Movie Production Up 20% in L.A. Area – And It’s Not Nearly Enough

A spike in film and commercials offsets a dip in TV, driving overall on-location production up 9.5% over last year

A surge in movie production offset a slide in TV shoots and powered a 9.5 percent rise in on-location filming in the Los Angeles region, according to figures released Tuesday.

Feature film production was up nearly 20 percent over the same period last year, according to FilmLA, the city agency that oversees the permitting process and shoots. Commerical shoots were up nearly 18 percent during the same period, while TV was off by 3.6 percent.

The gains in film shoots were welcome and above the sector’s 5-year quarterly average, but remain far below the peak periods of 1996.

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“Any increase in local production is cause for celebration, as long as we don’t lose sight of the big picture,” noted FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “California has yet to match and overcome out-of-state competition for this business.

“For feature film production to be where it once was and should be in L.A., production would need to increase by 125 percent,” Audley continued. “Until Sacramento acts to level the playing field, we won’t see the kind of growth and prosperity that California families are counting on.”

Capped at $100 million per year, California’s Film and Television Tax Credit Program lags well behind other states and countries in terms of what it can offer financially. Proximity to Hollywood and a first-rate infrastructure of large vendors, crew and post-production facilities offset that to a degree, but the state has been steadily losing production work for years.

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Movies that qualified for the state tax credits made up 5.5 percent of the category’s quarterly total in the third quarter and included “Best Man,” “Jersey Boys,” “Kitchen Sink,” “OT Beach” and “Ride.”
The gains in the film numbers came without any big budget studio movie; instead, it was a surge in the number of low-budget, independent projects, Audley said. And despite the quarterly gain, the overall trend is a concern.

“The opportunities are there because a lot of the big-budget players have left,” Audley said. “What that will eventually is our vendor and crew base will erode, and that could bring a very rapid drop-off.

“I don’t see how we can sustain even the current levels unless we get some shot of hope from Sacramento,” he said. An ally in that fight will be Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who recently named former AMPAS President Tom Sherak as the city film czar, and charged him with keeping TV and film production in the area.

“I’ve made the industry a priority for my administration because it generates 500,000
jobs,” Garcetti said in a statement Tuesday. “This isn’t about the stars we see on the
screen but about carpenters, caterers, and electricians and the stores they shop in.”

The TV drops were across the board. Sitcoms shoots were off 15 percent from the same period last year, while reality shoots fell 14.3 percent and filming for Web TV dropped 15.6 percent.