County looking to lure movie, TV productions

Board may form committee to work on bringing more Hollywood productions to Riverside County

POSTED: 05:43 AM PST Dec 18, 2012    UPDATED: 05:56 AM PST Dec 18, 2012 
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -

Making Riverside County more attractive to film and television production companies will be on the Board of Supervisors' agenda Tuesday.

Supervisors John Benoit and Jeff Stone are jointly introducing a proposal to form a committee tasked with identifying monetary and other incentives that might bring more Tinseltown action to the inland region.

"Film and television studios are taking business out of the state and nation, and this is an effort to bring the industry back to Riverside County and create jobs and take  advantage of the county's diverse scenery and set  locations," said county Foreign Trade Commissioner Tom Freeman.

According to the supervisors, a "model" ordinance is needed to eliminate fees and ensure expedited handling of film and TV companies' requests to set up shoots locally.

The Blue Ribbon Committee, if approved by the board, would seek input from entertainment industry players on what can be done to attract Hollywood projects and compete for business bound for other locations, particularly Canada, according to Freeman.

"The goal is to make Riverside County `the most film- and television-friendly county in the nation' and bring back production crews to the county and its 28 cities," he said.

So-called "runaway production" has led to billions in lost revenue to California, as well as tens of thousands of lost jobs, according to FilmLA.com and other sources.

By one estimate, the number of studio-backed feature films shot in California dropped from 66 percent in 2003 to less than 40 percent last year.

According to the county Office of Foreign Trade, because of its hefty tax breaks for labor and other incentives, Canada remains a big draw for many projects that originate in the U.S. The OFT used the city of Toronto as an example, noting that the $1.13 billion in location film and television spending there last year represented a 25 percent increase from the year before.

The OFT said American film and TV production companies have spent an estimated $2.2 billion in Toronto over the past seven years.

"This is a snapshot of just one international city taking significant numbers of jobs and investment away from our state, cities and counties ... by creating a television and film-friendly environment and culture," according to
an OFT document.

In 2009, the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program went into effect. However, there is a backlog of companies applying for the 20-25 percent credits for labor. The program is limited to $100 million in credits annually.

According to the OFT, a single 5-day TV episode creates 165 jobs and generates about $2 million in revenue to the community where it's shot.

Members of the Blue Ribbon Committee would likely include representatives from area convention and visitors' bureaus, the Inland Empire Film Commission, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership and the 28 cities.

The goal is to have a new ordinance in place by the time of the Palm Springs Springs International Film Festival, slated for Jan. 3-14.