Benefit of Film Productions to Communities and Small Business

Benefit of Film Productions to Communities and Small Business

States gives tax incentives to productions to encourage them to shoot in their state or country because these states and countries know that small businesses and communities will ultimately reap the benefits of the production. Today I will be talking about the benefits of film production on communities and small business.

Full Episode Transcript

Hey there, everyone, this is Leslie, and I’m here to talk about the following topic. Film crews are generally considered a nuisance if you’re in L.A. and you’re trying to get somewhere, but we’re talking today about the benefits of film crews to communities in different areas and to business, especially small business. 
And the reason I am talking about this is because I saw a story where a woman who ran a small business who was already struggling during the pandemic to get customers in, saw that there was a giant film crew outside her restaurant, and she had done all the regulations and everything and had set up, and that costs money, that they probably she didn’t have [the money] to spend because as it is, her business had slowed down.
But now she’s setting up for outside. And then she sees this film crew and they’re setting up outside. And they social distance [the lunch tables], but not to the point where probably the regulators would have approved. 
And so she’s looking at that and going, “Hey, hey, here’s this big… It’s a big production. So clearly it was money, you know”, 
And just as a side note, it’s money anyway during the pandemic, because there’s so many regulations that film crews have to fulfill.
We’ll get into that later, but anyway… So she’s looking at this, what looked like would be a 200 person crew and cast, many, many tables, and she’s looking at her little set up and hers is maybe more set apart. 
I couldn’t tell from the video, but she seemed frustrated that she was being regulated so harshly when the film crew was coming in. She had this whole set up. And basically it’s like somebody had smashed her sandcastle.
And I can understand that as how she perceived it. 
She seemed very frustrated and she just looked at this and she’s thinking, “How are people even going to know I’m open or get to my area? They’re taking up the whole parking lot.”
 And, you know, so I saw this video on somebody I typically trust and who is part of the entertainment industry for many, many years. 
I mean, he lives in the Hollywood Hills, for heaven’s sake, and he’s a political commentator and a standup comedian.
And I was a little bit surprised that he presented this and framed it in the way that he did. I do. I really trust him. And I love his commentary usually. But what didn’t sit well with me was that he agreed with the woman that this [the film crew] was destroying her business.
This setup here… This big film crew had come in to over overstep their space where people couldn’t see her own little business and that it was already a frustration with her.
And, you know, it’s a habit in society to take shots at the entertainment industry and at film production. And especially if you’re in L.A. and you’re like, “I’ve got to get to this place, I’ve got to get to this production or audition and everything,” and you’re trying to get through and it gets very crowded and it messes up the traffic and it closes streets and it’s noisy, 
But overall, those are individual and minor problems that unless you have no idea that they were setting up in that area, you can work around. 
There are many benefits to productions setting up in areas that can support small business, and so I wanted to make a podcast today about that.
I even I left a comment on the YouTube video.
 I saw this comedian, political commentator making a whole episode on his YouTube channel about this.
A lot of people don’t understand that there are states that give tax incentives to producers and productions because it reinvigorates the economy.
I was at a film festival in New Jersey a few years ago, and New Jersey has had an interesting relationship with film incentives where a while, while back, they [the state of New Jersey] had film incentives. 
And what I mean by that is if they [the film productions] have a certain amount of production costs, like let’s say it’s a five hundred thousand dollar production or a TV show or something like that, and they shoot in New Jersey, they will get the refunds for the things that they buy.
So let’s say they get five thousand dollars worth of lunches in New Jersey. If there was a tax on that… That’s not a good example because I don’t know, food and New Jersey tax is kind of weird because generally that’s not taxed, although I think if you eat out, it is. But I don’t want to get… That’s a bad example. But let’s say you need 300 Santa costumes. Those are taxed and you get it from a guy in New Jersey and your production is in New Jersey.
And that’s the whole thing. If you get those costumes and then at the end of the year, you’re talking about the taxes for this production, the tax for those things will be written off like there’s no tax owed, like the sales tax is refunded. 
And that’s because they want that guy with 300 Santa costumes in New Jersey to make that sale. And that’s why a lot of states want that production to come.
There’s like a location’s convention in Los Angeles every year, and it’s basically countries and states encouraging producers to come to their area to shoot because they know that their country or state is going to make money.
The state is going to generate taxes from sales by that group coming so that production. So in New Jersey at this film festival, what had happened was they were talking about this. 
They were having a lecture at this film festival about how New Jersey had tax incentives and then lost tax incentives because they tend to expire. They tend to have to be re-voted on and these producers wanted it [tax incentives] back.
Communities wanted it back. They said there was this whole community that basically started to flourish because there was a production, a show being shot [there].
And I don’t remember what show or what community, but it grew and there were businesses, small businesses that got to come out and thrive. 
And then when the tax incentives ended, that show – boom – gone in a day and this community then started to decline. 
And so… 
Well, just as a side note, that was a few years ago. And now New Jersey has tax incentives back and people like Spielberg are shooting here. And a lot of movies are being shot here more than they were before.
And that money is going into New Jersey’s coffers as taxes, even though they’re giving tax incentives, it’s creating employment.
It’s creating a lot of other money, generating things. That money could have been spent somewhere [else], but it’s being spent in New Jersey and in other in these communities in New Jersey. 
So going back to the story about this woman and granted, maybe they hadn’t started shooting yet, but typically when you’re a producer, you do look for local businesses to support the production. 
And you anticipate compensating them for that.
So when I was producing in Arizona and I knew we’d be shooting in a certain community, I would say, “Hey, what restaurants are here that I could feed my crew with?” 
And I was just an indie producer on a small budget.
