Los Angeles Lags in Drama Pilot Production but California Hopes for 2016 Rebound

As network TV pilot production goes into full swing this month, Los Angeles is once again light on action for drama projects compared to the totals for New York, Vancouver and other locales. But city and state officials hope the tide will turn next year now that the state’s tax incentive program has been greatly expanded.

As of this week, of the 42 pilot and straight-to-series orders from the five broadcast nets that have settled on shooting locations, Los Angeles has landed eight projects, compared to seven for New York, according to data compiled by Variety Insight.

Vancouver has seven pilots setting up shop. Chicago is home to four, counting the “Chicago Med” planted spinoff episode of NBC’s “Chicago Fire” franchise. Atlanta and Toronto both have three projects. Other far-flung shooting sites include Rome, Ga.; Salt Lake City; Puerto Rico; and South Africa.

Network drama series are the most sought-after productions because they can employ 200-plus people in high-wage union jobs. In success, that employment can continue for years, in contrast to the finite time frame of a feature film production.

Last September, California’s legislature approved a big expansion of the state’s production tax incentive, tripling the program’s coffers to $330 million in credits annually, up from $100 million. Los Angeles film czar Ken Ziffren also said that his office is working with the California Film Commission to make changes in the credit application process to allow studios to seek credits earlier in the year. At present, the application period begins in May — far too late for studios to count on tax incentive coin when making decisions on where to produce pilots.

California has been active in courting series to relocate from other states, but the more important goal is to ensure that more producers have no economic reason to look beyond their backyard, Ziffren told Variety.

“The way this will work is that if you shoot the pilot here and you get approved for the tax credit, you’re in a priority position to get approved for your series,” Ziffren said. “So we’re trying to incentivize people to apply at the pilot level so they can get a head start.”

Ziffren and his team are preparing to make the rounds of networks, studios and talent agencies at the end of this month to educate about and encourage participation in the “Greenlight Hollywood” program unveiled in February by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Garcetti has made stemming the tide of production flight from Hollywood a high priority since he took office in 2013.

Although the drama slate is thin, Los Angeles still has the last laugh when it comes to comedies. Of the 41 network projects that have settled on filming locations, only three so far are shooting outside of L.A.: CBS’ “Taxi-22” (Toronto), NBC’s “Sharing” (New York City) and NBC’s “Strange Calls” (Vancouver).

Here is a rundown of network drama pilot/straight-to-series filming locations, according to Variety Insight. Detailed listings and updates on network and cable pilots can be found via Variety.com’s searchable Pilot Scorecard database.

LOS ANGELES

Adversaries (ABC)
L.A. Crime (ABC)
Code Black (CBS)
Criminal Minds spinoff (CBS)
Rush Hour (CBS)
Super Girl (CBS)
Lucifer (Fox)
Studio City (Fox)

NEW YORK

Doubt (CBS)
For Justice (CBS)
LFE (CBS)
Limitless (CBS)
Sneaky Pete (CBS)
Blindspot (NBC)
Shades of Blue* (NBC)

VANCOUVER

Advocate (ABC)
Flesh and Blood (ABC)
Mix (ABC)
Dead People (CW)
Tales From the Darkside (CW)
Heart Matters (NBC)
Unveiled (NBC)

CHICAGO

Runner (ABC)
Luther (Fox)
Chicago Med (NBC)
Love Is a Four Letter Word (NBC)

ATLANTA

Quantico (ABC)
Cordon (CW)
Game of Silence (NBC)

TORONTO

Cheerleader Death Squad (CW)
Minority Report (Toronto, Fox)
Warrior (Toronto, NBC)

OTHER

Boom (Salt Lake City, ABC)
Broad Squad (Boston, ABC)
Catch (Austin, Texas, ABC)
Kingmakers (Rome, Ga., ABC)
Of Kings and Prophets (South Africa, ABC)
Untitled Autopsy Project (Miami, Fox)
Frankenstein (Dallas, Fox)
Curse of the Fuentes Women (Puerto Rico, NBC)
Endgame (Albuquerque, N.M., NBC)
Scream Queens* (New Orleans, Fox)

*Straight-to-series pickups

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