Danny DeVito, Matthew Modine and Sharon Lawrence lent their star power Saturday to the campaign to expand California's film-TV production tax credit program.

"We can't sit back and let the industry go elsewhere," said DeVito in a keynote address at the California Locations Conference at the Hollywood Museum. "California is where we taught the world to do this. What's important is that it's not just the film business, it's the people working in the business."

The trio urged the 150 attendees to push state legislators to approve Assembly Bill 1839, which cleared its first State Senate committee on Wednesday. The bill would broaden the scope of the state's incentives -- currently at $100 million annually, which lag those in Georgia, Louisiana and New York.

DeVito, a former member of the California Film Commission, noted that when he arrived in California in the 1970s, his first series "Taxi" and then-spouse Rhea Perlman's "Cheers" were both shot in Hollywood despite being set elsewhere. And he pointed out that his current sitcom "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is shot on the Fox lot in Los Angeles.

Lawrence led a panel discussion at the event on the values of shooting in California such as crew experience and access to equipment. Several producers pointed out that film backers now routinely demand that incentives be a part of the financing package.

"Our investors are addicted to soft money," noted Bonnie Curtis. "So on a $5 million production, they want $1 million of that to be incentives."

Curtis added that California-based producers simply have to find a way to resist shooting elsewhere, adding, "We have to not be fear-based and just not go."

Modine noted that he's making his directorial debut in California with "The Rocking Horsemen" and elicited major laughs from the crowd by quipping that Vancouver was planning to host the Oscars and that Louisiana had bought the Hollywood sign.

Los Angeles City Council member Felipe Fuentes, who authored the legislation funding the current program while an Assemblyman, offered an upbeat assessment of the prospects for AB 1839′s enactment by asserting that the years of campaigning for a bigger program appear to be paying off.

"$100 million a year isn't enough for California," he added.

The event was presented by the California Film Commission and the Film Liaisons in California Statewide.

 

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