Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Film and TV flight cost California 36,000 jobs, study says

By Richard Verrier - Los Angeles Times

A new study confirms what any grip, camera operator or location manager will tell you: California is bleeding film jobs.

The state has lost more than 36,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in wages over the last decade as production has migrated away, according to a report by The Milken Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank co-founded by former high-flying 1980s Wall Street player Michael Milken, who turned to philanthropy after serving time for securities fraud.

Aptly titled "Film Flight," the Milken report is the most comprehensive account to date of the economic toll of so-called runaway production that has hammered L.A.'s production economy and the thousands of below-the-line workers and support companies that depend on it.

The survey runs through 2008, the last year for which federal and state labor data were available, and thus understates the extent of the job losses because it doesn't cover the recession that prompted widespread layoffs in the industry. Since 1997, California has lost 10,600 jobs in film, TV and commercial production, and more than 25,000 related jobs, the study said.

Milken attributes the job losses to the flight of movies and TV shows to other states and countries. In addition to countries such as Canada and England, more than 40 states now compete for a piece of the $57-billion U.S. production industry.

California implemented its own film tax credit program in July 2009, allocating $500 million over five years."There's no doubt that incentives have been drawing jobs and wages away from California,'' said Kevin Klowden, director of the Milken Institute California Center and lead author of the report. California's share of North American employment in the industry has declined from 40% in 1997 to 37.4% in 2008, according to the study, which also notes that the number of movies filmed wholly or partially in California has fallen to 160 in 2008 from 272 in 2000.

To turn the tide, the report recommends that the state tax incentives be made permanent (they are set to expire in 2014) and expanded to include studio films with budgets greater than $75 million, which are not currently covered.

"While California's incentive package appears to be working, we have a lot of catch up to do just to get back the share of production we had in 1997," Klowden said.

Teamsters accept studios' offer, averting a strike threat

By Richard Verrier -Los Angeles Times

Hollywood drivers on Sunday accepted a proposed contract from the studios, averting a strike that could have caused widespread disruptions to production across the country.

The vote came after last-minute negotiations Saturday yielded a compromise that mollified leaders of Teamsters Local 399, who were prepared to seek a strike authorization vote from members.

The two sides had been locked in a standoff over pay rates for more than 3,000 drivers who deliver equipment and stars to film and TV sets.

The studios offered an increase in health-plan contributions and a proposed 2% annual pay increase for drivers. Teamsters wanted a 3% increase, the same rate the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargained on behalf of the studios, rejected the demand, citing the weak economy, which had buffeted DVD sales and forced cutbacks.

On Saturday, however, the studios offered some additional incentives to the Teamsters, including adding travel pay for certain types of drivers.

The dispute came at a delicate time for the studios, who are gearing up for contract negotiations this fall with the Hollywood's actors and later writers, whose contracts expire in 2011.

It was also unusual because the Teamsters, a blue-collar union whose members also represent location managers and casting directors, generally stay below the radar and rarely engage in public standoffs with the studios, with which they've generally enjoyed a stable relationship over the last two decades. Teamsters last struck for 24 days in 1988.

Although Teamsters openly supported writers during their strike in 2007-08, they've worked closely with studios on legislative issues, such as support for California's film tax incentives and the proposed Comcast-NBC Universal merger.

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