New York Surpasses Los Angeles as Top Shooting Site for TV Drama Pilots

L.A.’s share of overall pilot production dips to a worst-ever 44 percent, according to FilmLA survey

New York has become the primary site for filming TV drama pilots, supplanting Los Angeles, which saw overall pilot production hit an all-time low according to a survey released Tuesday by FilmLA.

The 2013-14 development cycle saw New York, with 24 drama projects, dethrone Los Angeles, home to 19 drama projects, to become North America’s most attractive location for one-hour TV pilot production according to the non-profit permitting agency’s Television Pilot Production Report. TV dramas are the most desirable for states because they tend to be high-end productions with multiple episodes.

Overall, Los Angeles was home to 90 projects (19 one-hour dramas and 71 half-hour comedies) out of 203 tracked, giving it a 44 percent slice of the pilot production pie. That’s the first time L.A.’s share has dipped below 50 percent. Last year, L.A.’s pilot production share was 52 percent, and six years earlier, a commanding 82 percent.

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New York (35 total projects), Vancouver (17), Atlanta (12) and Toronto (8) continue to gain ground on Los Angeles by attracting pilot producers with tax credit incentives superior to those offered in California.

Most of the pilot projects shot outside California were lucrative one-hour drama series produced for network, cable, or new media distribution.

Including straight-to-series orders favored by new media content producers like Netflix, these projects cost between $6 million and $8 million to produce and employ 150-230 people during production.

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In all, there were 91 drama pilots produced outside Los Angeles during the 2013-14 development cycle, whittling L.A.’s share down to just 17 percent of drama projects, another record low.

“Losing television pilots — and then series — to other North American competitors leads to the destruction of steady, well-paying California jobs,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “California’s current incentive program makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series. The data makes plain why an expanded film incentive is needed to bring this part of the industry back.”

The report comes one day before the California state Senate will hold its first hearings on legislation to expand the the state’s current $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit program.

Los Angeles’ status as North America’s premier pilot production location now hinges on its attractiveness to comedy producers. Los Angeles’ share of overall comedy production in the cycle was 76 percent, down slightly from the 83 percent share it enjoyed last year, but off considerably from the 100 percent share the region captured seven years prior.