Between drought and the ever-looming threat of a massive earthquake, it is hard not to think there might come a day when Los Angeles might become unlivable. If—the fates forfend—the drought worsens, L.A. goes dry, and then “the Big One” finally does in the City of Angels once and for all … what would become of the city’s film and television industry?
Even if L.A. were leveled, there would still be an insatiable public demand, around the world, for the visual entertainment the American film & TV industry provides. Already, many productions that are supervised in Los Angeles are shot elsewhere and finished in L.A., so it’s not inconceivable that, in an emergency, the industry could relocate if it had to. But to where?
ETA: I want to make clear that, in general, I am not talking about the production teams that shoot films and TV episodes. Those units are already well dispersed around the country and the world. What I am most interested in is the core community of “power players” in Hollywood — the studio executives, the talent agents, the corps of staff writers and producers, the people who constitute the network that drives the industry. It’s generally accepted that writers’ rooms, for instance, function best when all the writers are actually in the same room. Execs and agents like to have easy, in-person access to one another. The same goes for access to talent: producers want to be able to pick up the phone at 9am and have a writer in to pitch or an actor in to audition that afternoon, not three days from now. So what I’m really interested in exploring here is this question: If nature forced the power players of Hollywood to abandon L.A., where would these people reestablish their community?
I have a few ideas.
As a longtime New Yorker, this would be my top suggestion, for purely selfish reasons. I’d love to have access to the film & TV business without having to move to L.A. or fly out there every time I want to pitch or take a meeting. But what would be in it for the industry?
For starters, they’d get to be in New York, but let’s set that aside.
New York would offer the industry easy access to financing. Many TV networks maintain corporate headquarters here. The city has a lot of inexpensive, currently vacant warehouses, industrial buildings, and lots in western Queens that could easily be converted to soundstages, much as the Silvercup Studios were. Also, of all the possible cities where Hollywood could make a new home, few have a community of actors, filmmakers, and writers as robust and experienced as that found in New York.
Moving the film & TV industry to New York would probably gut San Diego Comic Con, but it would make New York Comic Con an even bigger behemoth than it already is. I’m not saying either of those is a good thing; they’re just possible consequences.
Added Bonus: We rarely get hit by major earthquakes, and we have some of the best drinking water in the United States. Also, great pizza.
Drawbacks: Our beaches suck, and winter here is absolutely awful. Rents are already astronomical, and traffic can be a nightmare.
The chief arguments to be made in favor of Seattle as a new home for Hollywood are that it would preserve the industry’s West Coast identity, while moving it closer to plentiful water supplies and away from the primary risk areas associated with earthquakes.
Added bonus: Better coffee.
Drawbacks: Several. Rainy weather. High minimum wage. Proximity to an active volcano. And, most damning of all, it’s not New York.
One very good reason to move the entire industry north of the 48th parallel is that so much of our production already takes place there. Vancouver is already Canada’s Hollywood (much as Toronto is its New York). So why not just move Hollywood to Vancouver and be done with it? After all, there’s a strong community of actors, filmmakers, and writers there. The infrastructure is in place. And it’s got plenty of water.
Drawbacks: Permanently moving the entire industry to Canada would likely mean that many people involved in film and television — from agents and executives to the crews and casts — would need to become Canadian citizens. That might not sound like a bad idea to some, but I’d bet there are plenty of folks who’d rather remain Americans. But Canada’s regulations regarding how many non-Canadians can work on a production in the Great White North would make it an unavoidable issue.
Also, Vancouver shares a drawback with Seattle: gray weather. One should also consider that too many shows on TV look alike because they’re all shot in Vancouver, and add to that the sad truth that Vancouver is also not New York.
If Hollywood threatened to go north, I suspect the U.S. federal government would get involved to entice it to stay in the U.S., rather than see our nation’s most exportable commodity become Canada’s chief export.
At a glance, Miami might seem like an interesting choice. Warm, with good beaches, diverse cuisine, an eclectic music scene. But come hurricane season, this might prove to be a less than ideal base of operations.
Chicago shares most of New York’s strengths and weaknesses, but with a higher crime rate and a less robust mass transit system.
Perhaps a new Hollywood would find a welcoming home in Austin, Texas. Lots of great food, music, and people there. Reasonable real estate prices, lots of room to spread out. And the influx of entertainment industry folks could accelerate the long-prognosticated political purpling of The Lone Star State.
ETA: I’ve already heard some good arguments in favor of two cities I failed to consider.
First, Atlanta. It already has a number of TV production entities working there, and its southern location would give it better weather for more of the year than locales such as New York.
Second, Charlotte, NC. In addition to already hosting a fair number of TV productions, the climate is mild for most of the year, and the state has no unions. This would be a thorn in the paw of the unions that form the backbone of the industry, but it would certainly attract the attention of the studio executives and the money men.
EATA: Other suggestions I’ve heard recently include Aspen and Denver. But I also had a thought concerning the idea of the power players moving somewhere so remote: What if the studio executives wanted to set up shop in a place that suppresses unions? I couldn’t see SAG, DGA, IATSE, WGAw, etc., standing for it. Could be a brutal showown.
The more I think about it, the more sense I think it would make for the core community of power players to relocate to New York, while dispersing their production units around the country to take best advantage of diverse climates, tax breaks, subsidies, etc.
What do you think, readers? If Hollywood had to choose a new home, where would you recommend and why?