Kevin James is a Candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles
One of America's most lucrative exports is entertainment. It wasn't that long ago that L.A. was the entertainment capital of the world. L.A. was by far the primary source of entertainment content shipped around the globe. Hundreds of thousands of Angelenos built their careers and their livelihoods filling different roles in the entertainment industry. Hollywood is a key contributor to L.A.'s rich history.
Other states began to recognize that entire economies could be created by attracting entertainment jobs to their communities. L.A.'s local leaders, however, remained complacent, confident that L.A.'s sunny skies and comfortable climate was enough to keep Hollywood in Hollywood. L.A.'s elected leaders ignored repeated warnings year in and year out telling them that other states were recruiting local jobs away from us -- right under their noses. In fact, L.A.'s leaders were so callous toward keeping local entertainment jobs here that other cities and states were buying television ads in L.A. to recruit the jobs away from L.A. Our elected leaders seemed to do nothing. They refused to fight to keep these jobs here.
What used to be the healthy and lucrative exportation of movies and television shows from L.A. has now become the painful and devastating exportation of entertainment jobs from L.A.
L.A.'s elected leaders have turned Hollywood upside down. It used to be that television shows and movies that were set in far away places like New York City (I love Lucy), Miami (Golden Girls), or the South (Gone with the Wind), were all shot in Southern California. Now, television shows and movies that are set in Los Angeles are shot in far away places (Battle L.A. was shot in Louisiana).
Lack of a vision for Los Angeles' future by current city leadership has led to the destruction of a local industry. For those that would argue that it is not fair to blame current city leadership for outsourcing tens of thousands of entertainment jobs, one does not have to look farther than FilmLA's own statistics -- "The amount of on-location movie production in L.A. has plummeted 60 percent since it peaked 15 years ago."
City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry were both elected over 11 years ago, while Controller Wendy Greuel was elected to the City Council 10 years ago. Those three elected officials have presided over the largest departure of jobs from L.A. in the history of the entertainment industry. According to FilmLA, in 2005 (when Garcetti, Greuel and Perry were well into their first terms), "82 percent of new TV pilots were made in Los Angeles. By 2011, only 51 percent were filmed here."
I have worked as an attorney in the entertainment industry since 1993 and have had many clients affected by Hollywood outsourcing. An often unreported but potentially devastating hardship caused by the outsourcing of entertainment jobs is the separation of families. When film and television production goes to another state, employees on those shoots must also go to another state, oftentimes leaving a spouse and children behind. There is no doubt such a circumstance can cause severe strain on the family.
My plan to bring Hollywood home will include a fair and equitable across-the-board reduction in our business tax burden and simplification of our business tax structure. The Los Angeles business tax will finally be brought in line with the most business-friendly cities in the region in order to make L.A. competitive again.
Los Angeles is unique in its ability to bring lost jobs back. Because of our geographic location, our climate, our pool of talent, and the fact that every major movie studio is either located in the L.A. city limits or borders L.A., we can bring Hollywood home. While I will work to grow a city film and television incentive program, I will also use the power of the mayoral podium to be a strong advocate in Sacramento to ensure that our State Legislature makes local filming a priority.
If the City Council will not cooperate in the growth of the city's film incentive program, I will go around the City Council and obtain the signatures necessary to put it on the ballot for the public to implement.
According to the California Film Commission, in four years, film and TV projects shooting in California due to California's film incentive program spent $3.9 billion in the state.
I will create an environment for the entertainment industry that provides relief from the city's current obstructionist stream of permitting red-tape which can force businesses through an unnecessary and impossible maze of up to 15 city departments. This will be done by creating a Permit Center which will accelerate previous progress made through the city's Case Management Series office, and will bring in representatives from the key city departments needed to implement effective improvements in permitting. A model to consider is the City of Dallas' Permit Center. Dallas was recently determined by 85 percent of the city's businesses to be a "good" or "excellent" place to do business.
Bringing Hollywood home will result in numerous collateral economic benefits. The California Film Commission reports that a single medium budget movie ($30-$75 million) will purchase goods and services from 485 unique vendors. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation states that a single $175 million movie sustains 2,400 jobs and generates $27 million in state and local tax revenue. According to the LAEDC, 92 percent of all goods and services purchased by California-based film or TV production are locally sourced in the state.
We cannot wait any longer to take swift and bold action to fight for our entertainment jobs. The health of many other industries is directly related to a vibrant entertainment job base, including tourism, technology, and small business. Join me in bringing Hollywood back home.