Must Watch: Milken Institute Panel On CA Film Subsidies

Tonight I attended the Milken Institute Panel on increasing film subsidies in California. This was an awesome discussion and you have to watch it. The panel had pro and anti subsidy people along with film executives, union leaders, and politicians. The host asked some great questions that made some of the panel members squirm:

Some of the highlights (or lowlights):

None of the film subsidy supporters wanted to admit how much the program will cost.

Kathy Garmezy of the DGA talks about the terrible plight members of her union suffer as they are displaced by subsidies and argues we need more subsidies here. The host then follows up and asks why then does her group lobby for subsidies elsewhere if she knows it’s hurting her members. She went into squirm mode very quickly.

Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation was probably the person I agree with the most. He simple poked holes into many of the pro-subsidy panelists arguments. In fact he points out that the problem can easily be solved by implementing some kind of duty state-wide through the legislature.

Fox Executive Fred Baron wrongly says that California is the best at making movies and used that fact that VFX is done here as an example. Seriously? He then later on says “Studios care about people” and the audience just moans.

The discussion actually had a significant discussion on VFX and this is where I unfortunately had to interrupt the panel. There were a lot of things said that were incorrect by some of the panelists which I can’t go over. You just have to watch.

They surprisingly took questions by me and some of my readers who were allowed to text and email questions. I submitted a question of how it should be expected for CA to beat BC’s 60% subsidy. The panelists couldn’t believe it was that high and I had to interrupt and tell them it was verified twice by the BC government and a number of producers.

Another reader was able to get a question through on support for our legal effort to place duties on subsidized VFX. Fox exec Fred Baron scoffed at the idea by saying “Does that mean we’ll play duties on imported shoes?!”. I immediately yell out, “We already do!

For those that think I’m Captain America, you’ll be delighted to know that I again was forced to interrupt the panel when they tried to say USA VFX is the best. You can probably hear me interrupt them saying WETA a bunch of times.

It was a fun informative panel and I offered my apologies to the moderator afterwards. I was pleasantly surprised to meet people there who knew who I was and admit they read my blog.

Soldier On.


28 Responses to Must Watch: Milken Institute Panel On CA Film Subsidies

  1. Long Time Post & VFX Producer says:

    Nice interrupting…. Seems rules of civil order apply to all except you?

    Of course they were surprised about the BC 60% figure cause nobody actually gets it. Dude, its like the big prize at an amusement park arcade game. It’s there but nobody ever wins it.

    Must have been frustrating they all blew past your CVD question without one comment or answer, boy you have a lot of educating to do.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Whats great is that many of those people on the panel were interested in learning more about our effort. A little civil disobedience goes a long way… oh and you’re welcome.

    • Polyphemus says:

      Interrupting ?

      That’s the thing I admire most about Canada and the UK system that I’d wish we would have here in America. You guys have question period and can call out bullshit during legistration sessions point blank. Sure it’s heckling but it forces the other side to back up the claims.

      Now we are susposed to be silent when nonsense gets thrown at us?

      Go get ’em Daniel.

      • Disgruntled says:

        Exactly…haven’t you ever seen your house of commons in canada or in england? Speaking truth to power requires a little interruption….especially when its to correct misinformation.

    • Annoyed says:

      Daniel – Please listen to Long Time. Stay in your little box and be quiet whilst the grown ups are misinforming the listening public.

      Long Time is right. The subsidies aren’t that big. They can’t be. Or work would be leaving other locations and going to BC. Have you heard of anyone losing their job in CA or elsewhere in order to send work to BC? Exactly. There has been no impact. VFX companies in CA are thriving. The subsidies aren’t affecting anything.

      Yes, Sony has told a boatload of employees their jobs are moving to BC, and they can either move there or become unemployed. But for heaven’s sake it is not because of the subsidies. It is a conscientious humanitarian attempt on the part of major movie studios to encourage their employees to excercise by skiing and snowboarding.

