Monthly Archives: April 2017

What is more entertaining than science?

Beneath a sea of fake stars in a theater in Griffith Park, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and Seth MacFarlane premiered the first episode of their new series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” on Tuesday night.

The show is billed as a continuation of Carl Sagan’s beloved mini-series “Cosmos: A Personal Journey.” That award-winning show first aired 34 years ago, and has since been seen 750 million times. Pretty amazing for a show about science.

This time around it is Tyson, astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, who guides viewers on a journey through the Cosmos–what Sagan once defined as “all that is or ever was or ever will be.” The new series will premiere on several TV channels on Sunday.

Tyson’s journey also begins with a ship of the imagination, unfettered by normal constraints of time and space. But while Sagan’s ship looked like a fluffy dandelion, Tyson’s ship is slim, and sleek–a hard, shiny, metallic seed. And though Sagan took us to the edge of the universe, Tyson takes us one step beyond — suggesting our universe may be just one small bubble in a multi-verse. Universes upon universes.

“Feeling small?” he says.

After the screening the creators of the series got on stage for a question and answer session that was streamed live across the Internet.

Ann Druyan, who was married to Sagan and who co-wrote and co-produced the first “Cosmos,” spoke about the intent of that original series.

“Carl always said we weren’t trying to reach the reader of the New York Review of Books,” she said. “We were trying to reach everyone. This knowledge is our birthright.”

Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” and the man responsible for bringing the “Cosmos” project to Fox, interjected “You were trying to reach the Kardashians.”

But don’t get hung up on that flipness. MacFarlane was visibly thrilled to be sharing a stage with Tyson and Druyan. When Tyson started to talk about how the earliest evidence of life on Earth might be found in fossils on the moon, MacFarlane leaned forward in his chair and said “We’re with you. Keep going!”

Druyan noted that she and a producing partner had been trying to get this updated “Cosmos” made for years, but it wasn’t until MacFarlane brought the Fox network onboard that it all finally started to happen. “This man truly is a genius,” she said.

For his part, MacFarlane applauded the P.T. Barnum element of Sagan’s “Cosmos.” “One of my favorite quotes from Carl is, ‘I want this to be interesting to people who have no interest in science,'” he said. “For 1980 it was a really visually diverse array of images.”

John Corrigan is Assistant Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment

John Corrigan is the assistant managing editor for Arts and Entertainment, leading one of the Los Angeles Times’ largest editorial departments in its coverage of film, television, culture, music, media and the fine arts.

Corrigan has worked at The Times since 1999, serving as Business editor from 2009 to June 2012. He greatly expanded the Business section’s online presence, adding daily video reports and building up its Tech Now and Money & Co. blogs. Corrigan directed several of The Times’ most ambitious projects, including stories that won Loeb Awards in 2010 and 2012. He has also overseen coverage of major news stories including the Enron scandal, the West Coast ports shutdown and the Toyota recall for sudden acceleration problems. He was project editor for the 2003 series “The Wal-Mart Effect,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

Corrigan started his career as a City Hall reporter for the Vista Press, and a year later became a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News. He worked his way up to city editor, helping shape the paper’s coverage of events including the videotaped police beating of Rodney King, the 1992 riots, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the O.J. Simpson trial.

In 1996, Corrigan decided to specialize in business news. He became managing editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal, and later moved to the Orange County Register, where he oversaw the daily business report.

For the past three years, he has been a preliminary judge for the Loeb Awards, and he is a former board member of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Corrigan has a bachelor’s degree in communication and fine arts from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He earned a second bachelor’s degree in journalism from Cal State Northridge. While in college, he obtained his private pilot’s license. Outside of work, Corrigan serves on the advisory board for LMU’s alumni magazine. He enjoys backpacking, playing guitar and spending time with his wife, Alison, and their three children, Kelly, Kevin and Katie.

L.A. 2020 Commission’s silence on Hollywood jobs

A new report on spurring job growth in Los Angeles covers the bases, but leaves Hollywood out of the picture.

The Los Angeles 2020 Commission report, titled “A Time for Action,” was commissioned last year by City Council President Herb Wesson and offers various prescriptions to reverse a net decline in jobs over the last two decades.

The recommendations include such ideas as promoting bioscience research, establishing a regional tourism authority and combining the ports of L.A. and Long Beach.

But film industry advocates said they were disappointed that there was no discussion of what should be done to reverse a long-term decline of employment in L.A.’s entertainment industry.

Hollywood’s labor unions have been saying for years that L.A. leaders don’t pay enough attention to protecting one of the area’s economic pillars, allowing other states and countries to lure away film and TV production with rich tax credits and rebates. Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, has appointed veteran entertainment industry attorney Ken Ziffren as a film czar to lobby for stronger state film tax credits to make California more competitive.

“It is a little surprising to me that it wasn’t at least a focal point of the report,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. Inc., which handles film permits and promotes the local film industry. “So much around the city is tied to the entertainment industry, and the job losses in this industry are pretty critical. It’s one of the quickest things that could turn the economy around.”

Locally, the entertainment industry remains among the largest private employers, with about 250,000 jobs and an output of $60.9 billion in 2012, or 11% of Los Angeles County’s overall economy, according to a recent report from the Otis College of Art and Design.

