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DI-introductory story


By Jack Egan
The issue of runaway production and its impact on jobs in Hollywood are the subjects of a new public service advertisement shot in HD. It debuted at the one-day HD Expo, held in Los Angeles in early March. The screening was followed by a panel discussion “Chasing the Runaways: the Flight of U.S. Film and Television Production,” chaired by actor-author Fran Drescher.
Plans are for the six-minute PSA to be shown on HDNet and to members of Congress; and in a cut-down version, as a theatrical trailer, said Melissa Balin, marketing director for the HD Expo event. Balin produced the film and it was directed by Tony Goldwyn, a member of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit social and policy advocacy group for the entertainment industry. HDNet, the all hi-def network headed by Mark Cuban, and the Creative Coalition partnered in making the spot. About 50 people donated their services.
Both the PSA and the panel participants cast the hot-button topic of runaways in the larger context of economic globalization and the general movement of jobs abroad as well as a bread-and-butter concern of industry professionals who are finding work harder to come by. “We are a manufacturing community, no different than any other industry when it comes to offshore production, outsourcing and all the things companies are doing nowadays,” opined set designer Ann Harris, one of those featured in the PSA. Others included key grip J. Patrick Daily and Teamster Lew Burnett.
Director Martha Coolidge, one of the panelists, said it was “important not to demonize the studios,” noting that they had legitimate bottom-line considerations. At the same time she lamented that when she is asked to do a movie abroad, “after working 20 years to establish relationships with creative partners, I can’t bring them with me, and I’m alone working with new people who may not know how we do things back home and certainly don’t know my way of doing things.”
Coolidge said one solution was “to level the playing field” with subsidies. “We don’t have to make it cheaper here, we just have to get it close,” she told the audience. “Sometimes getting a budget down by a few hundred thousand dollars will bring a movie back to this country.” The director held out hope that a bill now in Congress that would subsidize production in the U.S. for films using homegrown talent was going to help stem runaway production. But that bill is currently hung up in the House of Representatives because, ironically, some provisions in the overall legislation provide tax benefits to companies that move jobs overseas.
Possible local tax changes were addressed by panelist Wendy Greuel, a member of the Los Angeles city council. Greuel, who used to be with DreamWorks, said she recently met with L.A. Mayor Kenneth Hahn about giving out some breaks for smaller entertainment-related businesses and also to writers who are now penalized when they are taxed as business corporations. Greuel also said it was possible municipal buildings could be made available for filming free of charge.

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