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Leader, execs discuss changes in film industry

Posted: March 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita had a record year for film permits and related revenue in 2011, but states other than California with incentives for filming are endangering this region’s edge in entertainment, industry officials said Friday.

Mike DeLorenzo, president of Santa Clarita Studios; Jim McClafferty, supervising location manager for “NCIS”; and Richard Ballering, vice president of production operations for ABC Studios spoke during the Chancellor’s Circle Business Symposium at the College of the Canyons.

The fourth annual symposium held Friday on the COC Valencia campus focused on the film industry’s economic impact on the Santa Clarita Valley.

The topic was timely, as the city just finished 2011 with a record 359 filming permits and local film advocates had just returned from lobbying Sacramento to extend and expand film tax incentives to keep filming in California.

Santa Clarita Mayor Laurie Ender started the morning by telling the crowd that 2011’s 359 permits constituted a 7 percent increase from 2010’s numbers, and it resulted in $19.3 million in related revenue for Santa Clarita businesses.

“When we’re looking at an economy where increases are rare, that’s pretty good news to us,” she said.

The mayor partially attributed the growth to the state’s film and tax credit, which provided $100 million in incentives and rebates last year to cable and low-budget filming in California.

Thirty of the 110 projects that qualified for the tax credit were filmed in Santa Clarita, Ender said.

She also praised city residents, businesses and leaders for maintaining a film-friendly attitude.

The college in particular, she said, has been extremely accessible for filming. Eight percent of the 2011 permits were for filming at

The other speakers echoed Ender’s praise of the city, each calling Santa Clarita one of the most film-friendly cities in the state.

McClafferty said “NCIS” films in Santa Clarita because of the “very fast and affordable permit process,” which is crucial when TV shows have to determine a location within a matter of days.

Ballering, from ABC Studios, discussed plans for the soundstage and production complex on the 890-acre Disney/ABC Studios Golden Oak Ranch off the Interstate 14.

The expansion will add 2,800 full- and part-time jobs to the area, with $1.3 million in new annual revenue for L.A. County.

“Santa Clarita has been a very important filming destination for generations,” he said. “With consistent reinvestment, Santa Clarita will continue to be a leader in the film community.”

While Santa Clarita’s film industry has stayed strong, California has seen an exodus from production companies as other states begin to offer comparable or better tax incentives for filming.

Louisiana reached the $1 billion filming revenue mark this past year, said DeLorenzo from Santa Clarita Studios.

DeLorenzo was on the trip 80 city representatives made to Sacramento Monday and Tuesday, and he said many legislators don’t understand how the film tax credits benefit the state economy.

The tax credits are set to expire in 18 months unless extended.

While California’s film revenue is 40 times that of Louisiana’s, DeLorenzo said, that doesn’t mean the state is going to stay the leader of the film industry unless it continues to create incentives for production to stay here.

Fifteen years ago, California housed 90 percent of sound stages. Now, only 70 percent are in the state, he said.

“We’re losing another industry,” DeLorenzo said, explaining that legislators think the tax credits benefit the wealthy directors and actors of productions, when in reality they help the “below the line” production crew members like assistants and drivers.

But this misconception is why state legislators are hesitant to extend the tax credits to major television networks like ABC and NBC, which instead film in states like New York because they get tax incentives there, he said.

About 70 percent of Santa Clarita Studio’s productions qualified for the state tax credit in 2011, DeLorenzo said.

Regardless of how the state addresses the exodus, Santa Clarita will continue to be as flexible and accommodating to the film industry as possible, Ender said.

“We’ve given the industry the necessary support to stay and grow in the state of California,” she said.



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