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L.A.'s share of TV pilot production hits record low

L.A.'s share of TV pilot production hits record low
Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch in the pilot of the CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." It was among the 79 pilots that filmed in Los Angeles. (The CW)

Los Angeles' share of overall TV pilot production in the U.S. and Canada dropped to the lowest level on record in the last year, underscoring the ongoing challenges the region faces to keep television crews in state.

L.A. remains the most popular destination to film TV pilots, but its piece of the pie continues to shrink as Vancouver, Atlanta and New York continue to lure TV projects with attractive tax breaks, according to an annual survey from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county.

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In the yearlong pilot season that ended May 31,  79 of  201 pilots (39%) that filmed in the U.S. and Canada were shot in the Los Angeles region, the survey found.

It's the first time that L.A.'s portion of total pilot TV production has fallen below 40% and marks a stark contrast from a decade ago, when the region had an 82% share of all TV pilots produced.

"L.A. is still losing too many good jobs, and too much revenue, to other states," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "We must continue investing in the future middle class of this city, and commit ourselves to doing all we can to ensure that production stays where it belongs — right here, in the creative capital of the world."

Top competitors for pilot production last season were New York (28 pilots), Vancouver (25), Atlanta (15) and Toronto (12), the report said.

Traditional network TV pilots are typically made from January to April, with few turning into full-fledged series.

Overall, pilot production in L.A. (25 dramas and 54 comedies) declined 13% from a year earlier, when 91 pilot projects filmed locally. The drop was mainly the result of a decline in local comedy pilots.

Most comedy pilots still shoot in L.A., but the region's share dropped in that category to 69%, down from 77% a year earlier. The slip marks the first time since tracking began that L.A.'s share of comedy pilots fell below 70%.

A look at L.A. share of total pilots produced last seaso
A look at L.A. share of total pilots produced last seaso (FilmL.A.)

L.A. captured just 20% of all drama pilots, a slight improvement over its 19% share a year earlier but well below the 63% share the region commanded during the peak 2006-07 season.

Nonetheless, film industry officials say state film tax credits are playing an important role in keeping many dramas in California. Half of the state's 64 drama series are supported by state film tax credits.

"While we were disappointed to see a decline in local comedy pilot production, recent growth in drama pilot and series production is encouraging from the standpoint of overall area jobs and economic benefit," FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said.

The share of dgital production of pilots n L.A. is on the rise
The share of dgital production of pilots n L.A. is on the rise (FilmL.A.)

In a bright spot for L.A., digital production continues to rise. Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and other digital networks produced 38 pilots in the L.A. region last season, up from 26 pilots in the previous season.

And L.A.'s share of pilot production from digital networks reached 19% last season, up from less than 1% in the 2011-12 cycle, according to the report.

FilmL.A. also noted that straight-to-series orders, in which the TV pilot process is bypassed, is on the rise and contributing to a decline in numbers.  Fifty-seven network, cable and digital shows were ordered straight-to-series last season, up from the 37 shows ordered in the previous season.

Pilots are closely monitored because of their economic benefits.

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The average one-hour pilot employs about 150 people and has a budget of $2 million for comedies and to $6 million to $9 million for dramas.

FilmL.A. estimates $296 million was spent in L.A. during the most recent pilot season, slightly down from $298 million the prior season. Last season, L.A. represented just 29% of the total amount spent by pilot producers in allocations, the first time that spending has fallen below 30%.

Twitter: @villarrealy

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