Orange County looking to film industry to boost economy

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Filming at Laguna Canyon Wilderness (Photo credit: OC Parks)

No one region was left untouched by the recession. It appears nearly every industry took a hit, including the film and TV business. Counties who relied heavily on films and shows as big economic money makers, are having a hard time, as the competition to attract films and shows, outside of the region and outside of the state, is extremely tough.

“The onslaught of states, like Louisiana and New Mexico, putting together incentives and tax credit programs are taking business, major feature films, away from Southern California,” said Janice Arrington, Orange County Film Commissioner. “During the recession, we took a hit in the making of TV commercials, some infomercials and corporate videos.”

The Orange County Film Commission is aggressively trying to recover lost business while trying to attract some new clients.

Recently, the Orange County Film Commission received a big win—the area snagged filming for “The Hangover III” on the 73 toll road between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Filming took two days. But those two days meant big spending inside the county.

“The hard numbers have not come in yet from Warner Bros., but I’m proud to report, the economic development that came with that movie was huge,” said Arrington. “More than 230 rooms for two days of shooting, a lot of spending, in terms of parking for crew, more than $25,000 in parking arrangements, toll roads and more. “

Orange County has a pretty solid history of filming with shows like, “Criminal Minds,” “CSI: Miami,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Top Chef,” and of course, “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” It also has film credits with “Ocean’s 13,” “J.Edgar,” “Iron Man,” and “Transformers.” Most recently: the new Star Trek film and a feature film about Walt Disney starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

“One of our benefits is being adjacent to Hollywood or Los Angeles, where they get so much of the productions. Because we are so close we are a location that’s often thought of as well, we go hand in hand, so we’ve always benefited from being next to the production hub.”

She’s not kidding. The latest figures from the Motion Picture Association of America, the organization that represents the six major studios, suggests Orange County third is third in the state, just behind Los Angeles and San Francisco, in vendor spending.  Vendor spending means the dollars spent by the production company when they are in the area filming. In 2008 that number was $143.4 million.

But times are tough for Arrington, whose budget shrank, thanks to the recession, as county spending on the commission, dropped.

As if things weren’t hard enough, Arrington has a smaller budget to work with. Since 2008, her budget, financed by the county, local cities and private donations, has been slashed from $125,000 a year to $20,000, she said.

“I’m tasked with raising money to keep the film commission going,” said Arrington. “I feel we’re going to be successful. I’m looking into more private donations and spending from organizations who benefit from the filming itself.”

Orange County’s unemployment rate in September was 7.1 percent. A year ago, it was 8.7 percent. While the region’s economy is far better off than others in the state, Arrington hopes the film and tv industry will be a huge contributor.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to go to trade shows. There, I’m able to market Orange County. I talk to filmmakers and am able to actually put my business card in their hands. We’re just working with a smaller budget but we’re going to persevere and continue to be a big contributor to the region’s economy.”


Cheryl Getuiza

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