On Location: Film production rises 15% in third quarter


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Amid a spate of gloomy reports about the state of the national economy, Hollywood offered some bright news this week: Local production activity rebounded sharply in the third quarter.

Overall shoots for on-location filming in Los Angeles and unincorporated areas of L.A. County jumped 15% in the three-month period ending Sept. 30, compared with the same time a year ago, according to FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that processes film permits.


The figures -– which reflect filming on streets and non-certified sound stages -– mark a turnaround from the second quarter, when production activity was virtually flat.

Fueling the increase was a surge in feature-film shoots, which generated 2,079 production days, up a whopping 50% from the third quarter of 2010.

FilmL.A. officials attributed the swell in part to California’s film tax credit, which allocated another $100 million in July to about 30 new projects. The program, which took effect in 2009, gives filmmakers a tax credit of up to 25% toward qualified production expenses. They can then apply the credit toward any sales or business use tax liability they have with the state.

Typically, L.A. enjoys a spurt in production activity after a new round of tax credits is allocated.

Several high-profile feature films currently shooting in the city are taking advantage of the incentives, including the Warner Bros. drama “Gangster Squad,” about an anti-Mafia unit of the LAPD during the 1940s and 1950s; ‘Argo,’ an Iranian caper starring and directed by Ben Affleck; and the Judd Apatow comedy ‘This is Forty.’

Despite the surge, there are continuing signs that L.A. continues to lose business to other states that offer more generous tax breaks, such as Louisiana, Georgia and especially New York, which is enjoying a record year for TV production.


On-location filming for TV dramas, for example, was down 20% in the third quarter, reflecting the stiff competition from New York and other cities. A recent study by FilmL.A. found that although 87 pilots were produced in L.A. last season, up from 76 the prior season, the region’s share of pilot production has fallen to 51%, down from 82% six years ago.

At the same time, New York more than doubled its share, to roughly 10% of all pilots, according to the study.

Notwithstanding the falloff in dramas, overall TV production still climbed 6% in the third quarter, reflecting a 30% jump in reality-TV programs.

Meanwhile, the quarter saw a slew of commercial shoots from companies such as AT&T, Wal-Mart and Honda, with production jumping 17% over last year and following an 8% drop in the second quarter.


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-- Richard Verrier

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times