Lights, Camera, Action!

Making More Movies in New York

Volume CV, No. 1January, 2005

When you think of making movies, Los Angeles is the first city that probably comes to mind. But Local 802 hopes to make you think of both Los Angeles and New York.

A new City Council bill would create a 5 percent city tax credit for film producers doing certain types of film production work in New York City (including soundtrack recordings).

The bill would complement recently passed state legislation allowing a 10 percent tax credit for similar work done in New York State.

As reported in last month’s Allegro, film studios are starting to use subtle methods to get around soundtrack recording. So any piece of legislation that encourages legitimate studio production in New York could benefit New York recording musicians.

The bill is Intro 454-A. 802 member Roger Blanc testified to City Council on Dec. 1 in support of the bill. Blanc is vice president of the New York chapter of the Recording Musicians Association as well as second vice president of the international RMA.

The transcript is below.

Ladies and gentlemen: My name is Roger Blanc and I’m a New York City-based freelance musician and vice president on the local and international boards of the Recording Musicians Association. Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of New York City recording musicians.

The Recording Musicians Association boards I sit on represent the interests of musicians recording in the fields of film, television, records and advertising.

Our organization is what’s known as a “player conference” to our union, the American Federation of Musicians, and our activities affect the working conditions of recording musicians across the United States and in parts of Canada.

Due to a variety of economic and technological factors, musicians working in the recording field have in recent years suffered substantial professional challenges.

As these challenges apply to the New York City film business, the City has seen a significant across-the-board reduction in film music soundtrack recording activity over the past ten years.

Statistics over this ten-year period show the number of New York City film soundtrack recording sessions per year cut in half, the total number of musicians employed in this field per year cut in half, and the amount of total wages paid to recording musicians in a given year cut by more than 60 percent net of wage increases over the term.

New York City musicians face competition from Los Angeles, where the film studios and their related production infrastructure help to assure some degree of regular employment in this field.

We face competition from non-union recording venues, both in the U.S. and abroad. We face competition from the former Eastern Bloc countries, many of whom are home to musicians willing to work for substantially lower wages than their counterparts in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe.

Finally, we compete with many other high-powered industries for the precious real estate which is required to house recording studios here. Many of our best studios have been forced out of business by the high costs of Manhattan property.

The current trend in film soundtracks favors the licensing of pre-existing hit songs over the recording of original new soundtrack music. A variety of newer electronic musical options allow for the number of musicians employed in a given film to be substantially reduced in many instances where new music is recorded. Pre-recorded music libraries may be licensed in lieu of creating and recording original new music for films here. In short, New York City film soundtrack recording is an area of activity which could certainly use the promotion that the production incentives in this legislation would provide.

Thank you for your time.