Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

State remains in a reel battle

Efforts to stop the years-long flight of film crews from California to faraway locations are gaining steam.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian has proposed new tax incentives to keep production crews filming in his city. The effort follows last year’s creation of a California Film Commission program that provides $100 million in tax breaks each year to movie and TV crews filming in the state — a move spearheaded by Krekorian.


Neither Glendale nor Burbank offer tax incentives, though both have taken steps to lure filmmakers inside city limits.

Burbank recently reduced the price of a permit to shoot for a single day from $350 to $150, and loosened requirements for when crews even need permits. The city has also worked to quickly process permits when filmmakers come calling.


“The city has the slogan the ‘Media Capital of the World.’ That is what we consider ourselves to be,” said Norma Brolsma, a clerk with the Burbank Police Department who tracks film permit requests.

She said the city has a two-day turnaround on permit requests, and can move more quickly if needed. This year the city has issued 263 permits and is on pace to top the 367 permits in 2009.

Glendale, where this week Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman were filming New Line Cinema’s “Horrible Bosses,” also has seen an uptick in film production, said City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian.

Glendale issued about the same number of filming permits, roughly 220, both this year and last year. But in 2009, he said, only 150 productions came to town by this time last year. So far this year, the number is already 186.


“There’s no finite way of predicting or projecting the total number by end-of-year, but it appears to be a big year for filming in Glendale,” Kassakhian said.

Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz noted that film crews are in town on a regular basis, including two production crews expected in Montrose in the next two weeks.

He said police, firefighters, the city clerk’s office and risk managers communicate swiftly to get permits in place, notify affected neighborhoods and troubleshoot unique challenges — as when producers of a beer commercial staged a helicopter landing on Brand Boulevard earlier this year.

With minimal financial obstacles, Lorenz said the steady stream of film shoots into Glendale was attributable to “less bureaucracy.”


Paul Audley, president of FilmLA, the agency that coordinates film shoots in the Los Angeles County, said flexibility is important for the studios.

“In some communities, it is the time it takes to process a film permit that makes them noncompetitive,” he said.

But the tax breaks are working, to a degree.

Amy Lemisch, director of the California Film Commission, said her agency has already approved projects to receive the agency’s full annual allotment of $100 million in tax breaks for the current fiscal year.

“I’ve been really happy with the way it has worked,” Lemisch said. “Clearly the demand is exceeding supply. But this program will need to be expanded. We are losing projects weekly.”

Many major studio films and TV shows are not being shot in California, and more than 40 other states offer tax incentives for film crews, she added.

Areas such as Vancouver, Canada, have so successfully lured moviemakers with incentives that they have developed a competitive infrastructure of professionals and equipment.

“Everyone so desperately wants to stay and film in California,” she said. “But it is a different business model nowadays. The decision on where to film is based on putting the financing together.”

Jonathan Gordon — who is producing the political film “Red State” with director Kevin Smith, of “Clerks” fame — is gearing up for a shoot in Whittier that he said would not have been possible without the state tax credit.

“We had two options: One was to get the credit and the other was go out of state,” Gordon said.

Taking the potentially higher cost of doing business here out of the mix, Gordon said the reasons to film locally abound, not the least of which include the studios and talent pool.

“It gives actors and crew the ability to sleep in their own beds every night and eat with their families,” he said. “But other states are getting wise, and offering very attractive incentives and packages.”

In his proposal before the Los Angeles City Council, Krekorian noted that New York City and New York state team up on incentives.

Krekorian also suggested Los Angeles loosen rules on who can provide food at location shoots and more quickly refund overpayments on permits when shoots wrap up early.

FOR THE RECORD: This corrects an earlier version to say that 150 film productions had come to Glendale by this time last year. And that so far, 186 have taken place in Glendale this year.