L.A. considers nixing permit fees for pilots

City Council approves study to stem production exodus

Aiming to keep TV production from fleeing Hollywood, the city of Los Angeles could ditch permit and use fees for shooting TV pilots in time for next year’s pilot season.

In the wake of a report last month showing that Los Angeles’ share of primetime dramas had declined to less than half, the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution this week to study eliminating most of the fees charged to pilot producers — such as fees for street closures, use of public parks, fire inspections and permit review.

The motion, authored by council president Eric Garcetti, triggers a report by city staff to report back on Oct. 10 projecting potential revenues and costs.

Should the council approve at that point and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sign the measure, it could be in effect by the end of the year. Most network pilots are shot during the February-April period in time for the upfront presentations to advertisers in May.

“We’ve seen the steady decline of pilots and the departure of shows like ‘Ugly Betty,'” said Julie Wong, spokeswoman for Garcetti. “We want to encourage pilots to shoot here, then stay here when they get picked up.”

The motion by Garcetti cited the June 12 report by permitting agency FilmL.A., which 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 Hollwyood. It 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 been shot in Los Angeles.

Film L.A. president Paul Audley told Variety that Garcetti’s motion was the direct result of the study showing the ongoing erosion of dramas — which generate far more economic activity than sitcoms and reality.

“Much as we saw the loss of feature film production, we are witnessing the loss of television production as well,” Garcetti said in the motion. “The City must do everything possible to provide and encourage growth in the entertainment industry, to create much-needed jobs in the City, and to support the creative and technical achievement this industry brings to the City. Ensuring that television pilots are filmed in the City is an investment that will result in those pilots that are selected for full season runs continuing to film in the City. Incentives that keep pilots in the City will create long-term jobs in the City.”

The motion calls for City Adminstartive Office to report on the status of all fees charged for film and television productions and the impact of waiving all fees for television pilots filmed substantially in Los Angeles; for the Fire Department, Recreation and Parks Department, and Department of Transportation to report on the status of fees charged for film and television productions; and that FilmLA develop a fee waiver incentive to support television pilot productions filmed substantially in the city.

The FilmL.A. report showed that drama pilots generate $5.5 million in economic activity per pilot compared with $2 million for comedies. FilmL.A. noted that multi-camera, stage-bound comedies cost up to $1.5 million to produce per episode while single-camera comedies that regularly shoot on-location cost slightly more to make at up to $2.0 million per episode.

Total pilot production generated $262 million in economic activity from 92 pilots in Los Angeles during the just-concluded season, FilmL.A. said in the report. A total of 60 pilots were shot elsewhere.

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