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08/03/2001 - Runaway Production

How to Produce Movies for Television

"Live as though it were your last day on earth. Some day you
will be right."

-- Robert Anthony, American psychologist

Runaway Production

Last week we talked about production perks and various incentives that are being offered to filmmakers by film commissions in the U.S. and abroad.

"Runaway" film production has reached the crisis state in the U.S. Places such as Canada and Australia are reaping the benefits from the incentives that they are offering.

Hollywood's Creative Coalition, a responsible, proactive group of prominent artists, is lobbying in Washington to keep runaway production to a minimum. It's estimated that runaway filming is costing the U.S. economy in excess of $10 billion a year.

The strength of the U.S. dollar overseas is a great incentive for producers to film abroad.

In addition to The Creative Coalition, The Screen Actors Guild is also involved in the effort to lobby Congress.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in America because of production in other countries that normally would take place in the U.S. California has been at the forefront to dissuade runaway production by offering a $45 million three-year incentive plan, which includes reimbursing filmmakers for permits, public equipment and safety costs.

Over the years, the Directors Guild and Sag joined forces to put together the Film U.S. Alliance, which also includes the American Film Marketing Association, the Producers Guild of America and numerous film commissions.

The Film U.S. Alliance is counting on a wage-based tax credit, an incentive which allows production companies to write off part of their employee wages. They feel that this tax credit is the most effective way to bring jobs back to the states and to level the playing field.

Last year, Film U.S. agreed to back a 20% income tax credit for each worker's wages (up to $20,00) on productions between $500,000 and as much as $10 million.

There's opposition to the tax credit from The Film and Television Action Committee, a coalition of below-the-line employees. They are campaigning for a countervailing tariff against U.S. producers who use foreign subsidies. In fact, the Action Committee is actively circulating petitions to reach their goal to collect 135,000 signatures.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage employees, which represents camera operators and makeup artists, are opposed to the Action Committee's petitions because they feel it will be counterproductive.

Meanwhile, a report that was funded by SAG and the DGA has concluded that runaway production has already created more than $10 billion annually in negative economic impact.

All signs point toward a congressional hearing in Washington which will be aimed at introducing important legislation sometime in 2002.

In the coming months, we'll be keeping an anxious eye on the progress and eventual outcome. This is an emerging crisis that will ultimately effect everyone in the film industry.

"If you hear a different drummer - dreamer, take the chance...The road you choose to travel means the difference in the dance."

-- D. Morgan


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