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NYC in Montreal? Weiner, Unions Decry Runaway

What better way to clarify the difficulty that New York and the nation face from runaway production?

It seems that USA Networks wanted to film a TV bio picture of New York City's former mayor Rudolph Giuliani. So a network with such a patriotic name would simply shoot the production in the Big Apple, yes?

No. Not in New York. Not even in the U.S. Try Montreal. Canada.

Learning of the network's decision, Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat who represents Queens and Brooklyn in Congress, last week held a press conference with SAG, AFTRA, the DGA and IATSE to protest the runaway shoot.

Both Weiner and the unions used the gathering to specify the negative impact runaways have on New York City, and to tout federal legislation to encourage film productions to stay at home.

"Once again, this is a perfect example of what unions have been trying to explain to legislators across the country," SAG Deputy National Director Pamm Fair said of the bio shoot. "A story about an American icon being filmed by an American producer outside the borders. American viewers may never know the difference, but American workers will."

Weiner noted that film and TV is a $5 billion industry in New York City, creating over 100,000 jobs. But the runaway impact began in 1998, when Canada implemented tax credits allowing producers to save money by moving productions to Montreal and Toronto, as well as other Canadian locations. The Congressman listed dramatic numbers showing New York City's loss:

-- After Canada imposed its film tax credits, NYC's share of North American feature film productions dropped from 18% to 4%. Over the same time period, Canada's share rose from 10% to 25%.

-- Feature film spending in the city in the two years prior to the Canadian tax credits exceeded $1.2 billion. But in the two years after the tax credits, NYC spending dropped to $525 million. Over the same period, spending in Canada rose from $845 million to $2.1 billion.

-- Every $10 million spent on a feature film in New York creates 125 jobs. So the migration of films from NYC to Canada has cost the Apple an estimated 10,800 jobs.

-- From 1993 to 1998, the economic impact of film and TV spending increased in NYC from $3.3 billion to $5.9 billion. But after the tax credits that figure fell by $610,765,000.

-- Annual local tax revenue generated for the city by film and television production increased by $115,346,450 from '93-'98, but dropped by $26.5 million after the tax credits.

The unions are encouraging Congressional lawmakers this session to pass H.R. 3131, the United States Independent Film and Television Production Incentive Act of 2001. The title of the bill shows that legislation doesn't move quickly on Capitol Hill. The bill was introduced last year, and has slowly picked up co-sponsors. Weiner is one. The legislation provides a 25% production tax credit on the first $25,000 of qualifying wages for all films with total wages between $200,000 and $10 million. It currently sits in the House Ways and Means Committee, awaiting consideration. A similar bill in the Senate is S. 1278; it sits in the Senate Finance Committee.

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