Cameras roll in city, but more slowly

While overall on-location film production in the greater Los Angeles area was up last year, Glendale has had a hard time competing with neighboring areas in attracting film shoots.

There were 234 film permits pulled in Glendale last year, down roughly 21% from almost 300 permits in 2010, according to City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian.

Of those, 26 were for feature films, 91 involved television shows and 57 were for commercials, he said. The rest were for other types of film work, such as student films or music videos.

Throughout the Los Angeles region, on-location film activity rose 4.2% last year compared to 2010, according to FilmL.A., the nonprofit that coordinates permits throughout the L.A. area, but not in Glendale.

There were 45,484 permitted-production days in FilmL.A.’s jurisdiction in 2011, an increase from 43,646 the year prior.

Glendale spokesman Tom Lorenz said the main reason for the decline in Glendale was that the city’s former police headquarters was unavailable for filming because it was being renovated to house various city offices.

Several television shows, such as “CSI” and “Southland,” had been using the vacant building located at Wilson Avenue and Isabel Street. One particularly popular location was the building’s jail, Lorenz said.

Crews for the movie, “The Ugly Truth,” starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, even renovated the building’s second floor to become a setting for offices.

Despite the decrease in permits, city officials said the size of some of the projects in Glendale was dramatically larger in 2011, including the feature film “Horrible Bosses,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman.

Many of the driving scenes in the movie were filmed on South Brand Boulevard, Lorenz said.

A basic film permit costs $150, but larger productions cost more because they require city services and personnel when closing streets or handling flammable materials.

For larger film shoots, the revenue generated for the city balloons, sometimes to between $60,000 and $70,000 per project, Lorenz said.

A commercial shoot last year that turned some heads involved a large billboard used for an Outback Steakhouse ad that went up in flames in a vacant lot at Orange and Wilson streets.

At the beginning of the one-take shoot, three long, brown cylinders running along the front of the billboard — symbolizing a grill — were ignited. The flames consumed the billboard and the grill fell off, landing on a car, which resulted in a choreographed explosion.

Firefighters and police officers were required to monitor the shoot and keep pedestrians a safe distance away.

Despite the overall uptick for on-location filming in the L.A. region, a sizable amount of TV production work was lost during the fourth quarter of 2011, according to FilmL.A.

Ten one-hour TV drama series moved to other states, most notably New York, which offers more than four times the amount of funding in filming tax credits than California and reported a record year in 2011, according to FilmL.A.

But the drop in TV dramas was compensated by an increase in feature film shoots and commercial work, according to the report.

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