Los Angeles Sees Moderate Production Gains in Features

Zach Braff Wish I Was Here

L.A.-based film shoots still far below peak

Gains in feature film production offset a decline in TV shooting to lift overall third-quarter location shooting in Los Angeles by 9.5% to 11,792 permitted days, according to the FilmL.A. permitting agency.

The hike in activity may appear to undercut the contentions that the state of California needs to do more to put the brakes on runaway production, so FilmL.A. president Paul Audley issued a statement aimed at providing context for the latest statistics.

“Any increase in local production is cause for celebration, as long as we don’t lose sight of the big picture,” said Audley. “California has yet to match and overcome out of state competition for this business. For feature film production to be where it once was and should be in L.A., production would need to increase by 125%. Until Sacramento acts to level the playing field, we won’t see the kind of growth and prosperity that California families are counting on.”

The 19.5% jump in features — concentrated in small-budget projects such as Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded “Wish I Was Here” — was enough to overcome a 3.4% slide in the mainstay TV production category, according to statistics released Tuesday by FilmL.A.

Feature production totaled 1,959 days during the quarter, a continuing sign of moderate recovery in a segment that’s been hit hard by runaway production as the category improved its 5-year quarterly average by 14.6%. Still, FilmL.A. noted that the activity lags far behind the record setting numbers of 1996.

The report was issued with momentum gaining to improve the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program, which is far smaller than rival incentive programs in other states with a $100 million annual limit in credits and exclusion of features with budgets over $75 million. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently appointed Tom Sherak as film czar to address the runaway issue and several state legislators have announced plans to increase the scope of the incentive program.

“I’ve made the industry a priority for my administration because it generates 500,000 jobs,” Garcetti said in statement Tuesday. “This isn’t about the stars we see on the screen but about carpenters, caterers, and electricians and the stores they shop in.”

State-qualified feature projects generated 107 days of shooting between July and September, or 5.5% of the category’s quarterly total and included “Best Man,” “Jersey Boys,” “Kitchen Sink,” “OT Beach” and “Ride.”

Other features shot in Los Angeles during the quarter included “Life After Beth,” “Reversal,” “Stretch” and “Whiplash.”

FilmL.A. president Paul Audley asserted that — when compared with five-year averages — the numbers also show that Los Angeles has continued to see erosion in features and TV dramas, which generate the highest level of economic activity, as other states lure away production via incentives that are far richer than California’s.

“We are seeing increases but they are in the low-economic area,” he added. “We’re not seeing tentpole films shot here. It’s great that we are getting micro-budget projects, but those use small casts and crews.”

The television production category totaled 4,091 days during the third quarter as TV dramas gained 6.5% to 983 days — but have dropped 25.5% below the five-year average.

Reality TV was down 14.3% 1,353 days; sitcoms slid 15% to 517 and web-based TV production fell 15.6% to 357.

State-qualified TV projects generated 182 days, or 18.5% of all TV drama activity including “Lost Angels,” “Major Crimes,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Teen Wolf.”

The commercials category jumped 17.7% to 1,925 days for its strongest showing so far this year. Production in this category has increased notably in recent years.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a two-year $200 million extension of the tax credit program last fall. Those funds will be doled out in June, 2014 and June, 2015.

Only 31 of the 380 projects that applied for the state tax credits were selected in June. That number has increased to 34, with thriller “Nightcrawler” receiving a $2.3 million allocation from the California Film Tax Credit program after moving off the waiting list.

August’s cancellation of “Bunheads” freed up credits for seven other California projects, including “Sam and the White Tiger,” “Perfect Heist,” “Xoxo” and “Straight Outta Compton.”

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