Major New Movie Studio Coming To Your Town — Not!!!!!

Published On June 2, 2013 | By Mike Carroll | Filmmakers

Movie studio entrepreneur profiled in front page banner headline of the Sunday, June 2, 2013, Sacramento Bee.

Ever since the first inklings of the new American Independent Film Movement started evolving back in the 1980s, everywhere I’ve lived there’s always been somebody getting their names in the press and is discussed as hobnobbing with the local politicians and movers and shakers. And none of it — none of it — ever amounted to anything.

I should also declare that when I lived in Los Angeles, a town that actually does have movie studios, there was always talk of creating a new studio somewhere. And even there — even in Los Angeles — it was usually just somebody blowing smoke (or smog out of their leased and soon-to-be repossessed Mercedes).

It should be noted that these somebodies never — never — come with any type of creditable film background. They’ve never made a movie. They’ve never produced a movie. They’ve never financed a movie. They’ve never directed a movie. They’ve probably never even been an extra in a movie. And from the way they talk you’d doubt that they’ve even seen a movie.

Movies are always associated with fulfilling a dream. The Dream Factory. They’re where dreams are made. There’s plenty of grocery store checkout counter magazines and TMZ that feed on that dream world existence. But not enough is written about the bottomfeeders who prey on the dreamers. Producer reps are a major sore point for me in that category.

But I want to bring your attention to the front page story from today’s Sunday, June 2, 2013, Sacramento Bee:


This is about a woman, Carissa Carpenter, who has been in the news up here in Sacramento, and has been touted by the mayor and the city manager of Dixon, an agricultural community of 18,449 people for her plans to build a $2.8 billion state-of-the-art green movie studio on 300 undeveloped acres.

The city manager claims to have vetted her credentials and investing filmmaking team of 33 people, whose identities she has never made public.

However, it now becomes evident, with a little bit of legwork by the Sacramento Bee, that she has been going around the state and even to South Carolina trying to do the same thing. In each instance it has fizzled out with people who invested money into her and her “projects” losing whatever they put into them.  She’s also has left a string of lawsuits and liens against her in her wake. At various times she’s said that she is basically homeless and collecting social security.

My good friend and filmmaking compadre Michael Dryhurst (Golden Globe-winning producer for Best Motion Picture Comedy Hope and Glory) read this blog and wrote back:

Believe-it-or-not,this lady contacted me about 10-years ago when she was going to build a studio in Eldorado Hills south of Hwy 50. Kathleen Dodge was on board as were some of the others; I told her stop day-dreaming and advanced the same reasons as have you. The ‘facility’was to be titled ‘Independence Studios’. I can’t believe she’s still at it?

I don’t want to cite this individual specifically, because I have not met her. At the TV station where I work I’ve been asked about this “Dixon thing” and I’ve simply told them that this is a joke and will never happen.

City government is always excited to have new developers want to do something that will improve and bring money, jobs and city taxable income into the city revenues.

There have been some studios built in other parts of the country. In North Carolina a studio was built by Dino de Laurentiis, but that’s because he was given the land. He also could use lots of non-union crew and talent there. There have been studios built in Utah, New Mexico and now in Georgia. It should also be noted that these are right-to-work states where non-union crews can be employed.

But in the state of California anybody outside of the L.A. zip code who is talking about building a new movie studio and bringing thousands of high end union jobs into the community is a card-carrying bullshitter. And here are the reasons why:

1) If you are attracting Hollywood talent — actors and directors — to make their film outside of Hollywood, they are going to bring their Hollywood staff. A Hollywood director is going to bring his Hollywood director of photography, who is going to bring his Hollywood camera crew and his Hollywood gaffer and his Hollywood electrical crew.

2) Once all of these Hollywood people are — in this case 400 miles north of Hollywood — now “on location” in a studio outside of L.A., they now all have to be put up in hotels, transported to the studio. Since they are outside of L.A. they also get a daily per diem of anywhere from $50-$500 per day. So you’re now paying to transport them to the new studio, and you’re paying to put them up while they’re in the new studio, and you have to pay them for not being in the city where they live. Your costs are now an additional $150-$1,500 per day per person on your crew — in addition to paying their working wages!!!!!!

