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More Reality Show Producers Gamble on Las Vegas

It seems like Las Vegas has suddenly become a mecca for reality shows, but it’s been hosting productions for over a decade — there’s just more now than ever.

“The success of shows like ‘Pawn Stars,’ ‘Counting Cars’ and ‘American Restoration’ has definitely put us higher on the list of reality show locations,” says Eric Preiss, director of the Nevada Film Office. “But we’ve had a lot of reality, back to ‘The Real World’ (season 12) on MTV.”

That was in 2002. “The Real World” returned to Las Vegas in 2011 for season 25. Between those seasons, the production of unscripted series in Sin City has increased exponentially.

Sunny skies, easy permitting and proximity to Los Angeles are big draws, but business-friendly regulations have also spurred production. Preiss says about 90 reality shows filmed episodes or entire seasons in Las Vegas in 2012. The number shot to 150 in 2013. “I think this year we’ll see an even bigger increase,” he says.

“Vegas is a very exciting town filled with all kinds of characters; that’s what TV these days thrives on, so it makes sense that Las Vegas is a hot spot,” says David George, exec VP, Leftfield Pictures, which films three shows in Las Vegas: “Pawn Stars,” “American Restoration” and “Counting Cars.”

Filming entire seasons in Las Vegas is challenging because most qualified producers are based in Los Angeles or New York. “It’s gotten to the point where everybody is scratching to find a PA who can work there because there are so many shows,” George says. “There aren’t as many editors in Las Vegas because the post world hasn’t caught up to field production yet. But that could change.”

Preiss hopes more companies will establish permanent facilities in Las Vegas. A transferrable tax credit introduced this year may encourage more companies to do just that.

Leftfield is weighing its options. “It’s a question of when do we capitalize on it? When does it become a good business decision to move our post facilities to Las Vegas?” George says. “It’s a dollars and cents issue, but also a talent issue. Are we going to get editors to move there?”

Vegas is banking they will. “We really do offer everything a production is looking for,” Preiss says. “It’s an easy place to do business.”

From 2012 to 2013 the number of reality shows shooting at least some scenes in Las Vegas jumped from around 90 to 150. A transferrable tax credit implemented on Jan. 1, 2014, was expected to bump that number even higher. Here are some of the reality shows in production in Las Vegas, or that have aired over the past couple years.

Full Seasons
“American Restoration” (History)
Leftfield Pictures
Rick Dale and his team at Las Vegas-based Rick’s Restorations breathe new life into all kinds of battered relics — gas pumps, cars, neon signs, Coke machines, even a grand piano — turning items destined for the junk heap into works of art.

“Bad Ink” (A&E)
Sharp Entertainment
Las Vegas-based tattoo artist Dirk Vermin and his friend Rob Ruckus seek out bad tattoos throughout Vegas that they can transform into works of art.

“Counting Cars” (History)
Leftfield Pictures
Expert auto restorer Danny “The Count” Koker and his crew at Las Vegas-based Count’s Kustoms turn vintage vehicles into customized hot rods and choppers. They’ve even restored toy cars.

“Flipping Vegas” (A&E)
Lovable Scoundrels Prods.
This house flipping series follows real estate investor Scott Yancey and his wife, designer Amie, as they renovate and resell foreclosed and abandoned properties throughout the greater Las Vegas area.

“Las Vegas Jailhouse” (TruTV)
Langley Prods.
A behind-the-scenes peek at a Las Vegas lock-up filled with drunken tourists, angry lawbreakers and the law-enforcement officials overseeing them all.

“Money Talks” (CNBC)
All3 Media in association with Turn Left Prods. and Lost Tribe Prods.
Las Vegas-based sports handicapper Steve Stevens is profiled as he works the angles of high-stakes betting and tries to settle into traditional family life.

“Naked Vegas” (Syfy)
Gurney Prods.
The four-artist staff at Naked Vegas turn human canvases, both male and female, into all-too-temporary works of art for weddings, parties and other events.

“Pawn Stars” (History)
Leftfield Pictures
At the family-run Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, Rick Harrison, the Old Man, Corey and Chumlee evaluate items brought in by customers, note the historical context of the objects and negotiate to buy things they can make a profit on.

“Real World: Las Vegas” (MTV)
Bunim/Murray Prods.
In 2002, the Las Vegas Palms Casino and Resort was home base for the strangers-living-together series; in 2011, the series returned and was based in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

“Sister Wives” (TLC)
Figure 8 Films/Puddle Monkey Prods.
Originally filmed in Utah, the reality show following the lives of polygamist Kody Brown, his four wives and their 17 children relocated to Las Vegas in 2011.

“Tanked” (Animal Planet)
Nancy Glass Prods.
Creative and structural challenges are met by the staff of the family-owned Acrylic Tank Manufacturing as they design, install and stock custom aquariums for people, businesses and celebrities in Las Vegas and beyond.

“The Ultimate Fighter” (Spike 2005-11; FX 2012-13; Fox Sports 1 2014-present)
Pilgrim Studios
On each season of this long-running show, mixed martial arts fighters share a Las Vegas home and train together while competing for a contract with the UFC.

“Vegas Rat Rods” (Discovery )
Proper Television
Led by owner Steve Darnell, the crew at Las Vegas’ Welder Up strip down vehicles and cobble parts (and often non-automotive items) into one-of-a-kind rides.

“Vegas Stripped” (Travel)
Groff Entertainment/Leftfield Pictures
A revealing look at how hard-working hospitality workers at the South Point Casino keep guests and gamblers happy, well- fed and entertained.

“Welcome to Los Vargas” (mun2)
Anyone Collective
Unscripted series follows the lives of retired three-time world boxing champion Fernando Vargas and his extended family as he trains future champions at his Las Vegas area gym.

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