But if you have two hundred people, that’s probably a union set, so you know that you’re going to need resources like lunches to feed your crew.
And so part of the job is being a producer is to do that research and also to set that up with people. 
Now, I’m shocked that they probably didn’t. 
It sounds like this woman was not contacted even though she was right next door for lunches. 
But if I had been this woman who was very upset that this crew was ruining her business, I would have said “Here’s my menu. I can feed your two hundred people and I will make them the best box lunches they have ever tasted and get them ready to work for their second, you know, their second six hours on the set or whatever.”
And so I find it disconcerting also that this person who is a comedian, political commentator, didn’t make that distinction, and I find it frustrating that nobody told this woman that she should do business with them and make a lot of money, probably more money than she’s made during the pandemic and more money, maybe even than she made on a normal week or month, because that’s a lot of people to feed every day. And maybe she could have just been their supplier in that regard.
And so that’s one of the aspects of this. The film incentives are there so that people like her can get money. 
And during a pandemic, when it’s actually pretty dead, this is actually a boon potentially to her business. 
The second thing I’d like to point out is that a lot of the time, even though you go after [companies like] Warner Brothers because they’re big business, the thing is, they are employing [a lot of people].
And I know this is a justification for a lot of big businesses that are unethical, but I just want to point out that at the same time, they are employing people who are not big business and in fact, probably freelancers who have also had a pretty precarious experience during the pandemic.
So if they’re willing to go on set, the crew and the cast, then that is important to understand that maybe these hundred people wouldn’t be working had there not been, you know, this film being set up, even if they’re in the union. 
And I will say… I don’t know about the crew union, but I do know that SAG-AFTRA had to adjust some of their standards during the pandemic.And so what used to be enough to get you into healthcare is not going to be enough in the coming years.
And so some people are going to lose their healthcare. 
So all of these working actors need to do more work. 
And maybe this production is what’s going to put people over the edge in that way. This is definitely a working class industry. When you get away from what’s called “above the line” people (and even above the line people [might have need to make an income quota]), they might be working once a year. 
And it’s a very intense work.
But, you know, they need that in order to put them over the top in terms of healthcare and their union and just living expenses. 
So it’s not just the big company that wants to make a lot of money from their blockbuster film. 
It’s employing people who generally have to freelance, even if it’s a high-level freelance.
 And it doesn’t always happen in a way that is lucrative or smooth. 
And I’m glad that they’re getting work and making this production happen.
I’d like to finally add about the spacing between the seats and everything. 
I mentioned a little earlier that the way that the regulations have hit film production is that it’s become very stringent, they have a person on set who is in charge of just making sure the covid regulations are being adhered to, because things happened really fast on a set sometimes. So you need a designated person and they ideally want somebody with a medical background to just say this is being adhered to.
The tests are being done, the temperatures are being taken, gloves are being worn, masks are being worn, social distance is happening. [They say}”I’ll make sure [things are corrected quickly] if it looks like it’s not happening. I will go in and make sure that people are social distancing.”
So when she [the restaurant owner] was saying they’re not even six feet away, [she didn’t realize the] had to, you know, be regulated in a strict [but different] way. 
The thing about that is all of the people on a set are strongly regulated. They have been tested, they have been quarantined, they have been isolated so that when they go on set, they are in a closed community, pretty much. 
So if there’s an actor who’s doing background work, [they get tested and then are not allowed to have contact with anyone until they are on set].
I see this online. 
I’m part of a lot of different Facebook groups and I haven’t gone out and personally done it.
To be honest. I don’t want to.
But I know that I’ve seen a lot of people and I’ve watched a lot of the regulatory videos explaining how to do this.
Where somebody will go in and say, “We want this background actor.” 
And what’s required is that that background actor will get a [covid] test and then must isolate until the day of the shoot. And so they cannot have any contact with anybody else until they shoot. And a lot of the times the producer (and this is when production gets very expensive) has to pay a premium for those days that that actor is in isolation.
If, let’s say, I go into Canada and want to do a shoot there and I’m hiring people from Vancouver, or no, I’m hiring people from Los Angeles and they’re going to Vancouver, they take the test in Vancouver, but maybe I don’t need them for another week. That production, my production, has to house them in their own little self quarantine space until they’re used for the production in that acting capacity. And this is to keep the production safe.
So if those chairs are not as far away as they should be, it’s in a public sense where you’re in a restaurant and people are coming and going and you have no idea who they’ve been around or whether they’ve tested.
On a film set it’s is highly regulated. People are being tested. People are being tested multiple times. Their temperatures are being taken. They are being isolated so that they can be on set around other people without hurting them potentially with an infection
I just want to make that really clear and I think again I have no idea if this comedian is in SAG or whatever, or if he’s even paying attention, but I would say that he probably is, although I don’t know, maybe… I know I’ve seen him on TV. He should know that the SAG regulations are very strict right now. And so, in fact, he’s living in Los Angeles, you hear. You know, so I felt it was very disingenuous for him to present this whole video without explaining that.
And again, I’m going to go back to incentives. 
Bottom line in this is that taxes, tax incentives happen in states because they want the production to come in, because the productions will spend lots of money in that area and will create local taxes generated and state taxes not through the production, but through income tax and other ways.
So this woman complaining… I wish she had saved that video for another five days or 10 days after the production started, and she would see that probably a producer would reach out to her, or this woman with the restaurant should have reached out to the production and said, “Hey, I can support your production by making yummy lunches for your crew?” because that’s another expense right now.

