Runaway production takes a toll on Hollywood shooting

Hollywood’s offlot production chilled in all categories during the third quarter, sliding 3.9% from the 2011 period, as runaway production continued to take a toll on local shooting.

Biggest declines came in feature production, which plunged 21.1% to 1,640 permitted days, and the two largest TV categories — dramas, with an 18.5% loss to 923 days, and reality, down 20.5% to 1,579 days, according to figures released Tuesday by permitting agency FilmL.A. The report was issued two days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation extending the state’s production tax credit program for two years at $100 million annually with a 25% maximum credit, figures far smaller than what other programs provide.

FilmL.A. president Paul Audley took the opportunity to call for more efforts to put the brakes on runaway production.

“The television landscape is changing in Los Angeles, and economically, the sector has taken a turn for the worse,” Audley said. “Many of the new TV projects we’re coordinating permits for have low spending and employment impacts. More needs to be done, policy-wise, to help return sought-after TV drama projects to Los Angeles.”

Tuesday’s report is the latest from FilmL.A. with an increasingly bleak outlook for local shooting. In June, the agency projected that the major broadcast networks’ 2012-13 fall viewing season will be exposed to 47 Los Angeles-based shows (18 dramas, 29 comedies) and 24 shows (23 dramas and a single comedy) filmed outside Hollywood. That was the first time in the history of the annual study, which dates back to 2004, that less than half of the primetime dramas have shot in L.A.

The June FilmL.A. report also showed that drama pilots generate $5.5 million in economic activity per pilot compared with $2 million for comedies.

According to Tuesday’s report, production for TV pilots plunged 45.9% during the third quarter to 53 days but two TV categories saw significant upticks: sitcoms and webisodes. Sitcoms, which comprise 11% of annual offlot TV production, shot up 47.8% to 608 days while webisodes (comprising 9% of total TV shooting) jumped 148% to 423 days.

The California Film & Television Tax Credit Program covered five TV projects in Los Angeles during the third quarter: “Body of Proof,” which moved to Burbank from Rhode Island as part of receiving the credit, plus “Bunheads,” “Help for the Holidays,” “Major Crimes” and “Rizzoli & Isles.” The five shows, mostly shot on soundstages, contributed 47 permitted offlot days during the quarter.

For the first nine months of 2012, overall TV shooting is down 8.5% to 11,927 days. Features, which currently shoot at a rate that’s about half their peak in 1997, are off 3.4% to 4,409 days for that period.

During the quarter, state-qualified feature projects generated 100 days or 6.1% of the total. Projects filming locally included “Jesus in Cowboy Boots,” “Plush” and “The Hive.”

“We expect to see more state-qualified projects pull permits to film in L.A.,” Audley said. “We applaud the recent two-year extension of California’s film incentive program and support expanding the program to stop the production outflow and attract a more diverse slate of high-value productions.”

Production in the commercials category decreased 5.3% to 1,635 days although ad shoots remain up 10.4% for the year.

As part of an effort to tout the benefits of shooting in Los Angeles, Warner Bros. installed wraps this week on its “Suburgatory” and “The Mentalist” shooting trucks. “The Mentalist” truck notes that the show has created $300 million in economic activity in its four seasons, along with 216 jobs and support for 160 vendors; the “Suburgatory” info asserts that the show has created $75 million in economic activity in two season along with 168 jobs created and support for 140 vendors.

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