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British Columbia serves as stunt double for Lake Tahoe

Lauren Theodore

Warner Brothers is requesting permission to use the Tahoe Daily Tribune as a prop for an upcoming movie depicted in Lake Tahoe. The movie will feature Jack Nicholson as a retired homicide detective trying to catch a child killer.

However, “The Pledge” will be filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, which will reap the economic benefits.

It’s a familiar trend in this state which shows no signs of slowing.



The Screen Actors Guild’s 96,000 members were polled last June to rate entertainment industry challenges. The “economic runaway,” as it is commonly known, refers to U.S. developed feature films, television movies and TV shows produced in another country. It ranked at the top of SAG’s list.

SAG and the Directors Guild of America issued a report conducted by the international consulting firm Monitor Company which revealed California’s economy lost $10.3 billion in 1998 as a result of movies being filmed elsewhere.



The study estimated 60,000 full-time U.S. jobs were lost in the last three years. It concluded Canada picked up 81 percent of the runaways.

U.S. features filmed in Canada grew 17 percent in 1998.

Canada offers incentives to American production companies who exclusively employ Canadian workers.

The El Dorado Film Commission has no alternative but to sit back and watch it happen.

The Motion Picture Association of America also published figures from the Monitor Study that showed every 1 percent of entertainment jobs in California represents about $9 million in state tax revenue.

A delegation of California legislators are attempting to bring movies back home and the Film and Television Action Committee is behind them in their pleas to the governor.

Last year Assembly members Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and Scott Wildman, D-Burbank, authored two bills that would have created tax rebates for qualifying companies.

Both bills passed the Assembly and the Senate Tax and Revenue Committee, but Kuehl canceled a committee hearing on her bill AB 484 Aug. 16.

Wildman placed language from his stalled bill AB 358, and attached it to S 756, where it was held in Appropriations last session.

Wildman and FTAC addressed the issue Jan. 3.

“Short of a natural disaster, I can’t think of another issue that has generated such a powerful cry for assistance from California’s working families,” Wildman said.

Greg Campbell, Wildman’s chief of staff, said this year they are still working with the industry in hopes of getting the governor’s attention.

“We’re going to keep fighting,” he added.

Campbell is hopeful that the 2000 session will raise awareness on the issue. His staff wants the bare minimum legislation to be a 10 percent refundable tax credit for qualifying state film and TV productions who employ state workers.

“Canada is making an all-out assault to lure the industry and build their infrastructure,” Campbell said.

There are 72 Assembly members and four senators supporting a resolution to persuade the president and Congress to keep the film industry headquartered in California.

Supporters hope AJR 23 will make the nation aware of the need for film industry trade legislation between the U.S. and foreign nations.

The resolution reads, “Canada is enticing entertainment industry jobs out of the country by offering significant tax credits to United States’ production companies. This practice is resulting in less work for American film crews as more and more movies, TV series, sitcoms, mini-series, etc., are being relocated there.”

Lake Tahoe, with its rugged terrain, snow-covered mountains and a sparkling lake generates sizable interest from film producers who want to shoot on location and in turn bring business to the lake economy.

“We are doing OK. We’re holding our own,” El Dorado Film Commissioner Kathleen Dodge said. “We believe there is going to be change.”

Dodge is confident that in five years there will be some feature length films being produced here, not just bit scenes.

However, Canada’s allure, where the scenery is similar to the Sierra and production costs are lower, the damage is already being felt by California residents.

“It is imperative to understand that movies, just like cars and diamonds, can be built anywhere,” Dodge said. “We are grateful for the commercial work we have.”

Dozens of four-wheel-drive commercials are filmed and photographed in the area every year. Subaru recently shot a commercial here. It had snowed when they came which made for memorable footage, Dodge said.

Dodge said the film commission is submitting to a redevelopment council for a symposium that will be attended by film commissioners from around the world. South Lake Tahoe is bidding, Dodge said.

“We would love to get it,” she added.


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