WGA strike snuffs scripted TV

Film shoots spike in strike

The writers strike has officially killed scripted TV production in Los Angeles.

All but five of the 52 skeins in active production before the walkout began last month have now gone dark, and all but one of those shows will wrap next week, according to permitting agency Film LA.

Local feature production, however, is booming, with a 45% gain over the same period last year since the strike began on Nov. 5, according to Film LA.

The agency said Thursday that all 17 half-hour primetime sitcoms are already out of production.

Of the 35 one-hour shows, CBS’ “CSI: Miami” was expected to close down Thursday, while ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Boston Legal” will probably go dark after today. ABC’s midseason entry “Eli Stone” will wrap next week; another one of the net’s midseason dramas, “October Road,” will shoot until mid-January.

Film LA estimated Thursday that every TV drama episode scheduled but not produced means a loss of $2.75 million in direct production spending — based on an average of 300 people directly employed in production.

Los Angeles-based TV production has soared in recent years, thanks partly to the boom in reality and the growth of cable. The past five quarters have all seen well over 5,000 permit days of off-lot production, with a record 6,478 days in the first quarter of this year.

In the past week, Film LA has coordinated 91% fewer TV drama permits than last year. And it has not coordinated a sitcom permit since late November.

But Hollywood’s not bereft of production activity since off-lot production of feature films and reality TV are both going strong. On Thursday, Film LA reported that four permits were taken out — all for reality shows.

“What’s really surprising is how much TV activity we would have had before the strike and how little there is now,” said agency chief Steve MacDonald.

The exec said the pace of reality production hasn’t bumped up since the strike but added that an increase may manifest itself in coming weeks.

As for features, MacDonald noted, activity has been driven by this year’s ramped-up pace of greenlighting in anticipation of a possible actors strike in July. “We saw a similar spike in the first half of 2001 because of fears of a SAG strike,” he noted.

Off-lot feature filming jumped 45% and 38% in the first two quarters of 2001, respectively, then slid 58% and 41% in the first two quarters of 2002.

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