Positive On-Location Production Activity Numbers in 2010 Underscore Importance of California Film & Television Tax Credit

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According to FilmL.A. President Paul Audley, the local entertainment industry can be “cautiously optimistic” about the health of their business in 2011, based on new numbers released today regarding production activity in 2010.  According to FilmL.A., on-location filming across the board increased “nearly 15 percent” in 2010:

On-location filming across all categories increased nearly 15 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, aided by unexpected surges in Television and Feature production in the fourth quarter.  In all, FilmL.A. recorded 43,646 permitted production days (PPD) in 2010 compared to 37,979 tallied in 2009.

Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the report is the data regarding the importance of the California Film and Television Tax Credit, which prevented production in the Feature category from suffering what could have been the worst year on record since tracking began:

On-location Feature production posted a 28.1 percent fourth quarter gain and a year-over-year gain of 8.1 percent (5,378 PPD in 2010 vs. 4,976 in 2009).  The annual increase can be wholly attributed to California’s Film and Television Tax Credit. Estimates from the California Film Commission show that since program inception, incentivized projects have injected $2 billion in direct spending into California communities including over $697 in wages paid to below-the-line workers.

In 2010 alone, the state program attracted dozens of new feature film projects to Los Angeles, which were responsible for 26 percent of local Feature production in 2010 (totaling 1,400 PPD).  Were it not for these projects, 2010 would have been the worst year on record for on-location Feature filming in Los Angeles.  As it stands, that record is held by the year 2009, when the Features category finished 64 percent below its historical peak (4,976 PPD in 2009 vs. 13,980 in 1996).


In the other categories, Commercials saw its largest “year-over-year increase since tracking began”:

Production of Commercials increased 28.1 percent in 2010 vs. the prior year (6,778 vs. 5,292 PPD), the category’s largest year-over-year increase since tracking began in 1993. Despite a weak fourth quarter gain of just 2.5 percent, the Commercials category overcame an unsteady economy and four prior years of decline to attain its second-strongest annual showing on record.  Commercial production reached its zenith in L.A. back in 2005 (6,983 PPD).

In the Television category, there were some interesting production shifts:

Television production posted a fourth quarter gain of 49.9 percent to recover 11.9 percent over 2009 (17,833 vs. 15,933 PPD). The recovery was fueled by only two of Television’s main subcategories.  By year’s end, TV Sitcoms were up 77.9 percent and TV Reality up 46.6 percent, while TV Dramas were down 18.9 percent and TV Pilots down 8.6 percent.  Changes in local programming and production schedules, elaborated upon in FilmL.A.’s Q3 production report, shifted dramas onto studio lots (making them untrackable to FilmL.A.) and single-camera sitcoms onto area streets.  Incentive-qualifying productions made up just 2.6 percent (totaling 462 PPD) of L.A.’s 2010 Television total.

While the increases in almost all of these categories is good news, it is important to keep them in perspective. While the numbers are better than the previous year, the previous year (2009) gave us the largest year-over-year annual decline in overall filming and the worst year on record for Features.  Furthermore, the importance of the California Film and Television Tax Credit is now indisputable; without it, Features would have slipped further to the lowest levels of on-location production activity ever seen in L.A.!

Nevertheless, hope springs.  With the “Film Works” campaign underway and the popularity of the California Film and Television Tax Credit — not to mention all of the work happening locally at the city level — 2011 is off to a very good start.  Here’s to a prosperous New Year!

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