Veteran Hollywood executive Tom Sherak has a new role: Los Angeles film czar.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday appointed Sherak to be his senior film advisor and help stem the flow of production that has taken a toll on the city’s signature film and television business.
Sherak, the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will lead Garcetti’s efforts to make L.A. more film friendly and persuade state lawmakers to do more to support the state’s entertainment industry, the mayor said in a statement.
“The entertainment industry generates more than 500,000 local jobs. Protecting and expanding it is an absolute necessity,” Garcetti said. “Tom will lead our campaign for production incentives in Sacramento and is empowered to work across city departments to make L.A. the best possible location for production.”
Sherak will serve as the director of the Mayor’s Entertainment Industry and Production Office, drawing a token salary of $1 per year.
“The idea is to be able to give back because I’ve been blessed by this wonderful industry,” Sherak said in an interview. “We have to figure out how to keep jobs here and keep people working in California.”
The appointment comes at a time when L.A. has experienced significant declines in film and TV production as business has flocked to other U.S. states and countries offering an assortment of tax credits and rebates. California allocates $100 million annually to its film and TV tax credit program, much less than what New York and other rivals offer.
Garcetti, who represented the Hollywood area when he was a city councilman, has said pressing for increased state film tax credits was one of his priorities as mayor. He also has pushed for the city to do more to help the industry, such as a proposed measure to waive city fees for television pilots.
Sherak, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for prostate cancer, said he was initially uncertain about the job but accepted the offer after he met with Garcetti on Monday.
He said he was persuaded by the mayor’s commitment to the cause of keeping jobs in L.A.
“I told my oncologist about it,” Sherak said. “He said, ‘Tom, take it. You’ll be fine.’”
Sherak said he was also drawn to the challenge of the job, including convincing skeptical lawmakers in Northern California that they should do more to help an industry concentrated in Southern California.
“I know it’s tough and it’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s never stopped me before,” Sherak said. “Politics is new to me. What’s that line from ‘Star Trek’? ‘Politics is the last frontier.’ That’s the way I look at it.”
Sherak currently consults for Skydance Productions and other entertainment companies. He has extensive ties in Hollywood, formed over the course of a four-decade career in show business, primarily focused on marketing and distribution.
In addition to being a past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Sherak was a partner at Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios, where he supervised the releases of several dozen features, including “Black Hawk Down,” “Rent” and “Across the Universe.”
Before that, Sherak worked at 20th Century Fox, where he was chairman of Twentieth Century Domestic Film Group and senior executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment. In addition to focusing on the distribution of Fox releases, Sherak was the studio’s personal contact with George Lucas, whose “Star Wars” movies were distributed by the studio, and collaborated with James Cameron on the marketing of the director’s “Aliens” and “The Abyss.”
He launched his Hollywood career at Paramount Pictures in 1970, and recently served as a consultant to Marvel Studios and Relativity Media.
Like many Hollywood studios, Fox, Revolution, Marvel and Relativity film many of their movies outside Los Angeles and California. A large number of Revolution’s movies were filmed out of state, including “Daddy Day Care” (Utah), “Perfect Stranger” (New York), “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” (Canada) and “Hellboy” (Czech Republic).
Sherak is well known and well respected.
“He’s a very well-known figure and has a lot of good contacts and is definitely someone who can help us,” said Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, casting directors and studio drivers. “Our union alliance looks forward to working with him in Sacramento to help secure the much-needed expansion of our film incentives.”
Sherak is the chairman of the MS Hope Foundation, which he helped create, a former chairman of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, and a former board member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
He received an honorary doctorate in the arts from the Academy of Art University and holds a degree in marketing from New York City Community College. He has served on the faculty of the UCLA Producers Program.
Times staff writer John Horn contributed to this report.