Los Angeles On-Location Production Hit 5-Year Low In 2019

David Robb

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On-location film and TV production in Los Angeles hit a five-year low last year, down 5.8% from 2018, according to FilmLA, the city and county film office. On-location feature film shooting days were off by 15.1% last year, commercials were down by 12.3%, and TV was down 6.6%.

In one of the few bright spots, TV comedy shooting days were up 15.1% in 2019, and Web-based TV was up 0.1%. But all the other TV categories were down — dramas by 2.7%; reality by 12.5%, and pilots by 27.4%.

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It was not a good year – the worst since 2015. But FilmLA president Paul Audley said Friday when the numbers were released that it would have been much worse without the state’s $330 million annual film incentives program.

“Whenever we publish new permit data, it raises similar questions,” Audley said in a statement. “‘Is the state incentive working?’ some ask, and ‘What’s happening with runaway production?’ It’s important to remember that California is locked in a permanent competition against global rivals for film and television projects and jobs.”

“The fact is,” he said, “California’s film incentive reliably brings L.A. around 30 percent more TV Drama production, and around 13 percent more Feature Film production than we would have without the program. Entertainment unions are reporting ample work opportunities for local crews. Soundstage occupancy is high. These are all important considerations when evaluating the health of this business.”

Recent incentivized feature projects shot in Los Angeles include Mainstream and The Little Things. Recent incentivized TV projects that shot here include American Horror Story: 1984, Good Girls, Good Trouble, Lucifer, The Orville, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, The Rookie, This is Us, HBO’s untitled Lakers Project, Westworld and Why Women Kill.

The fourth quarter of 2019 also came up short against the same period in 2018. FilmLA analysts say that this was due in part because Q4 2018 “was the most productive period recorded by FilmLA in more than 25 years.”

Last year, FilmLA tracked 36,540 shoot days — 2,255 fewer than in 2018. Shoot days are defined as one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24-hour period. FilmLA’s data does not include production that occurs on certified soundstages or on-location outside its jurisdiction.

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