Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hollywood Slowdown Puts Pinch on Film Crews

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Hollywood Slowdown Puts Pinch on Film Crews

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- Veteran film editor Donn Cambern wrapped up work on Disney's My Favorite Martian and looked ahead to his next job. Only there wasn't a next job at the moment.

After years of tremendous growth, Hollywood is starting to slow down, with the big studios cranking out fewer movies, and TV and film productions fleeing to Canada and elsewhere. The causes include soaring production costs, a glutted movie market, lower costs in producer-friendly foreign countries and fundamental changes -- and new choices -- in the business of entertaining.

Economists and Hollywood boosters insist it's too early to get too worried, but the change -- be it a correction, a blip or the start of something worse -- is reverberating throughout the industry, striking hardest at technicians, crafts people, equipment suppliers and other workers. "Many times I have about two pictures in front of me. Right now, there's nothing in front of me," said Cambern, a free-lance editor and the new president of the board of the Motion Pictures Editors Guild, one of many labor groups sounding the alarm. "Everyone is starting to feel the slowdown." This weekend, Hollywood gets a cold hard look at what more it could lose -- and who will take it -- as hundreds of film commissioners, from Iowa to Iceland, gather in Los Angeles for their annual convention. Through Sunday, they'll all be making their best cases to move TV and film production to their areas. The meeting comes amid these unsettling signs: * The number of films in wide release, usually the bigger-budget motion pictures that generate a larger number of well-paid union jobs, last year was at its lowest level in six years; 139 movies in wide release, down from 151 in 1997. * The number of television and movie location production days in Los Angeles County, where most of the industry's filming takes place, dropped 4.2 percent last year to 45,653 days, compared with 47,669 days in 1997. * An estimated 11,300 acting jobs were lost because of work going to Canada. That's on top of the 5,500 jobs lost in the 1996-1997 season and about 2,600 the season before that, according to the Screen Actors Guild. * Rentals of cameras, sound equipment and other production gear were down 30 percent last year after what a rental industry representative called "a banner year" in 1997. In California, still the capital of the entertainment business, lawmakers are so concerned about the $27 billion industry that they've introduced or are about to introduce three bills to provide tax credits and to ease environmental rules for production companies that remain in the state. …

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