Garcetti Appoints New L.A. Film Czar, Requests Tax Credit Extension

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has requested an expansion of entertainment tax credits from the state and appointed a new chief advisor on film and TV production. Entertainment lawyer Ken Ziffren, who takes up the advisor position following the death of Tom Sherak, will seek to increase local production through expanded state incentives.

“Stopping runaway production is about protecting our middle class,” said Garcetti. “Ken will be a powerful leader in our fight against other states that are taking our jobs, and he will be aggressive about streamlining government so red tape doesn’t contribute to driving production away.”

According to the Mayor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Production, which Garcetti established last year following his election, only one out of 45 “big budget” feature films was shot exclusively in California over 2012-2013, representing a loss of thousands of jobs to other states. From 2005 to 2013, California’s share of the 1-hour TV series market declined from 64% to 28%.

“This is a critical moment for our industry and our economy,” Ziffren said. “If we don’t fight back now, these jobs are going to be lost for good, and that would be a devastating blow to our middle class. This is about jobs for carpenters, electricians, makeup artists — good jobs that leave enough over at the end of the month to save for retirement, save for the kids’ college, and to spend in our neighborhoods.” Ziffren brings extensive entertainment industry experience to the new position, having played a key role in resolving a Writer’s Guild strike and represented the NFL in negotiating network TV contracts.

Bloomberg Businessweek also reports that Garcetti has lobbied Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators to double the current tax credit’s $100 million cap and expand it to include commercials, pay-TV programs and movies with budgets over $75 million.

CA Commercial Tax Credit Bill Still Alive in Sacramento

The Association of International Commercial Producers (AICP) has updated its membership about efforts to pass SB 370, the Golden State Commercial Tax Credit Program. After meeting with members of the Senate Governance & Finance Committee in Sacramento, the organization remains confident that commercial production is recognized by lawmakers “as a statewide economic generator of revenue and employment for California.”

One remaining impediment to passing commercial tax credit legislation is the question of where the money would come from. Proponents are seeking $15 million in annual funding for the credit program. There are three possibilities for obtaining those funds:

  1. Take the $15 million out of the existing $100 million already allocated to the film tax credit. This is the least likely to fly in Sacramento or Hollywood, as it would tap the already limited funds available to productions seeking the film tax credit.
  2. Add $15 million to the $100 million cap, and roll the two credit programs together.
  3. Find a separate funding source for the $15 million, and make the commercial tax credit a standalone program.

Based on talks with the senate committee, the AICP has identified the third option as the way to move forward, having agreed with labor unions and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) “to seek a standalone tax credit that reflects the unique business model and nature of our industry.”

To bolster its case, the AICP is seeking letters of support for SB 370 from member companies. Forty-three member companies submitted letters that helped get the legislation written initially; the association says additional submissions will help strengthen the economic argument for a commercial tax credit in California. Particularly of interest are anecdotes about commercial production that has been taken out of state due to tax credits elsewhere.

The AICP has provided a draft letter here. If you want to submit a letter, you can print it on company letterhead and send it to:

The Honorable Ted Lieu
State Capitol, Room 4061
Sacramento, CA 95814

The association also requests that you send a PDF copy of letters to davidp@aicp.com.

Details of SAG-AFTRA Ad Pact Released by Hollywood Reporter

Alleged details of the recently negotiated tentative pact between SAG-AFTRA and the advertising industry have been posted by Jonathan Handel of The Hollywood Reporter. Citing a source close to the negotiations, the reported points include a one-time 6% wage increase at the beginning of the 3-year deal, an increase in Pension & Health contributions from 15.5% to 16.8%.

If accurate, these numbers are far from official, as the agreement still needs to be approved by the union’s national board of directors at its April 20-21 meeting. At that time, details of the deal will officially be released to the public. Following approval by the board, the new agreement would go to SAG-AFTRA membership for ratification.

See the story in the Reporter here.

