Warner Bros. Runs Away with "Fringe"

fringeVariety reports that Warner Bros. TV has joined the ranks of unpatriotic production companies as it opts to flee America for Canada in order to save a buck on “Fringe.” The J.J. Abrams hour-long drama premiered on Fox earlier this year to uncertain ratings but has steadily increased its viewers. It pulled in 13 million at the beginning of February, although slipped a bit to 10.5 million viewers a week later. Still, the scuttlebutt is that Fox will renew this “X-Files” light intrigue for a second season.

And now that the greedy execs at Warner Bros. are saving a pretty penny by jumping to Canada, why wouldn’t they enjoy a second season? They will no longer be troubled by pesky union wages for behind-the-scenes crews, mostly, as the biggest perk of shooting in our friendly neighbor to the north is cheap labor. I.A.T.S.E. certainly gets the short end of that stick. [editor’s note: Providing full disclosure, I was raised in an I.A.T.S.E. house, as my father is a property master in Hollywood.]

But hey, in order to save face, WBTV released a statement addressing this very subject. In it, they call the decision to ditch the Red, White and Blue “difficult” adding that “we did not come to this conclusion easily.” Uh-huh. This is by no means a new practice amongst Hollywood power players.

Television viewers are often fooled into believing locations seen on popular television programs and films are really shot in this country. The Film and Television Action Committee has been proactive in exposing programming overrun with greedy producers. As of February 24, the U.S. economy has lost $1,457,659,198 to runaway production, according to the committee’s website.

While “Fringe” is supposed to take place in Massachusetts, it has recently been filming in New York City. Surprisingly, it first started production in Toronto before making a move here to Long Island’s Silvercup Studios. That initial transfer was also based on money, as are most decisions in Hollywood. Art be damned, it’s a business. Variety reported that NYC had a record number of shooting days in 2005. So why move once again, this time to Vancouver? New York’s film incentives have dried up, thanks in part to the tanking economy. And Warner Bros. being such a stand-up kind of company, it is filing for divorce from its American partner, just as the good times have turned poor. Don’t vows mean anything?

All it would take is a handful of Hollywood’s A-list actors to stand up and say no to runaway production. If someone like Tom Hanks or Will Smith were to refuse starring in a film that didn’t shoot in the U.S., would producers be so quick to replace them as they so easily do to off-screen talent?

When I first came on board The Hollywood Reporter in the features writing department, one of the projects I started working on was compiling all of the filming incentives state by state. It was a long list at that point, in 2006. Here’s the two-page spread that ran in THR that year (Page 1, Page 2). I can only imagine how this project would turn into a measly sidebar, if not a blurb, were I to tackle it today.

My attention came back to this subject a year later while filing radio reports for KCSN in Los Angeles. I decided to spotlight the then recent threat of runaway productions on popular locations around the L.A. area.

Like any good couch potato, my viewing habits will be undeterred by the villainous Warner Bros. TV, as I’m already hooked on “Fringe.” Damn you J.J. Abrams and your engaging my geeky side. First “Alias,” then “Lost” and now “Fringe.” What next, are you going to find some odd way of pulling me back into “Star Trek”? Still, I will be quietly protesting all those shows that run for higher financial ground. Just don’t tell my father that I’m supporting such behavior. He might cut me out of the will. Then I could be forced to runaway to Canada in order to save on blogging costs. Never fear, I will just continue using by DVR to completely ignore all commercials, that way “Fringe” can’t use me as a statistic in selling viewership to advertisers. Snap!


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