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"NCIS" from CBS shoots in Santa Clarita. Photo: City of Santa Clarita

The economic impact of the film and entertainment industries operating in the Santa Clarita Valley was the topic of discussion at the College of the Canyons Chancellor’s Circle 2012 Annual Business Symposium.

This year’s symposium featured a lineup of guest speakers from local production studios to larger scaled facilities.

The event focused on the economy and how local tax incentives can help keep the business in Southern California.

The city of Santa Clarita issued a record 359 filming permits in 2011, Mayor Laurie Ender said.

“2011 was the busiest for filming here in Santa Clarita,” said Jason Crawford, the city’s economic development manager.

Santa Clarita is the only city in Southern California with an economic film incentive, he said.

“We do everything we can to make sure that filming happens in Santa Clarita often,” Crawford said.

While the city remains flexible with its economic incentives, a few issues have driven production companies away from Santa Clarita and California all together.

“The biggest issue we face is jobs,” said Jim McClafferty, supervising location manager for CBS’s “NCIS.”

Production companies often have to scale back on how many crew members they can hire based on what they can afford, and according to a few, saving money is always a deciding factor.

Friday's syposium attracted a crowd. Photo: Jesse Munoz-COC

In 2009, the Santa Clarita City Council approved funding a Film Incentive Program or FIP, aimed at keeping film and television productions in Santa Clarita by way of subsidizing permit fees.

Currently, the city refunds basic film permit fees and local hotel occupancy taxes for qualifying productions.

“We’ve made a name for ourselves as being the most film-friendly city,” Crawford said.

While the savings are enough for several productions who call the Santa Clarita Valley home, several companies have defected and moved to locations that offer greater financial assistance.

Louisiana is one of many states offering competitive rates to film and television companies. That state initiated a film tax credit in 2003, yielding up to 35 percent in tax breaks.

In 2011, revenues for Louisiana exceeded $1 billion – a 25,000-percent increase over eight years. That fact that rattles the mind of Santa Clarita Studios President Mike DeLorenzo.

“They’re building their third sound stage,” DeLorenzo said. “Today as I stand here, there are over 27 feature films shooting in Louisiana.”

The fluctuation of companies moving out of California, where tax incentives are capped at 20 percent, impacts local economies, and Santa Clarita is no exception.

“When Louisiana began its rebate program, producers would take 90 percent of the crew from California to Louisiana,” DeLorenzo said. “Today, instead of bringing 140 people, they’re bringing 50.”

The infrastructures in other states are developing as more filmmakers and staffers make the move permanent. But February unemployment figures show more than 10,400 jobs were created across Los Angeles County by the movie industry.

“Recent projections indicate that the film and entertainment industries will continue to play an important role in our local economy,” said COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook.

Attendees at Friday’s syposium toured COC’s Media Entertainment Arts facility to see how the junior college is preparing students for jobs in the film and entertainment industry.

“College of the Canyons has designed some great programs to help train the next generation of filmmakers,” said Richard Ballering, vice president of production operations for ABC Studios.

In preparation for an impending remodel, the Media Entertainment Arts facility temporarily moved its headquarters from the fine and performing arts building to Hasley Hall in January 2010, a newer building located on the opposite side of the campus. Eleven months and a few million dollars later, the department moved back into its remodeled home in Mentry Hall.

College of the Canyons is one of only a handful of schools with a fully high-definition facility, said Ron Entrekin. An adjunct instructor by day and a studio engineer by night, Entrekin emphasized the college’s ability to keep equipment up-to-date and in line with industry standard protocols.

“The department is a great venue for students to learn and interact and for the instructors to assist them in making their aspirations into a reality,” said Dave Brill, coordinator of COC’s Media Entertainment Arts program.

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