SAG-AFTRA Reaches Commercial Pact with Industry

Following over 7 weeks of talks, SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee reached a tentative agreement Saturday on terms for successor agreements to the television and radio commercials contracts. The deal is subject to approval by the SAG-AFTRA National Board of Directors later this month, then a ratification vote by the membership.

“These contracts provide our members with the solid foundation they need to sustain their careers and families,” said SAG-AFTRA National Co-President and Negotiating Committee National Chair Roberta Reardon. “I am very grateful to our negotiating committee which came together and worked as one to ensure a strong contract for their sisters and brothers who work in the commercials area.”

“These negotiations have been a positive and productive continuation of our longtime partnership with commercial performers and their representatives,” said Douglas J. Wood, lead negotiator for the Joint Policy Committee which represents ad agencies and national advertisers. “I am pleased to have achieved these important industry gains in key areas and I want to thank my colleague and JPC Counsel Stacy Marcus and the other members of our negotiating team.”

The formal talks, which wrapped up in the early-morning hours of Saturday, April 6 in New York, had begun February 14. Though SAG and AFTRA just merged one year ago, they have traditionally negotiated the commercials agreement side by side.

SAG-AFTRA said no details would be released until the National Board of Directors’ review at their April 20-21 meeting.

L.A. Metro Is Ready for Its Closeup

With Metro lines being extended and new stations built over the next couple of years across Los Angeles, the trains and stations are bound to become a bigger part of the fabric of L.A. life and therefore, entertainment. For film, TV and commercial productions hoping to use these properties as locations, there’s now one place to turn: Hollywood Locations has announced that they are now representing the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for all filming on METRO owned property.

Hollywood Locations will rep L.A. Metro-owned properties.There’s history here, and a longstanding relationship. Hollywood Locations has represented and marketed the regional transit hub, Los Angeles Union Station, for over the last 13 years, estimating that they have negotiated and coordinated over 1,000 film and event productions at the property. Recent features to have filmed at the historic station include The Dark Knight Rises, Friends with Benefits and Gangster Squad.

“We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to offering the numerous Metro properties and locations available for filming throughout Los Angeles County,” said Pete Brosnan, Sr. Vice President of Hollywood Locations.

To inquire about filming at a Metro-owned property, Brosnan says to contact Portfolio Manager Jeff Cooper at (213) 617-0111.

5 Things You Need To Know When Hiring a Camera Crew

Camera CrewSeasoned HD video producers know that the best way to ensure a successful shoot is to surround themselves with a reliable, experienced freelance camera crew. But hiring camera crews for productions locally or internationally can be a challenge, with shrinking production budgets and timeframes, plus more competition than ever for top end talent behind the camera.

So how do you find and secure the best camera crew for your projects, time and again? Here are a few basic tips for hiring a camera crew for your next project.

  1. Get a Reference or Three. Ask potential camera crew members not only for a demo of their work, but for references from their last three clients. You’ll want to be assured that the crew you choose are not only creatively and technically competent, but are professional in every aspect of their service – including communications and client interaction.
  2. Hire Locally. If you’re shooting overseas, recognize the inherent issues with time zones, cultures, and the speed of doing business. We often think about travel and working conditions only in the context of what we experience in our own town or country. But each location has its own set of challenges. Getting from here to there looks simple on a map, but can take far more time on mountain roads versus superhighways. Getting shooting permits is a little trickier in Morocco than in Michigan. A well-vetted local camera crew that knows the terrain, permitting regulations and local customs is a must.
  3. You Get What You Pay For. Budget worst case scenario for freelance camera crew rates. Freelance camera crews are working for different producers each day at rates that are sometimes determined by program complexity, length of assignment, and their own availability and interest. While you want to get the best value from the freelancers you choose, don’t tie your hands in the budget stage by lowballing rates.
  4. Happy Crew, Happy You. Treat your crews well on the job. Make sure that you plan for breaks and meals during your shoot – especially if you are shooting on a long day or in difficult circumstances. A happy, well-fed camera crew is a productive camera crew! And a crew that is happy with their last work with you will be happy to return for your next project…and perhaps at a favorable rate!
  5. Safety First, Second and Last. Always be safe, and make sure your camera crew is safe as well. Make certain that your crew have the appropriate safety equipment that may be required by the environment. If you’re shooting in a construction site, steel-toed boots can save a foot. And be sure to know ahead of time where the nearest medical facility can be found.

