Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who last year declared a “state of emergency” in the local film and television production industry, announced Monday the hiring of veteran entertainment attorney Kenneth Ziffren as his film czar.
Ziffren, a founding partner of film industry law firm Ziffren Brittenham, replaces Tom Sherak, who died last month following a long battle with prostate cancer.
Ziffren will lead Garcetti’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Production in pushing for tax breaks aimed at stemming the flow of television and film production out of the city and California to other states and countries.
A recent report by FilmL.A. indicated entertainment production in Los Angeles has increased in recent years but is still 50 percent below the 1996 peak.
Garcetti called Ziffren a “brilliant legal scholar” who brings a wealth of experience from his law practice and has demonstrated a knack for bringing multiple “moving pieces together and getting the job done.”
Ziffren, who also teaches entertainment law at UCLA, was involved in mediating and ending the Writers Guild of America strike in 1988, represented Starz in the creation of premium pay television services in 1994 and was special counsel to the NFL in negotiating contracts with television networks.
“It is a daunting task to follow in the footsteps of someone as remarkable and beloved as Tom Sherak — he is a true legend in our business,” Ziffren said.
The newly appointed film czar is expected to carry through a plan put in place by Sherak to lobby for upping the amount of state film tax incentives from $100 million, with legislation expected to be introduced soon in Sacramento.
“I’ve accepted the mayor’s offer to get involved because this is a critical issue and a critical time for Los Angeles and more broadly, the state of California,” Ziffren said. “I’ve worked in the entertainment industry all my professional life. The products that we create are a large part of what makes the Golden State unique.”
The proposed overhaul of the state’s incentives program, which is being crafted by Assembly members Mike Gatto, Raul Bocanegra and Kevin De Leon, would also call for expanding the incentives program to include television pilots, commercials, premium cable shows and productions with budgets of more than $75 million.
Advocates of the plan say it would make California more competitive with programs in states like New York, which offers a incentives pot of $425 million.