Saturday, April 2, 2011

Around Town: State tax credit for TV/film industry a good idea

Local Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) did a good thing last week. On Friday, he chaired an informational hearing at the Pasadena City Hall concerning tax credits for the film industry.

Until the late 1990s, California’s entertainment industry stimulated our regional economy with local film shoots and local production. Incentive programs in other states and in Canada have lured away a lot of that business. A recent report in “Variety” notes that due to tax breaks, “the recent box office hit ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ was shot almost entirely in Louisiana, because rebuilding the Santa Monica pier was more affordable than filming on-location.”

Assemblyman Portantino wants to extend an existing California tax credit for the entertainment industry; the credit is currently due to expire in two years. Portantino wants to encourage local film locations in order to stimulate our economy.

The tax credit extension is not just a good idea, it’s a great idea.

The relationship between the film industry and the state of California can be summed up by an old saying: “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

The industry has traditionally been so local, so entrenched, that we took it for granted.

It’s a sad day when California film producers decide to leave the state because of red tape.

It’s even sadder when they leave due to the high expense of local production.

Consider the stateswe’re competing against: The New Mexico Film Office offers “the most straightforward, uncomplicated tax rebate program in the country with full assistance by the State Film Office and Taxation & Revenue throughout the entire process.” There’s a 25% rebate, no sales tax and free listings for proposed locations. It’s all online. It’s easy. There’s no red tape. See

“Battle: Los Angeles” was a coup for Louisiana, which bills itself as the “global leader” in film locations. Its website offers a similar one-step plan with incentives. There’s even an online list of the dozens of shows currently filmed in that state, including “Battle: Los Angeles.” See

One blog (“Making the Movie”) lists all the tax credits state-by-state and gives California a thumbs down. “California is where ‘runaway’ productions are running away from. To fight back, the state offers 20% to 25% in credits, but they are capped at $100M, which gets used up quickly.” See

We need to do more.

It is wonderful that Anthony Portantino held the recent hearing. His proposal to extend California’s tax credit for film production beyond its 2013-2014 sunset clause is a worthy goal.

Nevertheless, we need to do more. California’s tax credit should be extended and expanded.

Perhaps the city of La Cañada Flintridge should consider a two-year waiver of all fees for film shoots within the city on the condition that production staff members buy their meals on Foothill Boulevard.

Let’s do more.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

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