoring California film festivals.
Jimenez said that the project has been well received and that “no one has said, ‘Your plan doesn’t look good.’ ”
But officials at half a dozen labor unions and professional guilds, who did not want to be identified for fear of offending a powerful state senator, said they didn’t want to be linked with a big-spending, politically oriented group.
They said they were happy that legislators last year approved a $500-million, five-year package of tax breaks for the film industry. And they are nervous about asking for more incentives as a recession-racked state faces another deep budget deficit.
“We don’t want to appear greedy or overreaching,” one critic said.
Such reservations about the foundation were widespread in the film community and led to the resignation of economist Jack Kyser from the Bring Hollywood Home board of directors.
“There were too many indications of people looking at them with a jaundiced view,” said Kyser of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “They have no business plan that I’ve seen. I’ve looked at the other board members, and I don’t recognize those people.”
Other Hollywood groups also are distancing themselves from the Calderon organization.
The studios’ trade group, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, questioned the need for Bring Hollywood Home’s proposed voter-education drive, Jimenez said.
FilmL.A. Inc., a nonprofit that handles permits for on-location filming in the city and parts of the county, rescinded its offer to give her group temporary office space. “They decided they want to keep a professional distance,” she said.
Ed Gutentag, a cinematographer who operates low-budget website Shoot Movies in California, package of tax breaks said he welcomed support in the struggle to keep film and TV jobs from fleeing to New York, New Mexico, Louisiana and other states.
But Gutentag is critical of Bring Hollywood Home’s emphasis on fundraising.
“The problem I have is, why are they looking for all this money at this time?” he said. “It’s the wrong message to send.”
Tickets to the April 27 Bring Hollywood Home Foundation party are available for a donation of $2,500 a person. The group also is seeking a Diamond Introducing Sponsor to give $100,000, a Platinum Sponsor for $50,000 and a variety of lower-level backers.
A written request for a “significant” contribution sent to cable television operators noted that Bring Hollywood Home had a $530,000 budget for the remaining eight months of the year, which included $16,000 a month to pay the salaries of an executive director and a managing director. The 1 1/2-page letter mentioned fundraising seven times.
“With people power we will influence lawmakers in Sacramento and hopefully alert the major studios that Californians aren’t asleep at the wheel as the rest of the world is ‘eating our lunch’ in the industry that brought this state out of the Great Depression,” the letter said.
Carolyn McIntyre, president of the California Cable and Telecommunications Assn., said she was briefed by Jimenez on March 9 but decided that “we are not making a contribution.”
Bring Hollywood Home’s gala launch is billed as a tribute to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Calderon for their work last year in passing a law that provided a first-ever tax credit to filmmakers, an incentive to keep jobs in California. The credit, which kicked in July 1, has helped boost in-state feature film production 6% for the first three months of this year compared with last year’s first quarter, according to FilmL.A.
Schwarzenegger, who has worked for years to provide tax incentives for Hollywood, has not yet decided whether he will attend the glitzy event, said his spokesman, Aaron McLear. Villaraigosa spokeswoman Casey Hernandez said the mayor’s schedulers were not aware of the event and couldn’t say whether he would attend.
One person not being honored at the event is the coauthor of the law, then-Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, a Democrat, now a Los Angeles city councilman representing Studio City, Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood.
Krekorian, who knew little about Calderon’s organization, noted that “we already have a lot of people who are focusing their attention on fixing this problem,” including the California Film Commission and FilmL.A.