The scene opens at the base of a mountain range, under a cloudless crisp blue sky. Rows of folding chairs sit, pristinely ready for crowds of people, in front of a platform with a podium and a single row of director’s chairs. Maybe it is the director’s chairs that pull the audience out of the assumed reality of a political rally. Maybe it’s just the right visual cue for a political rally for filmmakers.
As I sat baking in the sun on Saturday morning in one of the above-described folding chairs, I couldn’t help but imagine a movie scene. I was watching a film that referenced JFK being president, or had an ensemble cast of misfits fighting the political machine play out before my very eyes. Politicians and filmmakers are all about creating visuals and inspiring stories and at Independent Studio Services on Saturday morning it was as if I was looking at life through instagram’s 1977 filter. There was something nostalgic about it, a rally (with charismatic leaders, inspiring speeches and cheering crowds) in front of a prop house in the most perfect weather imaginable. Maybe it’s because I grew up in California, in the state where filmmaking became a booming industry, that I see so many of my life experiences as movie scenes. Or maybe it’s because I find my livelihood in working in the motion picture industry that I constantly observe the world in terms of where a camera might sit or how the crowd could be more strategically placed to imply endless people. But I suppose that’s the point, the state of California has always meant two things: endless summertime (except for those two weeks in February) and movie making.
On March 15, 2014, 30 small businesses sponsored and Independent Studio Services and Chef Robert Catering hosted a kick off rally to discuss The Expanded Film and Television Job Creation Act, Assembly Bill 1839. The elevator pitch of AB 1839 is simple enough, to extend the time of California’s film tax credit and expand the scope to keep film production in the state of California. The bill is a reaction to runaway film productions and and the film industry, in general, leaving California. To the crowd assembled on Saturday morning, the bill was a no-brainer; filmmakers want film making to stay in California. I’d love to not have conversations about shooting a movie in Louisiana in August or South Carolina in the fall because it’s just better for the budget. But the struggle isn’t convincing filmmakers, we all know (though I will admit, being in a production bubble for the last month, I had no knowledge of this bill before this weekend) it’s about making the rest of California understand the importance of film to our state. It’s about our friends who don’t work 12-hour days, or think when we say crafty we mean an arts and craft table at a summer camp.
At ReKon, we spend a lot of time in production. We spend weeks scoping out locations, months developing relationships with local vendors, and scores of afternoons discussing business over lunches and coffees. We do all of this in Los Angeles, or surrounding areas. Film production to ReKon, is working right under the Hollywood sign or just a drive from the nearest beach, or walking in a hallway that Charlie Chaplin once strutted around in. ReKon is a small business just trying to make it in the picture business and we love being in Los Angeles, in California. Film making is our business, but it is also the business of everyone we interact with on a regular basis.
We need to talk about how when a big movie comes into town for a couple of weeks or months, it impacts our state economy. Or how if our crews are out in Atlanta filming a movie for two months, how every dollar they spend on that afternoon coffee or the weekend loads of laundry or new shirt they need is spent not in our local shops. Or maybe we could chat about how much the entertainment industry is composed of small businesses, places with fewer than 10 employees and how “Hollywood” isn’t all studios that are larger than life. What it really comes down to is talking about how movies are made, how many people are really, truly involved in making that silver screen magic. All the people are important from the baristas that hand me coffee three times a day while I’m in production, or the Target that’s open until midnight on Friday night so I can find that perfect indigo blue tank top my lead has to be wearing in this one scene. As Felipe Fuentes, from the Los Angeles City Council said on Saturday, “Our job is to facilitate the story, our job is to tell state legislatures [and in our case our non-industry people] it is about more than storytelling… it is about people’s livelihood.”
So here we are, the camera has panned up to the cloudless blue sky above the rally and it’s time to cut to the next scene. Let’s get everything ready for the next scene, and the next sequel and that remake twenty years down the line, to be in our beautiful backyard at the base of those mountains. Go on over to the Film Works California website to sign the petition, or for more information on the bill and ways to get involve. Share the petition or information on social media, and if you’re feeling retro today – write a letter to local paper or congressman or state representative.