Innovative L.A. steals the show at crowded film location expo


Cody Cluff surveyed with satisfaction over the weekend the 30-by-30-foot white circus tent the Los Angeles city and county film offices pitched outside an international movie business trade show in Santa Monica, Calif.

Inside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, film commissions from around the world tried to grab a share at Location Expo '94 of what local officials call $1 billion a year in "runaway production."

Los Angeles -- offered space city and county officials deemed inadequate for the center of the international movie business -- fought back, luring trade-show participants with a billboard declaring "L.A. stands alone" and offering hot dogs, popcorn, cappuccino and other refreshments.

"It's the best we've ever done," said a proud Mr. Cluff, an assistant deputy mayor who was appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as head of the city film office.

The tent on the lawn of the adjacent Santa Monica Courthouse was a laid-back sanctuary from the roar of the show inside. "We had more than 1,500 people," Mr. Cluff said. "We've never had that kind of activity."

The three-day show, organized by the Association of Film Commissioners International, ends today.

Because of the change in mayoral administrations, Los Angeles was late to apply for space in this year's show, which had representatives from 170 film commissions and 29 affiliated companies -- all trying to sell their particular locations to the 2,200 participants who had preregistered to attend the event.

In the main building -- where giant artichokes and alligators roamed the aisles in a bid to attract attention -- other film offices lamented that they, too, had almost been excluded because of a lack of space.

Louisiana was shunted to an area that was set up in the 11th hour, and Maryland wasn't sure until three weeks ago that it was getting any space.

"I know it's been very, very tough in terms of the space problem. We almost didn't get in," said Michael Styer, director of the Maryland Film Commission, who added that he was not at all resentful of Los Angeles' ploy for space. "We were trying to figure out what we would have done if we were shut out."

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