Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Declining L.A. Film Shoots

Now with Add On.

So far, overall animation production hasn't taken a major hit in total employment numbers here in the California southland. (Thank heavens for medium-sized favors).

But such is not the case for live-action filming:

Location filming for movies and TV commercials on the streets of Los Angeles, once as prevalent as the corner taco truck, is rapidly fading to black. Double whammies of the recession and out-of-state economic incentives for producers have caused on-location film shoots in the Los Angeles area to fall to their lowest levels on record.

Since the collapse of Southern California's aerospace industry a decade ago, the labor-intensive entertainment industry, in which hundreds of people are needed to make a single movie or TV commercial, has picked up the slack in the local economy. But as Hollywood and Madison Avenue respond to lower consumer spending by reining in production of movies and commercials, the pullbacks are having a dire effect on workers in the industry ...

The Times talks about the hard times Los Angeles found itself after aerospace cratered in the early nineties, but it's worse than that today.

The shipping business -- all those big freighters that steam into Long Beach and San Pedro to get off-loaded -- generates 400,000 jobs when all the stevedores, truckers, switch yard employees and warehouse personnel, supervisors and accountants are factored in. But with the shrinking world economy and collapsing trade, the import business isn't generating 400,000 jobs anymore. (There's a surprise).

So why should Los Angeles-based animation workers care? Because with higher unemployment, the overall quality of life declines. Added to which, we are attached to Pension and Health Plans that depend on money coming in from all segments of the movie industry in order to remain viable. To put it succinctly: if our trust funds eat it, then we all eat it.

The state governor, whatever you think of him, has long known California needed to be more competitive with film tax incentives, but it's taken a considerable while to get tax breaks and subsidies shoe-horned into the California tax code, largely because legislators in the Central Valley and Northern California didn't see the point. (A tax break for Godless Hollywood didn't help them, after all.)

As everything has trundled to hell in a hand-cart, however, more eyes have been opened:

... After refusing for years to get on the incentives bandwagon, California recently decided to jump onboard. A five-year, $500 million tax-break plan for California's entertainment industry, with an annual $100 million limit, was slipped into the state budget recently passed in Sacramento. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, long a proponent of helping Hollywood, signed the bill in late February ...

It's going to take some time for the new incentives to kick in, but since we are all in the movie industry together, we better hope that they make a difference.

Add On: There's this startling news: Variety relates how hiring in the entertainment biz has declined over the past year:

Overall, the entertainment job market is down 19,200 posts from a high of 141,400 in 2008, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

But for animators, there is one small silver lining:

Vidgame companies are eliminating the use of live-action footage in spots and relying on animation from their games to push new titles.

So ... animation will keep getting done, even as live action gets cut. We don't rep games (yet?) but it's good that those animators aren't losing their jobs.


Anonymous said...

There's no surprise here. A production can save a lot of money by doing it outside of california. It's good that Arnold signed the incentive bill but is 500 million realistic?

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