These basic tips can help get you on the right track with hiring a camera crew on your next project. As with other elements in the production cycle, it’s your choice as to how much time to devote to finding a crew, whether to turn over this job to a production manager, or to utilize a crew booking service like Media Services Camera Crews Worldwide. Often, getting the best camera crews can be a combination of all of the above. But it always starts with careful and comprehensive planning by producers on just what level of talent they need to make their show sparkle.

For more information about booking camera crews in locations worldwide, please visit mediaservices.com/crews.

NY Local 52 Commercial Agreement Effective 12/30/12

The upcoming new agreement between AICP commercial producers and IATSE Local 52 Studio Mechanics puts in place wage scale increases, benefit contribution rates and meal allowance increases, while also standardizing low budget agreements, adding First Aid workers to covered employees, and adding Bethpage Long Island facilities to the Studio Zone.

Current wage scales will remain in effect until December 29, when the minimum daily call will go up by $5 for one day only. Then on December 30, rates will be increased by 4% across the board, based on the December 29 minimum daily call rates. On December 1, 2013, rates will be increased again, by 2%.

Benefit contributions for employees working in the New York City Zone will have contributions made to MPIPHP at the current rate of $10.632 per hour, plus 6% of scale hourly rate to Individual Account Plans (IAP). Contributions for employees working in the Philadelphia Zone will increase to $95 per day on December 30. All employees working outside both the New York City Zone and Philadelphia Zone will have their contributions increased to $80 per day.

The deadline for AICP member companies to sign the new agreement is February 15, 2013.

Free Form Now Available for California WTPA Compliance

In an ongoing effort to provide the most comprehensive production management resources available, Media Services has published a sample CA WTPA Form for employers to use in order to be in compliance with the new California Wage Theft Prevention Act. This PDF form is free to everyone – no registration required.

As detailed in a previous post, as of January 1, California Labor Code Section 2810.5 requires employers to provide each non-exempt employee at the time of hire with a written notice indicating rate or rates of pay, basis for pay rate (e.g. per hour, shift, day, week, piece, etc), regular pay day and other information. Employees working under a collective bargaining agreement are not covered under the legislation, provided they earn at least 30% more than the state’s minimum wage.

Media Services will provide its payroll clients with printed triplicate notice forms, free of charge. In addition, the company is holding its second live webinar on the subject January 10 at 11am PST/ 2pm EST. Register here to reserve your spot.

Massachusetts Production Coalition President Joe Maiella Named Imaginnaire 2012

Photo of Joe MaiellaMedia Services VP of Sales & Crew Booking Joe Maiella has been selected as one of four 2012 Imaginnaires, a distinction bestowed by Imagine News each year. As current president and a founding board member of the Massachusetts Production Coalition, Maiella is intricately involved with the production community in New England. Imagine will recognize his contribution at their gala New Year Celebration on January 10 in Boston.

The Massachusetts Production Coalition represents a diverse group of production-related businesses throughout the state, and also has a union presence with board members from IATSE, SAG and AFTRA. The group was instrumental in working with the legislature and governor to pass Massachusett’s film tax credit four years ago. Though tax credits of all stripes have come under fire across the country in recent years due to state budget cuts, the Massachusetts incentives are credited with creating thousands of jobs and bringing a wave of new productions to the Commonwealth. The MPC is a chief advocate for the tax credit program across the state.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award, particularly alongside such an esteemed group of fellow Imaginnaires,” said Maiella. “Achieving this recognition would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the MPC board of directors, past and present, and the countless contributions from those within our production community who share our passion for advancing our profession and the production industry in Massachusetts.”

