Company posts decline in local production

Paul Audley has been named president of FilmL.A.

Audley comes to FilmL.A. from San Francisco-based nonprofit the Trust for Public Land, for which he served as Arizona state director. Audley’s stints as mayor of Fairfield, Conn., and Connecticut’s deputy secretary of state provided extensive background in community-based nonprofit orgs and government.

In addition to coordinating and processing permits for filmed entertainment shot on location in the city of Los Angeles, unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County and other local jurisdictions, FilmL.A. works to strike a balance between the needs and interests of the entertainment industry and the neighborhoods affected by on-location production.

“Helping to lead FilmL.A. in balancing the needs of the diverse constituencies it serves will provide challenges, opportunities for out-of-the-box strategies and a dynamic environment,” Audley said.

The bad news from FilmL.A., however, was a third quarter decline in local feature and commercial production. Stats were buoyed by the overall gains for TV production.

Total permitted days of on-location filming, which accounts for 80% of all on-location production in Los Angeles County, but does not include that on certified soundstages or surrounding jurisdictions, decreased 1% between July and September. Recorded numbers of 12,948 days reflect a modest decline from the 13,072 in the third quarter last year.

Year-to-date for all production is essentially flat, with a 0.4% gain. Total annual feature pic production days have declined nine out of the past 11 years.

According to FilmL.A., the static quarterly and year-to-date totals mask real challenges experienced by certain industry sectors. Feature production days were down 38% for the quarter, a drop influenced by months of uncertainty regarding industry contract matters.

“Most major studio feature films still shooting during the quarter completed production by the end of July, and only a few sought permits to film on-location in August and September,” said FilmL.A. VP of communications Todd Lindgren.

July-September on-location commercial production days dropped 24%, 1,095 compared to last year’s 1,434. Year-to-date figures also show a 9% decline largely attributed to a cutback in advertising revenues and the waning economy.

Overall television production saw gains of 17%, up 6,959 days from last year’s third quarter 5,950. TV dramas posted the largest gain – up 23%. Reality TV followed with a 14% gain, while sitcoms and pilots dropped 7% and 45% respectively. Year-to-date overall TV production days are up 7%.

“Local on-location television production remains strong thanks to reality programming, which is typically not impacted by labor uncertainty and is the primary driver of television production in the region,” Lindgren said. “Roughly half of all television production days are reality shoots.”

Locate This …

Craig van Gundy, supervising location manager for DreamWorks’ “Eagle Eye,” needed more than 40 Los Angeles sites, none of which had been secured when his team was brought in.

“Eagle Eye” wrapped in seven weeks, and van Gundy re-created a snapshot of just one week of the logistics and the variety of skill-sets required for the pic.

“Monday, we shot with a moving train and on a platform at Union Station. Tuesday in a shopping mall that was open for business. Wednesday filming took place in a heavy metal scrap yard with cranes and crushers, a Black Hawk helicopter, lots of cop cars and the Coast Guard,” van Gundy said. “Thursday, shooting was on a barge docked in San Pedro. Friday, we shot on stage and Saturday was shooting part of an armored car heist in an alley downtown.”

Snap!

Van Gundy’s location team needed only the cooperation of four municipalities along with their various fire and police departments, the military, Amtrak, the Long Beach Port Authority, numerous permits as well as clearances from all the businesses operating during the shoots.

Additionally, negotiations with the Los Angeles Port Authority were necessary to negotiate removal of a barge during the shoot without interfering with a pier restoration project. “Eagle Eye’s” armored car heist required FilmL.A.’s services for the closure of four downtown streets and their businesses.

“It can really get crazy sometimes,” van Gundy said. “These are things production people don’t always understand … especially when things go well.”

Van Gundy and his crew won the 2008 Location Team of the Year California On Location Award for DreamWorks’ “Eagle Eye.”

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