      Pay no heed to those who claim that’s nonsense and that jobs are being forced to go there because of the subsidies. They’re not that big. Yes, you’ve demonstarted multiple times that BC’s own website calculates that exact number and have followed up multiple times to demonstrate it is correct. That’s irrelevant. VFX people love hockey. that’s why all the jobs are going to one specific, medium sized, seaport city in Canada. It has nothing to do with subsidies, so please shut up.

      It was abhorrent behaviour of you to interrupt those nice people. They know what they’re talking about. Like the guy who said foreign countries don’t know how to do vfx. Yes WETA and London vfx companies amongst others have won numerous Oscars, Baftas and other awards, but this guy knows what he’s talking about. You should have kept your big mouth shut and let him explain to the listening public how the subsidies are not that big of a deal, foreign countries can’t do vfx anyway, and why it’s not causing any jobs to leave CA.

      If there’s one thing we’ve learned about democracy, it’s that the little people like you should not have the right to correct a representative of a powerful coorporation when he is making shit up. Listen to Long Time. It doesn’t matter how many lives are ruined, or how unfair any of this is. Interrupting someone is unforgiveable. I’m so upset, I need to go and have a lie down.

  2. MauricioPC says:

    Not interrupting is like saying we will protest for change, but it will be peaceful.

    How can you make change and creating awareness by being super civil and wait for your time to speak in front of wrong and misleading information? Never saw that work.

    Way to go Daniel. You have support from Brazil as well.

  3. dexter2999 says:

    There is just something that strikes me as slightly grotesque about the greed and misinformation from people at the panel, and it is funny/appropriate that it is being done at the Milken Institute.

    Do people know who this is named for? Michael Milken? Anyone? The “Junk Bond King” that made Billions for himself while causing the market collapse of the late 80’s. Ring any bells?


  4. Dante says:

    The real problems in this Milken events were two:
    – the lack of a microphone, IMHO the only interactive way to give to the lady from DGA and the exec from FOX a reality check from the audience, especially from Soldier who runs numbers like Einstein
    – the host, a complete slow old grump who was just interested in running the show, trying to shut up comments from whoever wasn’t on the stage and caring only to do his little homework well by reading and asking questions.

    It’s interesting to hear them but as long as they don’t get to understand what is really going on in the world out there by listening to digits and voices of people struggling, it’s just like
    a war of arrogance: I say my thought and I go home.

  5. Studio_Spotter says:

    hahah that was awesome. Well done Mr. Lay.

  6. Andreas Jablonka says:

    thoughts while Im watching this:

    – The DGA Lady said she has successfully lobied other states and now is doing the same in CA to get subsidies going. Isnt she defeating her own purpose? If she succeeds the IS leveling the playingfield because everybody bleeds money. Sure more subsidies mean more movies? Also she mentioned their member “understand” when she is woreking on a NYC project they are happy and when she is working on a CA project they just understand. somehow the VES should under stand too no? They dont see so conflicted? THe dga ist just whoring themselves out to every state. the VES is ping ponging between fractions of “do we help LA, or Canada, or NZ, dmani we have to much diversity to take a stance as somebody is always pissed”

    – the fox exec vp says even top talent cannot dictate location over the cost anymore. vfx is mostly done on bigger movies, above 100mio$ so getting a subsidie of 100mio and capping it at 100mio prjects will not helps to keep avengers and iron man in california. it could help the tier 2 market of zoic, pixel magic, pixomondo and other TV 60 min dramas but the big shops like ILM, spi, dd etc will not profit much.

    joseph henchman the tax man. BEST name ever for a tax guy 🙂

    the indian director of film for the majoy of LA is really not making any points. but he said the studio execs said they kept the productions in CA if we became “competitive” well see how does goes if this bill passes. id argue competitive can be match 39% of 40% michigan incentives….

    I actually really like the moderator: he tries to get precise answers, he point blank ask the fox guy if movies would come back if we had incentives and that the studios have pitted vfx shops against each other.

    – the economist makes the point or own Dave Rand always mentions that the director is on site in CA vfx jobs and has direct connections and influence rather than just remote interface

    overall very happy vfx got a prime time spot compared to other areas of filmaking.

    bit sad the CVD went unanswered.