“Joe Maiella supports and gives back his rich and creative ideas to the film, television and new media production community in New England,” said Imagine publisher Carol Patton. “We wanted to express our appreciation for Joe’s continued leadership and support of this industry and the Massachusetts Film Tax Incentive program, which he has been called upon to extol and defend in our regional mainstream media.”

The other Imaginnaires for 2012 are:

  • Dan Bérubé:  Co-producer of Final Cut Pro User Group and SuperMeets
  • Marianne Leone: Actor, writer, industry activist; seen next in The Three Stooges.
  • Rex Trailer: TV pioneer and beloved host of Boston’s “Boomtown” from 1956-1974; Emerson college professor

Imagine News puts out a regular publication focused on film, TV and new media production in the Northeast. The gala New Year Celebration is held on the second Tuesday in January each year.

Media Services Crew Booking division, headed up by Maiella, connects producers and corporate media departments with qualified crew and gear all over the world.

California Wage Theft Prevention Act: What You Need To Know for January 1

A new law goes into effect January 1 which will require additional paperwork to be filled out and distributed to all non-exempt hires in California who are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Live webinar on this topic Thursday, December 15 – Register here!

Under the Wage Theft Prevention Act, California Labor Code Section 2810.5 requires an employer to provide each non-exempt employee at the time of hire with a written notice including the following information:

  • Employee’s rate or rates of pay, including the employee’s overtime rate of pay, as applicable.
  • Basis for the employee’s rate of pay (e.g., by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission or other).
  • Any allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage (e.g., tips, meals, lodging).
  • Regular pay day designated by the employer.
  • Employer’s name, including any “doing business as” names used by the employer.
  • Physical address of the employer’s main office or principal place of business, and a mailing address, if different.
  • Employer’s telephone number.
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
  • Any other information that the Labor Commissioner deems important and necessary.

If an employer makes changes to the information listed above, the employer must provide notice of the changes to the employee within seven days.  This may be accomplished by providing a written amendment, a whole new written notice, or a revised wage statement (i.e. paycheck stub) furnished in accordance with Section 226, containing the new information.

The notice must be in “the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information” to the employee (if other than English).

For purposes of this section, “employee” does not include any of the following:

  • An employee directly employed by the state or any political subdivision thereof, including any city, county, or special district.
  • An employee who is exempt from the payment of overtime wages by statute or the wage orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission.
  • An employee who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement if the agreement expressly provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of the employee, and if the agreement provides premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked and a regular hourly rate of pay for those employees of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage.

Accordingly, the statute only mandates written notices to non-union, non-exempt employees.

In addition to the notice requirements, the Labor Code still provides for the following information to be listed in the wage statements as always:

  • Employee’s name.
  • Employer’s name, address and telephone number.
  • Dates of work covered by the payment of wages.
  • Employee’s rate or rates of pay.
  • Basis for the employee’s rate of pay (e.g., by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or other).
  • Gross wages.
  • Any allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage (e.g., tips, meals, lodging).
  • Deductions.
  • Net Wages.
  • For non-exempt employees, the employee’s regular rate of pay, regular hours worked, and overtime rate of pay and overtime hours worked.
  • Employees paid by piece, the number of pieces completed and the piece rate therefore.

We recommend you maintain payroll records for at least three years after the employment for the employee ends.

The Labor Commissioner will prepare a template of the notice in accordance with Section 2810.5, and will make it available for employers to use.

As a service to clients, Media Services will amend and prepare a notice template specific to the entertainment industry for new hires and will distribute packets of these forms to production companies with which we do payroll business.  The notice form will be in three parts: a top copy for the new hire, a copy for the production company’s records and a copy to be sent to the payroll company for our records.

Please note: it is the responsibility of the production company to provide new hires with the new hire notices containing all of the required information, in a timely and accurate manner. And although some information addressed in the written notice is already contained in the workplace posters mandated by other laws, Section 2810.5 does not change any of those posting requirements.

Media Services will be conducting a free, interactive webinar on this subject on Thursday, December 15 at 11am PST, where all questions will be answered. Space is limited – reserve your spot here.

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