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EXPO'S A WORLDWIDE SOUNDSTAGE HOLLYWOOD VYING WITH STATES, NATIONS TO LURE FILMS.

Byline: GREG HERNANDEZ

Staff Writer

Los Angeles may be the film capital of the world, but that isn't stopping more than 260 exhibitors from more than three dozen countries and 30 U.S. states from coming to town to try to lure film production to their areas.

The Association of Film Commissioners International kicks off its three-day conference and trade show today at the Santa Monica Civic Center. Production companies are looking to be wooed by savings in the form of tax incentives and other cost-cutting offers.

"The show is a sellout, and there's a waiting list," said AFCI President Robin James, who expects more than 4,000 industry professionals to attend. "There is great interest in what film commissions from around the world have to offer in terms of incentives."

James, chief executive officer of the Pacific Film & Television Commission in Queensland, Australia, said having the commissions all in one place for three days gives production companies the opportunity to compare and contrast location costs, incentives and production services from around the U.S. and rest of the world.

"That's never been more important than it is currently because everyone is keen on reducing the below-the-line costs," James said.

It used to be mostly Canada, with its attractive financial incentives, that attracted movies and television shows formerly shot largely in California. But other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, also dove in and have been followed by dozens more.

Countries from Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim, Africa and the Middle East will be making their pitches. And they will have plenty of company as U.S. film commissions are also planning to crowd the convention floor.

California alone will have two-dozen film commissions from around the state represented. But these days the Golden State is at somewhat of a disadvantage. States such as New York, Louisiana and New Mexico offer financial incentives and have growing infrastructures in the form of filmmaking facilities and workers.

In contrast, California has no state-sponsored incentives and no proposed legislation pending. A bill introduced last year was modeled after New York's incentive package and proposed offering a 12 percent refundable tax credit based on qualifying state expenditures. It never made it to the floor of the state Senate.

New Mexico, which offers a 20 percent tax credit, saw its production spending leap from $71 million in 2005 to $142 million last year.

A 2006 year-end report released by FilmLA Inc. showed that location production for big-screen movies dropped by 7.4 percent last year.

"Every year, this location expo points out how valuable the jobs are and the economic impact the film industry has," said Steve MacDonald, president of FilmLA, which handles the permitting process for the city and surrounding areas and tracks location production activity. "You've got a growing number each year of states and countries willing to spend money in order to try and lure productions and jobs and revenue to their home jurisdictions."

greg.hernandez(at)dailynews.com

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 12, 2007
Words:504
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