3) Movie work is not regular work. There is no such thing as a staff, Monday-Friday, 9-5 job in the movies. Yes, maybe if you want to work in the administrative offices of a studio like Warners or Paramount or some of the others, yes. But to work on a movie crew or be in the movies or television — the work is based on the project. If it’s a film, it’s the amount of time that you are working on the film. When your work on the film is over, your job is over. If you score a gig on a TV series, your work is for the season. If the show is not renewed, the work is over. If the show is renewed, you have to re-apply for the new season. There are no guarantees.

4) Movie professionals are not going to relocate to an out-of-L.A. community, such as Dixon, and buy houses and enroll their kids in schools and shop at the local Costco because once their work on a film — a few weeks to a few months — is over, they’re out of work. In L.A. it’s all about networking and making friends because you’re constantly trying to line up the next gig and another one for after that gig wraps. The concept of having full-time staff movie crew jobs evaporated in the 1960s. (For the city managers and city mayors out there, that was fifty years ago.)

5) Movie studios are a machine and like any machine, it can break down. When you’ve got a piece of high-end equipment stop working on you in the middle of a shoot, which does happen, you need an immediate replacement. When a Panavision camera goes down on a shoot, Panavision rushes out a replacement. Moviemaking is too costly to be shut down. If you’re making a movie in Dixon, California, and you have a Panavision camera (not picking on Panavision, just using it as a high-end name. I would love to shoot a Panavision camera. Of course, I’d love for it to be a classic 1960’s Panavision PSR) go down you can’t afford to lose a day while another is driven or flown up from L.A. Movie studios and movie companies shoot in L.A. because of services — everything is right there. Let me re-emphasize: Everything you need to make a movie is withing the Los Angeles County limits.

This all gets down to the big reason why the studios are in L.A. and why most movies are made in L.A.:

Professionals in the film industry live in Los Angeles because that’s where the work is.

If you want to make movies and you don’t live in Los Angeles then you make them as an independent filmmaker, as I do.

If you want to work in the movies as a gaffer and you want to live in Dixon, then you’ve either got to work on events like concerts and the like at the nearest arena, or you make a helluva commute south on I-5 to L.A.

BOTTOM LINE: You either work where you live, which means that you take a local job of whatever is available and you live where you are.

OR: You want to do something specialized so you go to wherever it is where that work is done to be a part of the industry.

If you’re growing up in Dixon, California, and you want to work on an automotive assembly line, chances are you’re going to be broke and starving if you stay in Dixon, California. Pack up your stuff and head to Detroit or wherever a auto plant is and you might stand a chance.

If you’re growing up in Dixon, California, and you want to make your full-time job and career in making movies, you’ve got to pack your bags and head south on I-5.

So if anybody comes trying to drum up excitement about creating a state-of-the-art movie studio in your community outside of Los Angeles my first reactions would be: Let’s see the escrow account and the names of all of the people behind you. The Sacramento Kings basketball team was just bought from the Maloof family for over $500 Million and all of the investors and their financial involvement was declared. If you’ve got a multi-billion dollar project in the works, you should be able to declare something.

There are reasons why Los Angeles and Las Vegas are often referred to as the cities of broken dreams.

BOTTOM LINE: Why do people believe that they can build a studio in their city? Because everyone involved wants to believe it.

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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

One Response to Major New Movie Studio Coming To Your Town — Not!!!!!

  1. Chris King says:

    Thank you for this article, Mike. Dead on accurate and needed to be said. I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I too am infinitely disgusted by this kind of charlatanism. It is the very definition of snake oil salesmanship. Enough of the horse shit talk of “building a studio” in Dixon or Citrus Heights or Sacramento. It ain’t gonna happen. Try making a decent film instead. Try making something watchable, something that can help put Sacramento on the map that way; through the art and craft of filmmaking and storytelling. I’m not saying that I as a filmmaker myself am there yet, but this is what I am always aspiring to.

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