On-location filming in L.A. continues to recover from production slump


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Spurred by a recovery in the economy and the state’s fledgling film tax credit program, filming on the streets of Los Angeles surged 16% in the second quarter of the year.

FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles permits for the city and much of L.A. County, released a report Tuesday that shows across-the-board gains for on-location filming of movies, commercials and TV shows in the three months ending June 30.


L.A. generated 11,134 production days in the quarter, up from 9,597 in same period in 2009, according to FilmL.A. One production day is defined as one crew’s permission to film a project at a single location over a 24-hour period.

The data provide further evidence that Los Angeles is continuing to recover from the devastating slump in local production caused by the recession and the flight of movies and TV shows to other states and countries. On-location filming posted its biggest decline on record in 2009. But activity rebounded in the first quarter with an 18% increase in production activity.

California enacted its first film tax credit program last year to keep production from leaving. There is some evidence that the program, which offers filmmakers up to 25% credit on production expenses, is having a positive effect. On-location feature filming expanded 12% in the second quarter.

A quarter of that activity was led by 16 productions that received the state incentive, including the Steve Carell comedy ‘Dinner for Schmucks,’ the Dwayne Johnson action film ‘Faster,’ and ‘Bad Teacher,’ the Columbia Pictures film starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz.

‘The state incentive continues to bolster local film production and employment,’ said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley.

One category that is not covered under the state’s tax incentive program is commercials, but the sector has nonetheless been enjoying strong growth as advertisers like Chevron, Ford and AT&T show more willingness to spend money on film shoots as the economy shows signs of recovering. On-location commercial filming soared 35% in the second quarter.

Television production grew just 1.4%, reflecting a sharp falloff in dramatic programming and the canceling of locally filmed shows including ‘Heroes’ and ‘Numb3rs’ as well as the winding down of the long-running Fox TV drama ’24.’ While filming of TV dramas fell 38%, reality TV programming posted a whopping 48% gain in production days compared with the same period in 2009.

But early signs, including a strong pilot season, suggest that TV dramas will fare much better in the second half of the year.

‘We’ve seen dozens of new reality shows begin filming in the area, but based upon our research, we expect a boost in local TV drama and sitcom work starting this month and continuing through the fall,’ Audley said.

-- Richard Verrier