In a call for California to become more competitive and save one of its iconic industries, more than 600 union workers, film makers, local business representatives and hospitality workers gathered on June 14 in San Francisco to show support for Assembly Bill 1839 (Gatto/Bocanegra). If passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, the bill could help retain more film and television production across California, including San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Introduced in February, AB 1839 has garnered broad bi-partisan support of more than 70 legislative co-authors, including Bay Area Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano, Kevin Mullin, Bill Quirk, Phil Ting and Bob Wieckowski. Other support comes from several statewide and regional business groups, small business owners, labor organizations and the mayors of California’s 10 largest cities, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.
“San Francisco supports AB 1839 because we know that a thriving film and television industry creates jobs and economic opportunity for the residents of our world class city,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “This statewide economic investment not only ensures that California remains competitive in bringing more television and film production to our state, but it will bring tens of thousands of jobs for Californians and boosts our economy.”
Sponsors of the rally at the Fairmont San Francisco’s Terrace Ballroom included the San Francisco Film Commission and the California Film and Television Production Alliance, a coalition of small businesses, studio and network representatives, labor groups, local politicians, film liaisons and vendors. Local SAG-AFTRA actor Danny Glover served as the keynote speaker.
California’s current incentive program, The California Film & Television Tax Credit Program, was enacted in 2009 as part of a targeted economic stimulus package to increase film and television production in California. And the program has proven to be one of the State’s most efficient and successful economic development tools, creating more than 50,000 middle-class jobs and generating $4.7 billion in economic activity since its inception.
Despite the program’s success, California’s continues to see film and television productions opt for other states and nations with stronger incentives packages. And the impacts have been devastating. Of the 54 big budget feature films of 2012 and 2013, only one was shot exclusively in California. This equates to a loss of 47,500 jobs and $410 million in tax revenues. The impacts are not isolated to big budget movies. From 2005 to 2013, California’s share of the 1-hour TV series market declined from 64 percent to 28 percent, resulting in the loss of an estimated 8,500 jobs.
“I am confident that with AB 1839’s competitive revisions to California’s tax incentive program, we can grow jobs in the film and television industry and grow the economy of our entire state,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, a co-author of the legislation. “We simply can’t sit back and continue to witness the loss of tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and significant tax revenue.”
Each year California turns away hundreds of incentive applicants due to lack of funding and other limitations. In 2014, the number of applications submitted on the first day rose more than 30 percent from the previous year to 497, with only 23 projects being selected due to limited funding. The remaining 474 projects submitted on the first day of the application period will be placed on a waiting list.
“In the past seven years, I’ve worked on nine projects, and only two of them shot in California because of the stronger tax credits elsewhere,” said Assistant Director and local Directors Guild of America Chair John Morse. “Like thousands of other Californians working away from their homes and families, I’m paying income taxes in Georgia, Massachusetts and Louisiana. That money should pour into California’s infrastructure and schools, but instead it’s going out of state.”
Film and television productions not only result in local jobs, they support small businesses and venders in local communities. The industry supports more than 50,000 businesses in every corner of the state, including more than 1,000 venders in the Bay Area.
“AB 1839 would have a profound impact on businesses such as ours,” said Zach Keyworth of DTC Grip & Electric, a local film equipment rental company based in Emeryville. “Even a modest budgeted film can make a large impact on a company such as DTC. Often it means we can rent equipment out for weeks at a time. Additionally, it means extra labor in our shop, as we need to hire more people to prep these orders. It means more business for our sub-vendors and support companies.”
The State Assembly recently approved AB 1839 by a unanimous vote. The legislation now moves to the State Senate and will be heard in the Senate’s Budget and Finance Committee later this month.