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Union Roundup – December 2003

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If it isn’t already, the South Park ditty Blame Canada may come to be associated with the Schwarzenegger administration as closely as Happy Days Are Here Again or any tune from Camelot is linked with the administration of that Kennedy fella whose family the governor married into.
That’s because expectations are high that Gov. Total Recall can make good on all those campaign trail soundbites and solve every flipping problem the state has, since it’s been proven—hasn’t it?—that all those problems were the entire fault of Gray Davis. Included on that list is the little matter of runaway production. State Senator Sheila Kuehl introduced a California version of the tax rebate formula that Congress repeatedly wrestles with on the federal level, for keeping film production anchored stateside. However, with Davis and the state legislature going through so many budgets agonistes, they were unable to support Kuehl’s bill without looking like they were taking money from schoolchildren and handing it over to a bunch of Boxster-driving producers.
Many assume though that Arnold is capable of getting away with such a move and indeed, Teamsters Local 399 is one of the groups demanding it. In fact, they did so recently at a rally held in Century City, picked because Axium International, the payroll company, originally planned to hold a symposium at the St. Regis Hotel on the wonders of Canadian tax incentives for Hollywood producers. But word of the impending truckers’ rally—organized by FTAC and featuring Kuehl as one of the speakers—prompted Axium to not only cancel but take out an ad in the trades around the same time imploring Arnie to help keep TV and film production jobs here in Cali – where an “international” company like Axium is also willing to do business.
But here’s where Arnie’s reputation as an action hero cuts both ways: On the assumption that the new Gov just might do something—or sign something—that would help, in some tiny way, to slow down “free trade” job flight, the Canadians launched a pre-emptive strike—pre-emption being quite fashionable among governments these days—admittedly “to check Schwarzenegger’s determination to stop U.S. production from running to Canada,” according to one Canadian paper.
Canada will do this by announcing increased tax credits for productions filmed there. It’s a trade war! Eventually, producers will be able to film their movies for free.
The irony is that while Arnie has talked in a general way about production flight, he actually hasn’t been unequivocally “determined” about what he might do to address the problem. Indeed, he has other problems: A finance director drafted from First Brother Jeb Bush’s state government who keeps stomping out of Assembly and Senate hearings, and a little damage control among GOP ranks for a statement in which he said that some social spending cuts were off the table—like “cutting dog food for blind people.” Fellow Republicans would have to support Arnie’s multibillion dollar bond proposal—or raise taxes! Better to let the blind go dogless, according to current Republican orthodoxy, but still, it may signal that Arnie isn’t willing to overly subsidize the Boxster crowd either.
And while Schwarzie’s mere presence may have spurred the Canadians into ever more Teamster-galling action, the Canucks themselves are experiencing domestic disturbances: the Edmonton Journal reports that Alberta is readying its own province-wide tax breaks to lure film business away from Toronto and Vancouver. The Albertans even sent their economic development minister to take some Hollywood meetings.
And, according to that Canadian paper, here’s what the VP of production for Warner Bros.—not identified by name—told the minister, “calming his fears.” Said the VP about the possibility of Hollywood film production drying up in Canada: “Listen, if we can make $50 million more shooting in Alberta, then we will.”
Let’s see the Terminator go up against that.
– Mark London Williams

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