Contact: Bert Hammond
April 5, 2004
WATSON RELEASES LETTER URGING ENTERTAINMENT STUDIOS TO CURB OUTSOURCING
Washington, D.C. - Congresswoman Diane E. Watson (D-CA-33rd) today released a letter to Jack Valenti, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), urging entertainment companies to curb the practice of "runaway production" - the outsourcing of U.S. film and television productions to foreign countries. The letter was co-signed by 27 Members of Congress, including ten members of the California delegation.
The letter cites the decision by Universal Studios to film the movie Cinderella Man in Canada as a specific example of outsourcing in the entertainment industry. The movie, starring Russell Crowe and Rene Zellweger, is scheduled to start shooting in Toronto on April 19. It traces the fairytale rise of Depression-era hero James L. Braddock from a poor local fighter in New Jersey to the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
"This phenomenon of bringing U.S. film productions to foreign countries solely for profit has caused serious damage to local economies across the country," said Congresswoman Watson. "It has not only affected the labor force of the U.S. arts community, but also threatened the livelihood of small businesspeople who may operate restaurants, dry cleaners, and hotels dependent on film and television productions."
"I simply want to urge the studios to exercise a level of self-discipline and keep productions in the United States," stated Watson.
According to the Department of Commerce, the phenomenon of runaway production is costing the U.S. economy as much as $10 billion per year. During the past year, major productions such as The Core, Paycheck, Timeline, Cold Mountain, X-Men 2, and Miracle, with storylines based in the United States, were all filmed outside of the country.
The letter has received strong endorsements from various locals of major unions, among them The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists, and Allied Crafts (IATSE), the Teamsters Union, the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Congresswoman Watson represents the 33rd Congressional District of California, which includes many entertainment companies such as Sony Studios, Capitol Records, American Film Institute, Raleigh Film and Television Studios, and parts of Paramount Studios.
The Text of the Letter:
April 5th, 2004
Chairman and CEO
Motion Picture Association of America
15503 Ventura Blvd
Encino, California 91436
Dear Mr. Valenti:
We write to express our serious concern with the phenomenon of "runaway production," or outsourcing, in the entertainment industry. For example, while we applaud the effort by Universal Studios to tell the triumphant story of James J. Braddock in "Cinderella Man," one of our nation's greatest boxing heroes, we are deeply concerned by the outsourcing of its filming to Canada. For our economy and the hundreds of U.S. jobs affected by the production of "Cinderella Man," we strongly urge you to call on Universal to reconsider.
As you are aware, the phenomenon of film and television productions developed and based in the United States but filmed in another country for economic reasons has cost the U.S. economy tens of thousands of jobs and billions in revenue. Studios choosing to film the Civil War-based "Cold Mountain" in Romania and last year's Oscar winner "Chicago" in Toronto are stark examples of placing profits over American jobs. Despite the U.S.- based themes of these movies, many U.S. workers were denied opportunities to participate due to their filming locations.
Universal's film traces the fairytale rise of James J. Braddock from a poor local fighter to the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. His story is intrinsically American. The talents and hard work of the U.S. creative workforce should not be overlooked in the creation of such an All-American tale.
We are aware that subsidies provided by foreign countries to film makers have put the United States at a serious disadvantage. Indeed Congress and many state and local governments are currently working hard to curb the epidemic of runaway production through various wage credit and tax incentive proposals. While we continue to seek out legislative solutions to the issue, we hope your member studios will take into account the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs to foreign labor forces by refusing to participate in the further outsourcing of U.S. jobs. Their decisions will not only impact families whose heads of households are struggling to find and keep work, but also send a strong message that U.S. jobs in the entertainment sector are not for export.
Director Robert Altman recently refused to shoot any more American films in Canada based solely on economic reasons. Clint Eastwood also insisted on shooting "Mystic River' in Boston. We note and commend Mr. Ron Howard, the director for "Cinderella Man," for making his last sixteen films in the United States. We hope Universal Studios will seriously reconsider filming "Cinderella Man" in Canada, and ensure future decisions on film location will take into account their impact on U.S. economy and jobs.
List of Letter Co-Signers: Raul Grijalva (AZ), Brad Sherman (CA), John Conyers (MI), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI), Bernard Sanders (VT), James McGovern (MA), Joe Baca (CA), Albert Wynn (MD), Linda Sanchez (CA), Alcee Hastings (FL), Major Owens (NY), Lois Capps (CA), Darlene Hooley (OR), James Clyburn (SC), Lynn Woolsey (CA), Louise Slaughter (NY), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Anna Eshoo (CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Karen McCarthy (NY), Bob Filner (CA), Nita Lowey (NY), Hilda Solis (CA), Juanita Millender-McDonald (CA), Loretta Sanchez (CA), and Sherrod Brown (OH)