Special effects Vet Gene Warren Jr. calls “Film Incentives Kickbacks” in Hollywood
When the 85th Oscar ceremony was happen inside the Dolby Theater outside on the sidewalk were several hundred actors, producers, cast and crews protesting over the MPAA’s support of tax incentives. “Best Movie” ARGO received a $6 million dollar tax break. Veteran special effects Supervisor fills us in on the rest of the story…..a story the media is covering or has been afraid to due to a fear of lost big advertisers.
Hollywood, CA – New technology appears to be giving movie makers the edge in cutting costs, but it appears to also be cutting jobs. And worse, California special effects companies are folding due to foreign competitors, who are cashing in on the digital imagery. The Los Angeles Times has published several stories on film incentives including this special story today (Sunday, 03-14-13) by Richard Verrier.
Special effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr. talks about the major changes in the film industry, 85th OSCARS Awards show and what it’s like to work with Writer, Director, Producer James Cameron, Terminator 2, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. “You can never have enough money to do a movie,” Warren said.
But what bothers him more is, “actual producers of film from the grip, prop makers to actors are now mostly freelance,” explained Warren. “In good old days everyone was on staff from top to bottom. Other than technology, the corporatization of the industry has been the most noticeable change.”
Just coming off of the 85th Oscars Awards Show, Supervisor Gene Warren Jr. discussed the overriding changes in the industry from runaway TV/Film production to outsourcing all aspects of the movie production industry.
Movie and TV production incentives are tax benefits offered on a state-by-state basis throughout the U.S. to avoid runaway state film production. The incentives came about in the 1990s in response to the movie productions flights to other countries such as Canada and Mexico.
John Kiapos, Sophia Kiapos
As for “filming incentives” in America, Warren believes they are “not incentives at all” and instead of creating jobs as reported by the movers and shakers in Hollywood, they are actually stifling jobs that will never come back. Warren is an executive director of the Film Television Action Committee (http://www.ftac.net/), which has filed two grievances and complaints with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. And it is not the first time he said. “We filed a grievance in 1997 and in 2007, but it is getting more noticed today due to the Internet,” he explained.
According to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, The Film & Television Action Committee’s campaign to launch a federal trade investigation of foreign production subsidies has picked up steam and is getting the support of some Southern California cities like Glendale just this week. The FTAC hoping to muster support of other municipalities, including San Fernando, Long Beach and Los Angeles.
While the 85th Academy Awards was handing out Oscars to “Life of PI”, Warren was holding his Oscar high, along with some 400 other visual effects people on the sidewalk outside the Dolby Theater protesting the way the Academy behaves in the industry.
Oscars “Best Picture”, “ARGO” reportedly received $6 million in tax breaks. Warren said, “You can call them what you want, Incentives or whatever, but they kickbacks.” “I will not participate in that,” he said.
Even six years ago the FBI started investigating other states such as Louisiana for illegal kickbacks.
Warren contends that once the studio system ended in the early ‘90’s, technology and new management took over everything changed and many jobs were lost. Warren is correct, too if several studies Online indicate what’s happening in runaway TV/film production. Some studies done by the late Chief Economist Jack Kyser showed 25,000 or more jobs were being lost annually in forecasts that were predicted to be otherwise “rosy” for California Motion Picture/TV Production related Employment.
Warren said it all began in late ‘70’s with 20th Century Fox sold its back lot in CenturyCity. “And little by little it was taken over by bean counters, accountants and lawyers,” he said. So the “Corporization” of the film industry, was probably the “biggest change I’ve ever seen and there were a ton of others,” noted Warren.
As far as film and TV production incentives, Warren said the taxpayers pay for the cost of finding a cheaper place to film a project. Most recently New York came under fire when NBC’s Tonight Show decided to move to the East Coast, garnering a reported $24 million tax break in the move to New York. That’s enough to hire 5,000 teachers.
According to Fox News, an unnamed aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly denied that the tax credit was designed with the Tonight Show in mind, saying “This is simply part of our ongoing effort to attract more entertainment to the state and more economic activity.”
And to add more competition to getting the network show, LA-based production and distribution company with ties to India, announced plans to construct a $90 million movie studio near Savannah, GA in a proposal approved this week by the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority. ECIDA’s mission is to attract and retain jobs in the area. Meantime, the Film & Television Action Committee’s campaign urging the FTC to probe the foreign production subsidies in SoCal grows stronger as more jobs leave the Golden state.