    I think this panel was what i hoped our TOWNHALLS would be like.
    thank you Daniel for going there!

  7. gj says:

    The union rep complained about foreign subsidies encouraging job loss and wants more subsidies??

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      As I said. Like ves. They made subsidies. Now they are dying by it. So of course more subsidies. That’s why she refused the term race to the bottom. What a silly person.

      • londondude says:

        Unfortunately Andreas the problem with yours, and most people’s argument on here, is that you claim this is a race to the bottom and everywhere with subsidies is going to lose. And that they have to keep increasing and increasing subsidies just to compete. Here is the problem:

        1) Subsidies ARE sustainable and they don’t all lose money. All of the arguments I’ve seen for this on here have been fundamentally flawed. Subsidies have done great for VFX industries in NZ, London, and Canada. Yes, they’ve done this at the expense of studios in California. Agreed. But to keep making the case that they’re not “sustainable” is a load of crap.

        2) Most of these places aren’t “racing to the bottom” and work is not moving from one location to another to “chase the subsidies”. London, NZ, Canada, all have established shops, many of which have been in one place for DECADES. This is all part of the scare tactics on this site to work people up because you guys all not-so-secretly hope that Vancouver, NZ, etc, suffer the same pain you’ve experienced. The problem (for you) is that’s not likely to happen.

        Montreal is the most recent case where everyone down in LA wagged their fingers and said “look, higher subsidies. HAHA Vancouver, all the work is going there.” But guess what? It hasn’t happened. MPC opened a facility in Montreal. AND kept their Vancouver office with hundreds of employees. Vancouver is STILL their North American HQ even with higher subsidies in Montreal. Framestore opened In Montreal. Has ILM fled there? Sony? DD? ANY of the other Vancouver companies?? NO.

        But wait you say, Montreal offers more $$, and this is all about the money and racing to chase subsidies. Yet they’re not chasing it there. Why?? I would explain it to you, but by the time you guys figure it out you might realize that it’s not ALL about subsidies, and there are sustainable, thriving vfx hubs in places outside of LA. Sorry how upset that makes you guys in LA.

      • Actually subsidies aren’t sustainable unless your taxpayers are willing to fund profitable foreign companies forever. And they tend to fail when another location offers a better subsidy. That’s why NZ jumped to bump theirs. That’s why BC was losing live action work to Montreal. It is a race to the bottom. You think the studios don’t compare the amount they receive from each area every time they make a film?

        Hmm, Vancouver is made up of many US originated vfx companies. Montreal and Vancouver now have London shops setup. London vfx shops have grown by leaps and bounds under subsidies. None of this has stayed the same for 20 year.

        BC is already losing work to Montreal.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:


        I disagree with you. they are NOT sustainable. The taxpayers of these countries are funding you. your dont pull your own weight. I urge you to watch the milken institute debate. its very enlightening.
        BC HAS lost work to montreal. Google safeBC film if you think we just male it all up.

        Framestore and other houses HAVE shifted employees to montreal. not all of them of course but enough. Vancouver people had to go to Montreal as they could not find a suitable job in Vancouver (I personally know of 2, many others not personally), so do not say it had no impact. It has happened and will happen more as soon as somebody offers more.
        Or lets say California actually does pass that bill and open up our modest 100mio$ subsidie to large productions. the VP/Exec of Fox said it would bring work back here, even if it does not match the big 40% even if its just 20%. I dont feel we should BUY our industry back, no taxpayers should have to pay for this. But lets say it happens, will you suddenly cry foul for subsidies if your job disappears?

        Why did NZ up the subsidies to 25% for Avatar if its so stable? they were afraid of losing it because the US Studios use their leverage!
        If Peter Jackson sells weta, suddenly the big pockets are gone well see how well they can compete with 100 hour weeks and a BUDGET.

        Sony HAS fled ABQ to go to Vancouver. I dont think they will move to Montreal as its pricey to open shops but dont be surprised if it happens after all.

        As long as the subsidized locations are not willing to do anything to make the vfx industry better, out of fear, they will claim its LA vs the world even though we want the best for everybody as we are the only ones making a change and ADAPT(

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