But L.A.’s entertainment economy has been losing market share. California lost 16,137 film and TV industry jobs (mainly in the L.A. region) between 2004 and 2012, an 11% decline, according to a recent report by the Milken Institute, as jobs fled to such states as New York, New Mexico and Louisiana.

In an earlier report, released in January — one that painted a bleak picture of L.A.’s ills — the 2020 Commission briefly acknowledged the problem of entertainment jobs losses in one paragraph of a 43-page document that highlighted high poverty rates, chronic budget shortfalls and failing public schools.

The follow-up report released Tuesday, however, did not address the entertainment sector among any of the 13 policy recommendations the commission said would “put the city on a path to fiscal stability and renew job creation.”

“It’s very odd to raise a concern in the opening document and leave it un-addressed in the conclusion,” said Kevin Klowden, a managing economist at the Milken Institute.

The report’s focus on tourism, he added, would have provided a natural opportunity to discuss the importance of the film and TV industry to L.A.’s economy.

“I’m very surprised that the film industry was not at least touched on in reference to tourism because it is such a key component of tourism,” Klowden said.

But Austin Beutner, a former investment banker and L.A. deputy mayor and co-chair of the private commission, said there was a lack of consensus among its members on the best strategies to boost local entertainment jobs and that the topic had already been addressed by others.

“Clearly the loss of entertainment jobs has impacted the community. Clearly we need to do what we can to bring those [jobs] back,” Beutner said at a Times editorial board meeting. “I don’t think there’s any debate in the group about that. We just said … ‘Others are covering it and we don’t have consensus on whether that’s the highest and best use of tax dollars.'”

Beutner was former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s jobs czar. He was joined by several other high-profile business, civic and labor leaders on the commission, none from the entertainment industry. They included former California Gov. Gray Davis; former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, a candidate for county supervisor; and Commission Chair Mickey Kantor.

Kantor, a veteran Los Angeles lawyer and former U.S. Commerce secretary, said the commission had to limit the scope of its recommendations.

“We didn’t deal with transportation and traffic,” he said at the editorial board meeting. “We didn’t deal with education. We didn’t deal with homelessness. We didn’t deal with the environment. We’re 13 people without staff. So we dealt with … what we understood.”

The entertainment industry poured $ 47 billion into L.A.

Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., recently spoke with The Times about a new report on the entertainment industry’s effect on the L.A. County economy.

What was the purpose of the study?

We know that the entertainment industry looms large on the world stage and that L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world. We said, ‘Okay, how big is this industry?’ This study was an effort to evaluate the size of the entertainment industry and to measure its impact on the L.A. economy in terms of jobs, income and taxes.

So what did you conclude?

What we found is that despite the loss of business to places around the world, the entertainment industry in L.A. County remains a focal point for the industry around the world, and is also a significant contributor to the local economy. It’s an industry that accounts for not just 162,000 wage and salary jobs, but another 85,000 jobs for freelancers and independent contractors. Taking into account the ripple effect the industry has on other jobs (caterers, florists and so on), the industry supported 586,000 jobs and had an annual output of $47 billion in 2011. That’s equivalent to 8.4% of the county’s annual economic output.

Where does entertainment rank in size compared to other big sectors such as healthcare and trade?

The entertainment industry is the fifth largest sector based on employment (behind health services, business administration services, hospitality and real estate). However, its impact on the local economy is much greater because the films, television programming, and music that are produced here in L.A. are viewed by people throughout the country and the entire world. They generate entertainment-related revenue streams from around the world that supports spending and jobs that otherwise would not exist locally.

What comprises the entertainment sector?

By far the largest category is motion picture and video-related industries. That is followed by the sound industry, radio, television and cable sectors, live entertainment, as well as agents, managers and independent artists.

So how has the entertainment sector fared over the last decade?

If you look at the industry compared to 2001, the number of jobs has increased. Total employment was 16.9% higher in 2011 than in 2001 as the media sector has expanded its offerings and produced more content for existing and new distribution channels, such as mobile and the Internet.

But, as you note in the study, the film and television sector lost more than 16,100 jobs since its peak in 2004. What accounts for that?

Among the reasons are new technology, the recession, which led to a decline in jobs in virtually every sector of the economy, piracy and runaway production.

How much of a challenge is the migration of work to other states and countries?

The local industry has seen a declining share of the business over the last several years at the same time we’ve seen gains elsewhere in the country. For example, in 2005, 82% of all new prime-time TV pilots were shot in L.A. County. By 2011, that had fallen to 51%. We still have quite a bit of downstream support and infrastructure here in L.A. that continues to make it an ideal place to shoot, but we’ve also seen prop houses, sound stages and other support services lured away to other states, so we have to be concerned about that development.

Has California’s film tax credit made much difference?

A separate study that the LAEDC did found that for every dollar in tax credit, the state and local government gets at least $1.06 back (in intial economic impact), so there does seem to be a net positive benefit to the state and local government.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office said your analysis exaggerated the benefits. What’s your response to that?

We used fairly conservative assumptions and the results of our study were very similar to those of another study by the Milken Institute, which also showed there was a net positive benefit. It keeps employment here in California.