HRTS: California ‘Can’t Compete,' With New York, Says ‘Orange’ Creator

Beverly Hills, Calif.--The economic influence of production tax credits is making it more difficult to keep television productions in Southern California, said Jenji Kohan, creator and executive producer of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, Wednesday at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s Hitmakers panel, part of the organization’s Newsmakers Luncheon Series.

“It breaks my heart,” said Kohan, whose show is shot in New York. “I think California is really making a huge mistake and losing so much business.” She added, referring to New York’s lucrative production-incentive program, “You can’t beat a 39% below-the-line tax credit.”

Carlton Cuse, cocreator and executive producer of A&E’s Bates Motel, said of his show shooting in Canada, “It’s purely economics.” But he added that he was hopeful that economic climate in California may shift to become more favorable to keeping TV production.

Cuse and Kohan were joined by Michelle Ashford, creator and executive producer of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, and moderator Michael Schneider of TV Guide Magazine.

Kohan took aim at the pilot process — a hot topic this year after Fox Broadcasting Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly announced in January at the TCA winter press tour that his network would shift away from the traditional pilot season model of development.

“The pilot process is so wasteful,” Kohan said. “If you believe in someone and what they want to do, give it a shot. Go for it. It’s actually in a lot of ways cheaper if you can amortize across 13 episodes.”

“I totally concur,” Cuse said, praising the experience of working on a show from Universal Television that went straight to series on A&E. “When you’re making a pilot it’s kind of an exercise. It’s like its own form of haiku poetry, and you have to get it right to get over that hurdle. And it isn’t directly connected to what’s necessary to make a show last for the long term.”

The subject of Emmy categories also was raised in the wake of Showtime’s Shameless switching this year from the drama category to comedy and HBO announcing that True Detective would compete as a drama series rather than a miniseries.

“I just wish there was an hour-long comedy and a half hour-long category,” Kohan said, adding, “It’s getting more and more muddled.”

Ashford, whose show stars Welsh actor Michael Sheen, fielded a question about the preponderance of British actors in American television.

“Britain has such a rich tradition of very serious actors and acting,” Ashford said. “Michael’s from Wales, from the same little town as Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins.”

Cuse, whose show features English actor Freddie Highmore, added, “It does seem like you watch these awards shows and there’s a lot of accents on there.”