More than 100 years ago, 467 feet of silent black-and-white film became “A Daring Southern California Holdup,” credited by many as the first movie made in Los Angeles and distributed for worldwide audience viewing.
In the century since, iconic scenes of the Golden State in the movies revealed our state to the world as a special place that inspired dreamers around the world. People everywhere wanted to see for themselves where the magic came to life, launching a century of unabated tourism that makes California a must-see destination for more than 235 million travelers every year.
The California experience is irresistible and the film industry represents a large part of California's unmatched allure. Like many other characteristics that are unique to the Golden State, moviemaking intertwines with California's history and appeal.
The global impact and reach of the state's movie and film industry is significant. Travelers come here to explore the fabulous places, diverse and interesting people and culture that the film and movie industry helps showcase. California-based tour and travel companies have created an entire niche industry by offering tours that show visitors where and how films were made and the locations they were shot.
In recent decades, however, other states and nations challenged California's primacy as the go-to place for film and television production, luring movie companies to new locations by offering substantial financial and tax incentives. When productions leave the state, they take thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in state and local economic and tax benefits with them.
California has its own tax-credit program, but limited funding means only a small percentage of the production companies seeking credits can get them. This year, the number of applicants rose to 497, representing a more than 30 percent increase from 2013. With only 23 projects slated to be selected, the other 474 will be placed on a waiting list, though many of those likely will go elsewhere with their productions.
Assembly Bill 1819, now moving through the Legislature, would extend and enhance California's film and television-tax incentive program. The bill passed the Assembly unanimously and awaits action in the state Senate.
California must act to stem the tide of film productions leaving the state for greener pastures. The cost of inaction is all too real:
Of the 54 big-budget feature films of 2012 and 2013, only one was shot exclusively in California. This equates to a loss of 47,500 jobs and $410 million in tax revenues.
From 2005 to 2013, California's share of the one-hour TV series market declined from 64 percent to 28 percent, resulting in an estimated 8,500 lost jobs.
Feature-film production in Los Angeles plummeted 50 percent since 1996, while television-drama production dropped 39 percent from 2008.
A thriving film industry not only helps the entertainment sector of California business, but has a direct impact on the tourism sector as well. California is synonymous with filming and studios, and the celebrity brand allure is a large part of our state's identity. Keeping a healthy film industry is vital to the well-being of the economy of the state.
Assembly Bill 1819 has the strong bipartisan support of more than 70 co-authors, including 13 state senators. The California Film and Television Production Alliance, as well as California's top mayors, statewide and regional business groups, the California Federation of Teachers, labor groups, and others.
For more information on how you can help keep California competitive and ensure production jobs stay here, visit www.filmworksca.com.
Joe D'Alessandro is president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association.