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Los Angeles Film Shoots Plummet 54% Last Quarter, FilmLA Study Says

Even with steady implementation of COVID-19 safety regulations, pandemic is still taking its toll on Hollywood

While Hollywood is slowly resuming film and TV production with COVID-19 safety regulations enforced, the pandemic is still taking its toll on the industry as the latest quarterly study from FilmLA reports a 54% year-over-year drop in shooting days for the third quarter of 2020.

The report counted only 4,199 total shooting days between July and September, down from 9,226 in the same time span last year. The good news is that when the numbers are broken down on a weekly basis, there is a steady increase in production. Back in July, when FilmLA was starting to take film permits again but California was stuck in a new surge of virus infections, less than 20 unique projects — films, TV shows, commercials — were actively filming. In the week of Sept. 28 – Oct. 4, 222 unique projects were filming.

Also during this past quarter, Hollywood’s labor force — led by SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, DGA and Teamsters Local 399 — reached an agreement with the AMPTP to finalize an official set of COVID-19 safety regulations to protect workers on set. The regulations, which include regular cleaning of sets, testing of all cast and crew, and a tiered system of access to minimize the number of people on set at any given time, were developed after months of collaboration between the studios, guilds, and health experts.

“The stage is set for a return – not to business-as-usual but to the ‘best-progress-possible’ for film production in area communities,” said FilmLA President Paul Audley said in a statement. “LA loves film, and there is a real enthusiasm to see this work come back, plus real effort on the part of the industry and local public health authorities to see that it does so with care for public health.”

Almost all categories saw significant year-over-year drops in Q3. Feature film shoots fell 64%, TV dramas fell 73%, pilots fell 90% and TV comedies fell 96%. One noted exception was reality television, which actually saw a 10% increase in Q3 shooting after years of steady decline. Shows like “Big Brother” were among the first to resume production after LA County permitted filming to resume back in mid-June, and FilmLA predicts a resurgence of reality filming in the County as new shows are picked up for streaming services.

“That reality TV emerged as the bright spot for LA’s summer filming season is unsurprising,” FilmLA said. “Operating with smaller crews and casts and the freedom to easily adjust storyline and location choice, reality projects came online quickly after L.A. County reopened to filming in mid-June with robust health protection protocols in place.”

With industry safety protocols now in place, FilmLA says it expects that larger productions — which made up a significant portion of the lost shooting days this summer — will return in the coming months as studios continue to fine-tune their safety protocols and the world gets closer to a COVID-19 vaccine.

“These larger-scale projects, poised to resume now that unprecedented labor agreements were reached in late September, are powerful job creators and essential to the survival of thousands of local businesses that depend on production,” they said.