L.A.’s New Film Czar Says California Needs To Increase Incentives For Film Production

Ken Ziffren said for California to stop runaway production, it will need to increase the tax incentives it gives to studios.

Ken Ziffren, right, with attorney Larry Stein, and CBS President & CEO Leslie Moonves in July. Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

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Los Angeles’ new film czar Ken Ziffren said Thursday that California’s $100 million annual cap on tax incentives for film productions is insufficient, but declined to give a solid number for what he thought it should be.

“Whatever it takes to a reasonable cap,” he said. “Bigger than a bread box, smaller than a house. In the end, that’s a decision the legislature will make in conjunction with the governor.”

Ziffren called the cap “unfortunate” and said it was “really insufficient to take advantage of productions that pop up over the course of the year.” Productions must apply for incentives through a lottery system, making it difficult for for projects that can’t plan “significantly ahead,” he said.

California’s $100 million annual cap is among the largest in the nation, but it trails New York’s $420 million cap, as well as the annual sums states like Louisiana, Georgia, and Massachusetts offer.

From 2004-2012, California experienced an 11% decline in film and television jobs, according to a report title “A Hollywood Exit: What California Must Do to Remain Competitive in Entertainment — and Keep Jobs” released by the Milken Institute Thursday. The report found during the same time, those jobs increased by 25% in New York.

“As the Milkin Institute report said, we still are the top state in terms of productions and employment, but the trends are against us,” Ziffren said. “We’re hoping the legislation and our efforts on the ground will start moving it in the right direction.”

Wednesday, Netflix and Disney announced the upcoming series Flawed Heroes of Hell’s Kitchen, about Marvel heroes, would be filmed in New York. It’s the largest production commitment in state history, according to the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Under California’s current incentive laws, such a project would not be eligible for tax breaks because it airs online. A bill expanding California’s program introduced last week would allow any one-hour television series, regardless it aired, to be eligible. “I would certainly rather those be produced here,” Ziffren said.

Ziffren, an entertainment lawyer, was appointed Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s advisor on motion picture and television production Feb. 4.

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