Mr. “NO”rby Oblivious to Runaway Production
California film crews cheered across the state yesterday upon hearing the news that AB 1069 passed the California Assembly by a vote of 72-1. The bill extends the life of the California Film & Television Tax Credit and funds it at $100 million annually for an additional five years (until 2019). As we reported in March, the California film incentive is not for the benefit of Hollywood “fat cats”, it’s for the benefit of the tens of thousands of California families (like the one pictured to the left) whose welfare depends on California’s heritage industry.
Earlier this year, Film Works highlighted the benefits and economic impact California has reaped as a result of the film incentive:
- 113 total projects
- $2.2 billion total aggregate direct spending by projects
- $728 million total wages paid to Californians
- $6.5 billion total output (business revenues)
- 40,996 total FTE jobs created
But more than the impressive numbers above, the California Film & Television Tax Credit prevented what would have been the worst year on record for on-location feature film production in 2010:
All of this begs the question: who would vote against such a successful film incentive program? The lone California Assemblymen, according to the Associated Press, who voted against AB1069 was Chris Norby, who had some troubling remarks about the legislation:
Only Assemblyman Chris Norby voted against the bill, saying the tax credits tilted the level playing field of business competition.
“This is about picking and choosing economic winners and losers,” Norby said. “If you want to support Hollywood, go see a movie. I haven’t seen one in a long time.”
If Norby believes the way to “support Hollywood” is going to see a movie and admits he “hasn’t seen one in a long time”, then, by his own definition, Norby does not support the California film and television industry. Why Norby would not support a California industry that employs more than 200,000 state residents (many residing is his Orange County District), is composed of thousands of small businesses and pays over $15 billion annually in wages to Californians is beyond Film Works’ comprehension.
If the California film and television industry was a single company, it would be the largest single employer of Californians in the state! Yes, the California Film and Television Tax Credit is about picking winners over losers. For California, the film and television industry is a clear winner and an invaluable asset the state needs to protect. Why, Mr. Norby, did you vote against a winner when a “NO” vote only helps turn it into a loser and hurts it?
Norby’s disregard for California’s film and television industry is particularly perplexing, given the amount of economic activity it generates for the Orange County district he represents. The following chart is just a partial filmography of projects that have shot in the area Mr. Norby was elected to represent:
| J. Edgar (2011)The Backup PlanMarmaduke
Star Trek (2009)
The Day the Earth Stood Still
All About Steve
Rush Hour 3
|Wonder Woman (2011)90210The Defenders
Top Gear, Outlaw
No Ordinary Family
The Biggest Loser
Real Housewives of Orange County
Sears Teen Clothing
It’s important to note that some of these projects are incentivized productions able to stay in California because of the film & television tax credit. J. Edgar, for example, is a big budget feature film from Director Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. If Mr. Norby does not want the thousands of jobs these productions created in his district, not to mention the millions of dollars they pumped into his district’s local economy, other states and nations are standing by eager to snatch it away.
Norby’s disregard for a crucial state industry aside, the Assemblyman is dead wrong about a crucial fact. The California Film & Television Tax Credit was not created to tilt the playing field, it was enacted to level it. Note, in the graph above, that feature film activity peaked in 1996. This is significant because it was the year before Canada enacted the first significant film incentive in 1997. From 1997 to 2002, the number of people employed in Canada working on U.S. film and television productions more than doubled, going from under 24,000 to over 53,000! It was Canada that first tilted the playing field. In response, beginning in 2002, over 40 U.S. states rushed to step in and duplicate Canada’s success, thus further tilting the field to their advantage and California was further disadvantaged. As the number of states offering incentives increased, California’s share of feature film production decreased dramatically:
As former President Ronald Reagan (president of the United State and, of course, the Screen Actors Guild) once said, “for the free market to work, everyone has to compete on equal footing.” Mr. Norby, without the California Film & Television Tax Credit, California is not able to compete on equal footing. In fact, even with the California film incentive, the state is still not competing on a level playing field, given the modest level of the credit relative to other states. California’s modest 20% credit, which is capped and only applies to certain expenses is a far cry from the 35% Louisiana offers on virtually every production-related expense.
It’s obvious Mr. Norby has not been to the movies in a long time. If he had, he might have noticed that hardly any of them are actually shot in California, much less Hollywood. And if Mr. Norby sees one of the few films that have shot in California in recent years, such as J.J. Abrams Super 8 or Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar (which shot in Norby’s district), he can thank the other 72 California Assembly Members who voted FOR the California Film & Television Tax Credit and not himself, as the lone vote opposing it.