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L.A. Waives Filming Fees on City Land to Keep Movies, TV Shows Local

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The movie "500 Days of Summer" was filmed at a city-owned park in downtown Los Angeles. | Photo: kangster/Flickr/Creative Commons License
The movie "500 Days of Summer" was filmed at a city-owned park in downtown Los Angeles. | Photo: kangster/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Los Angeles City Council today approved an extension of a five-year fee waiver for film productions shot on city property, along with other measures aimed at combating runaway production.

The council voted 15-0 to extend until June 30, 2019, a fee usually charged for filming on city-owned property, such as Los Angeles City Hall, libraries, airports, and police facilities. Over the years, City Hall has served as a set for TV shows such as "Scandal," "The West Wing" and "Newsroom," and such motion pictures as "Chinatown, "Gangster Squad," and "Mission Impossible 3."

City officials estimated the fee waivers may have cost the city about $1.75 million in lost revenue over the past five years, but argue the roughly $350,000 annual loss is acceptable, considering increased revenue from higher business and sales taxes.

The waiver program "has already produced great results," Councilman Paul Krekorian told his colleagues before the vote today.

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Production on city property not only "sets a good example, but it also creates real jobs and real revenues that more than make up for that small cost," said Krekorian, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Film and TV Production Jobs.

The waiver, enacted in 2006 and extended once, expired at the end of June. If signed by the mayor, the fee waiver would apply retroactively to July 1. Some properties would be exempt from the waiver, including the Convention Center, Olvera Street, and the Los Angeles Zoo.

The waiver and other measures, which include obtaining feedback from the film industry on a regular basis, will prepare Los Angeles for taking on an "influx" in production anticipated in response to recently state passed legislation, Krekorian said.

In 2015, new tax incentives are expected to become available for producers. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to make $330 million per year in tax credits available through a competitive application process. The move raised the pot offered by California above the previous $100 million and brings it closer to the $420 million a year offered by New York.

Krekorian said the legislation will turn back the tide on runaway production in California, and the measures approved today will "improve Los Angeles' footing in getting production back here and keep it here where it belongs."

The newly approved measures "will simplify the film permitting process, incentivize filming at city-owned properties and show that Los Angeles is ready to improve the way it does business with the film industry," Krekorian said.

Other measures include having FilmL.A., the city-county permitting agency, keep records of the fees waived, the types of film productions that receive waivers and city properties booked for filming. The city also would analyze feedback from the film industry annually and free up parking at the Department of Water and Power's downtown headquarters for use by the film industry.

The measures also include looking into the hiring of more staffers for the Department of Parks and Recreation film office and in the Transportation Department, which is responsible for posting of film-related street closing signs. City officials also would create a list of city-owned filming locations, or properties that can be used for parking or other production-related purposes.

"Taken together, these matters ... will send a very strong statement to the rest of the country that Los Angeles intends to remain the entertainment capital of the world," Krekorian said.

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