Television production in L.A. drops 15.6%; overall location shoots flat

Television production in and around Los Angeles has continued to slide, keeping overall production numbers flat in the most recent quarter, according to a report released Tuesday from FilmL.A. Inc.

The nonprofit organization, which issues permits for Los Angeles and parts of L.A. County, reported that on-location production was down 0.4% for the three months ending June 30 (11,209 permitted production days) compared with the same period in 2011 (11,260 days).

Television shoots, which accounted for 30% of all production days in the quarter, showed the most worrisome decline. At the root of this downward trend is heightened competition from other states offering more enticing tax incentives to filmmakers as well as legislative battles about California’s own tax credit program.

“For many years, we’ve relied on television to backfill the hole left by the flight of feature film production from the L.A. region,” FilmLA President Paul Audley stated in the group’s report. “Television has been our bread and butter, but with Sacramento’s inaction to stem our losses, other states and countries are eating off our plate.”

Television production days were down 15.4% for the second quarter compared with last year, following a 9% drop in the first quarter. Even reality shows, which made up over 40% of all television production last quarter, are off nearly 20% for the year.


But the most precipitous drop came from dramas, typically the second-largest subcategory of television production, which are down 39.2% for the quarter and 27.5% for the year. Dramas had accounted for 2,292 days in the third quarter of 2008 but have steadily declined, totaling 581 days in the most recent quarter.

Sitcoms were up significantly, but representing less than 10% of the overall television days, the impact on the overall numbers was minimal. (Unlike many television dramas that shoot in locations around the area, sitcoms frequently utilize soundstages, which do not show up in on-location figures.) Television pilots, another relatively small subcategory, also showed gains.

Commercials were up 28.1% and feature films were up 9.1% for the quarter as compared with last year. Combined, they accounted for nearly a third of all production last quarter, and their increases were able to offset most of the losses from television. (Other categories, such as music videos and documentaries, were flat for the quarter.)

The report cites that the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program brought five TV projects to the area in the second quarter, including “Major Crimes” (the upcoming spinoff to “The Closer” on TNT), “Pretty Little Liars” (ABC Family), “Rizzoli and Isles” (TNT) and “Switched at Birth” (ABC Family). But these incentivized shows accounted for less than 2% of all television production days for the April-through-June period.

Feature films that qualified for the state’s tax credit had a bigger impact. “The Bling Ring,” “Stand Up Guys” and other credited movies resulted in 160 permitted production days last quarter. According to the report, “the state’s incentive was wholly responsible for the feature category’s second-quarter growth.”

There have been recent legislative pushes to extend California’s film tax credit program, which is due to expire next year. A state Senate committee recently voted to support a 2-year rather than a 5-year extension which needs to be approved by the legislature. A similar 5-year bill is making its way through the Assembly. Currently, $100 million is reserved annually for the program, which allows qualified film and TV projects to deduct a percentage of eligible expenses from state taxes owed.

Last month, 28 television and film projects, out of 322 that applied, were selected in the annual lottery system that the state enlists to grant tax credits.

In addition, the Los Angeles City Council is also expected to vote this summer on a plan to waive certain fees for shooting TV pilots locally in order to combat the move to out-of-state locales.


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