Is Show Business Creating Jobs Outside of Hollywood? The Buzz


If you think you need to live in Hollywood to work in television or movies, you haven't been paying attention to the closing credits of movies like Twilight or Watchmen. More and more productions are being filmed outside of the traditional center of show business. There are many jobs available, even if you don't have a Hollywood address.

Although Hollywood has traditionally been the center of the entertainment industry, there are a variety of reasons for production companies to look elsewhere. Sometimes a movie or television show will film in a city other than Hollywood because its script requires a different setting, for example.

Other times it's because it's cheaper to film somewhere else. Changes to the film industry have resulted in production companies looking for ways to cut costs. Moving to a cheaper location can result in a much lower budget.

In addition, technology has made it much easier for an independent filmmaker to make a movie anywhere in the world.

In Hollywood, they're known as "runaway productions" -- those that cause jobs in the industry to leave Tinsel Town. Members of Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild have been protesting this trend for years.

"The exodus of projects means lost jobs for California," says Nicholas Paleologos. He is the executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office. He believes there will be more jobs popping up outside of Hollywood in the future.

That means jobs for people like make-up artists, camera people, sound crews, accountants and location managers. Key actors, directors, writers and "creative people" often come straight from Hollywood, however.

Many film companies are even leaving the country and heading north to Canada.

"Canada still competes rather effectively with the U.S. for film and television production," says Tracey Wood. Wood is the vice-president, industrial and external relations, of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association B.C. Producer's Branch.

But Paleologos says that Canadians might not have an advantage for much longer.

"Canada had a big head start by offering generous tax credits," he says. "For many years the U.S. dollar could buy much more in Canada. Those two factors are changing. U.S. tax credits are more competitive. And the weak [U.S.] dollar has levelled the playing field."

And some industry insiders say a reduction in Canadian filming has already happened.

"Productions are still being made," says Canadian director Brian Clement. "But from what I understand it's dried up considerably in the past few years due to the two currencies trading at par for a long time, thus making it less attractive financially to relocate projects to Canada from the U.S."

Jobs leaving Hollywood don't just go to Canada. Many states have set up film boards to try to get Hollywood productions to come to their area. Paleologos's organization, the Massachusetts Film Office, is a good example.

The film industry has grown in Massachusetts over the past 10 years. Producers enjoy the state's countryside and college-town scenery. Some movies shot in Massachusetts include Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Pink Panther 2 and Bride Wars.

Money is a huge factor in deciding where films are made. Places with a lower cost of living attract film producers who want to lower their costs. Lots of southern states don't require film producers to hire unionized production staff. This enables producers to save money on wages.

Then there is the economy, and its ups and downs.

Although the slower economy might lead filmmakers to cheaper locations, some people fear that a general slowdown in the entertainment industry will work against smaller, independent movies being made outside of Hollywood.

"The economic slump that's hit has also affected things," says Clement, "with fewer people taking financial risks on productions that aren't guaranteed money-makers, not to mention the Internet dealing a blow to the rental industry and especially the lower end of the direct-to-video market."

It all comes down to money. Especially during hard economic times, people may film outside of Hollywood if the script or other factors (location of actors, set availability) demands it.

"All things considered, for certain projects, it is simply cheaper to do it outside Hollywood," says Paleologos.

And what about the Internet? The Internet has changed the way we do almost everything these days, and the way films are made -- and distributed -- is no exception.

"Business is always slow to embrace change, and the movie world is being shaken up tremendously right now with the whole digital revolution," says Clement.

"No one wants to pay for recorded music and movies any longer, so while money can be made by musicians doing live performances or movies showing in big theaters, the segment of the market that was direct-to-DVD is going to have to become direct-to-download, and at a fraction of the price of the days when DVDs were $15 to $20 each."

Clement says that because of these Internet-related changes, smaller movies won't be making as much money.

"I think it will be more difficult in the future for smaller productions to be economically viable," he says.

"Again, the only real upside to this is that once the smoke clears, the few remaining no-budget moviemakers will be the ones doing it out of love rather than money. Unfortunately, I think this also means fewer jobs in the traditional sense of paid work in coming years outside the traditional Hollywood business model."

One thing is certain, though: the film industry is looking at a lot of changes that could affect everyone in the industry -- no matter where they live.

Links

Massachusetts Film Office
A good example of a regional film office

Screen Actors Guild
A big voice in the industry