A bill to extend California’s motion picture tax credit program sailed through a state Assembly committee April 17, concerns were raised that Hollywood isn’t using their taxpayer money to promote filmmaking among racial minorities.

“Clearly we have a lot of work to do; I think there is much more we should do,” said Kansen Chu, a San Jose Democrat and chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media committee.

Like the four other committee members present for the vote, Chu approved Assembly Bill 1734, which would lengthen by five years California’s $330-million-a-year film and television tax credit program. The policy is due to sunset at the end of 2019.

Committee members also approved without opposition Assembly Bill 2936, which is a virtually identical measure to continue the credits.

But Chu said that he would reserve his vote on the Assembly floor if concerns regarding a need for minority filmmakers were not sufficiently addressed.

Assembly leader Ian Calderon, a City of Industry Democrat and sponsor of AB 1734, has said that a final version of the bill could include greater incentives for women and minority filmmakers.

The California legislature passed in 2014 an expansion of the state’s tax credit program for movies and television shows from $100 million a year in credits to $330 million per annum.

Under the legislation, television shows relocating to the Golden State and movies that shoot in California net a 20 percent to 25 percent refund on crew member wages, plus production and editing costs. While a statewide policy, more than 90 percent of shoots that use the credit take place in Los Angeles County.

Unlike other states, including Georgia and Louisiana, California limits its credit program to film crew, and does not partly reimburse the wages of actors, writers and directors.

The California Chamber of Commerce and various labor unions attended the committee hearing to shower praise on tax credits, stating that they say generated billions of dollars in spending including crew wages.

Alison Taylor, a member of Hollywood Teamsters Local 399, said that the NWA biopic, “Straight Outta Compton” would have filmed in Georgia or Louisiana were it not for a tax credit.

“Can you imagine a film called ‘Straight Outta Compton’ being shot in New Orleans?” Taylor said, asserting that the movie pumped $200 million into the Los Angeles-area economy.

A Senate committee is slated to take up their own version of the film tax credit extension April 18.

Media and entertainment reporter Matthew Blake can be reached at (323)556-8332 or mblake@labusinessjournal.com

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