It used to be very self-service style on sets, but that is not allowed anymore. So another very expensive thing that just started happening on film crew sets is that box lunches are for everyone to keep that sanitary. And that totally makes sense.
But at the same time, not only is that a lot of work for the producer, but it’s a lot of work for whoever is preparing the meals.
So maybe she should say, “I can do that for you. I can have two choices for your people: vegetarian, not vegetarian or whatever, gluten free, whatever. I’ll give three choices and then and you tell me a tally and give me two days to do it and we’ll get you two hundred bucks lunches.”
And I think that that would have been an excellent way for her to make a lot of money, but instead she felt like leaving anyway, that’s it.
And I hope she and small businesses do well and continue to do so. 
I hope that every town gets a film crew, because if they did if they had a production going in there, they’d make a lot of money. 
And during this time, I sense that that is something that small business very much needs. 
And so that is how I’m going to end this right now. 
And I hope that you get now that film crews, even though they can be annoying, loud and make you sometimes late for your appointment, if they’re in the middle of the road, but they also can have a lot of benefits on your own community and on your state.
And with that, I’m going to [say] have a great day. I hope you are well.
I’m still figuring out a good pace for this podcast. I’m feeling like once a week is a little bit better. And that way I can get to other aspects until I can really start pumping these out.
But there are certain things I have to do in relation to my website and everything that is causing me to do once a week, which feels like the right pace right now. It’s also a wrap up of the end of the year. So I kind of feel like once the week is appropriate and then I’ll move on to maybe doing it more intensely as the new year begins.
So anyway, I thank you for listening and I hope you have a great day and stay safe and healthy and be well. And I think I’m going to do one more podcast before the holiday. But if I don’t have a happy holiday, whatever holiday that is for you, if you’re Jewish, it’s already the holiday. And I will take care and you will take care.
Oh, my gosh. I’m trying to sign off and I’m being a bit loquacious with it. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon.
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