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Report: L.A. Production Grew in 2013, But Still Not What it Once Was

FilmLA, the film office serving the Los Angeles region, reported growth in on-location film, TV and web production in 2013, but said that it is still far from its peak.

Moreover, the report, which examined on-location filming over a 20 year period, said that a bigger share of recent growth has been in “lower-value” projects, such as reality TV, student films and still photography, 16% over the past five years, and ones that provide fewer and lower-paying jobs than so-called “higher value” productions like TV dramas and major feature films, which have increased just 2% over that period.

“Altogether, approximately 56% of the on-location filming taking place in Los Angeles can be classified as ‘lower value,’ and this figure remains optimistic,” FilmLA said in its report.

Industry boosters and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are calling for the state to expand its production incentive program, now capped at $100 million per year, to better compete with other states that have been able to lure network dramas and major feature films from Hollywood.

The FilmLA report highlighted what will be a challenge for industry lobbyists as they try to convince lawmakers of the urgency to expand the program, as the figures show a more complicated picture than a precipitous, year-over-year drop in production. While there are signs of improvement from 2012 to 2013, FilmLA said that production still lags peaks in certain categories. For instance, feature production is 50% below its peak in 1996, and TV drama production is 39% below its 2008 peak.

“I have been using the analogy that we have been in this basement, and we have moved up a step or two to the first floor, but we are nowhere where we used to be,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmLA. He said that other states have essentially been “cherry picking the best stuff away from us,” with the growth confined to “micro-budgeted” projects and direct-to-web productions. His “biggest concern,” he said, is that so many dramas and features are locating in other states that some of the key vendors that service them also are moving there permanent operations there as well.

In a statement, Garcetti said that the report “underscores the urgency of our work to reverse runaway production. The entertainment industry is a cornerstone of our civic identity and our economy, with 500,000 jobs at stake. I will cut red tape at City Hall and fight in Sacramento to make sure L.A. is the best possible place for production and ensure that we are always the entertainment capital of the world.”

FilmLA also plans an extensive report soon on production among certain categories of feature film production.

The figures from FilmLA, by category:

Features: 6,972 production days, 2013; 5,892 production days, 2012. Peak: 13,980 production days, 1996.

TV: 18,590 production days, 2013; 16,762 production days, 2012. Peak: 23,315 production days, 2007.

Commercials: 8,453 production days, 2013; 8,078 production days, 2012. Peak: 8,453 production days, 2013.

Subcategories:

TV dramas: 4,095 production days, 2013; 3,553 production days, 2012. Peak: 6,736 production days, 2008.

TV comedies: 2,222 production days, 2013; 2,048 production days, 2012. Peak: 2,222 production days, 2013.

TV pilots: 1,066 production days, 2013; 795 production days, 2012. Peak: 1,599 production days, 2006.

TV reality: 6,605 production days, 2013; 6,358 production days, 2012. Peak: 6,605 production days, 2013.

Web based TV: 1,725 production days, 2013; 1,633 production days, 2012. Peak: 1,725 production days, 2013.

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