Camera Ready Steve MacDonald, the newly appointed president of the controversial Entertainment Industry Development Corp., can draw from his city hall experience as Mayor James Hahn’s South Valley neighborhood service manager to streamline and make the film permitting agency more effective By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter Steve MacDonald, when he takes his post as the newly appointed president of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. (EIDC) on April 19, is expected to give a fresh start to an organization that has had a tumultuous year to say the least. Last August, former president Cody Cluff was indicted for allegedly spending $150,000 in public money on visits to strip clubs and other personal expenses. Since then, the nonprofit organization founded in 1995 to help film and commercial producers in Los Angeles obtain permits faster and more efficiently, has seen its board disassembled, its reputation tarnished and its value questioned. Nevertheless, through it all, the agency has dispensed permits. It has regrouped, with new faces and a renewed mission. A host of Hollywood studio executives, community leaders and others are members of the organization. MacDonald, 41, is currently Mayor James Hahn’s south Valley neighborhood service manager and was selected from a pool of 173 candidates. His experience includes being one of the founders of former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan’s L.A. Business Team. Question: What are your responsibilities now as a neighborhood service manager for Mayor Hahn in the Valley? Answer: I came here in November, so that’s about five months. The first thing we did when I got here was do a survey of things to be done. I need to compile that and leave it with the mayor’s office. My job here is really to try and get the city department to get as much out of this location (the Marvin Braude Constituent Services Center in Van Nuys) as possible, to make it a one-stop shop. The next step is to do a survey of the customers, and hopefully that’s something that can be done in the future. I run the neighborhood service communities here, the Team L.A, where we bring different city departments together, and talk about trends. One of the things that we work hard to do here in south Valley is to make it as easy as possible for city employees to call to report problems. Q: What are the first steps you’re going to take as a leader of the EIDC? A: Very similar to steps I’ve taken in other positions. I need to learn more about EIDC and I need to ask a lot of questions of different groups. This can be done relatively during the same period as I’m coming in. One of the groups I’ll be speaking with is the current staff these are the folks who through the controversy have been issuing thousands of permits. Day-in and day-out they’re doing a good job. Second group I need to get out to is production folks themselves. There are 200,000 employees and it’s a $30 billion industry. The third group is the community, and I need to put together the city officials and the community. Q: Exactly how familiar are you with the current membership of EIDC? A: I know many of them and I hope to get to know the folks I know already better. Some of the people I’ve worked with at previous jobs either through economic development efforts or building and safety efforts and the folks I’m looking forward to getting to know are some of the production folks from some of the larger studios and some of the independent folks as well. Q: What do you think the board was looking for when it unanimously approved to hire you over 172 other people? A: They wanted someone who is a doer. It’s important with so many stakeholder groups that it’s not someone who is a just a bulldozer who’s going to go through a certain path without recognizing the stakes that the various stakeholder groups have. I will need to realize that and forge a path that works. There are some solutions that can accomplish both objectives and those are what I hope to do. Q: As president of the EIDC, do you have any plans to get involved in the runaway production dilemma facing Hollywood? A: For the most part, I don’t think EIDC has a huge impact on the larger runaway production issue. Those are large scale trade exchange issues, such as the dollar to Canadian dollar exchange, and New England and Australia having tax incentives. I do believe there may be some projects that are on the fence, and those are the ones I hope to impact over time. We’re streamlining, working better with the neighborhoods, among other things. There may be things that EIDC can do over time. If EIDC comes up with continuing improvements, I think that will help those people on the fence. Q: On a local level what do you think can be done? A: The best thing that the EIDC can do at its core mission is to help the industry get their permits in an expeditious fashion. That will help more than anything else. There are other things the city can do, such as gross receipts tax reform, but it’s really about the core mission of EIDC possibly automating, to get permits online, come up with reasonable guidelines in neighborhoods. Those are the things that the EIDC can help with. Q: What do you know about the permit process and how it works today? A: When a production is considering this area, it’s the EIDC’s job to take this information and coordinate it with city departments. That’s the main function of EIDC. Before EIDC was created in 1995, they had a separate city department doing that. Q: How do you connect all the dots to be an effective EIDC president? A: The job takes three important components. One is the economic development or jobs component. The latest numbers state there are 200,000 jobs that are related to the entertainment industry I think that’s a huge economic engine. Having a view and appreciation (of it is important). I’ve worked really hard to help business because it’s important for revenue and a job-creating aspect to local government. The second component is operations. It’s important that EIDC work as efficiently as possible. I’m looking for ways to find improvements through some new ways of doing things. I’ve had a lot of experience on the operations end through my position at the mayor’s office. The third component, and it’s increasing, is the community component. The neighborhood councils (movement) has a lot of people involved. The EIDC needs to better communicate with these councils. I have some good experience at that because I’ve been involved with my neighborhood council in the Miracle Mile area. I think all of the components come together (for me) at EIDC at this time. Q: Describe your relationships with the Valley’s economic organizations. A: I know many of the folks through previous days being involved with Riordan. I know about groups like VICA and Economic Alliance. I need to learn more about the individual chambers. I think VICA and the Economic Alliance are cognizant of the entertainment industry in the Valley, and that’s already important. It’s important we have a number of entities. I know VICA has been involved in a runaway production study, done by Greg Lippe. Q: What was attractive about this position for you? A: I think it was a good fit for my experience. This combines many interests of mine. I raise my kids here. It combines many of the interesting things. It seemed like the time was right. I was working in Riordan’s office when (EIDC was created). When I worked at Mayor Riordan’s office, in the early 1990s, we had governors from out of state flying in trying to lure jobs. It’s important to realize the jobs that are here and we need to keep them here. SNAPSHOT: Steve MacDonald Title: President, Entertainment Industry Development Corp. (starting April 19) Born: Sept. 24, 1962 College: Bachelor’s degree in business from San Diego State University; Master’s in Business Administration, Pepperdine University. Most Admired Person: Father, Dale William “Bill” MacDonald. Career Turning Point: Coming into former Mayor Riordan’s office to help run the business team. Personal: Married to Sybil, daughter Amanda, 8, and Ryan, 5.