Production Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels as Television Continues to Surge

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Following nearly a year and a half of reduced production activity, high on-location production levels from April through June allowed FilmLA to announce its best quarter since late 2019. A total of 9,791 Shoot Days were recorded across all categories in the second quarter of 2021. A year prior, the COVID-19 shutdown sent filming levels crashing to record lows.

Last year’s unusual circumstances required FilmLA analysts to look for new ways to understand present-day filming levels. For comparison purposes, before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, the average number of Shoot Days recorded in a quarter totaled 9,135. This means that Q2 2021 activity bested the 2019 average quarterly by 7.2 percent.

The second quarter of 2021 also delivered an increase in Shoot Days compared to the immediate three months prior; by that measure quarterly production increased approximately 40 percent (from 7,011 SD to 9,791) since March. All of the four major categories tracked by FilmLA – Features, Commercials, Television and Other – experienced significantly increased activity. Leading the pack were Commercials, with a 55.5 percent increase over Q1 to 1,544 SD, followed by the Other category (up 49.7 percent to 2,510 SD), Features (up 43.3 percent to 824 SD) and Television (up 30.5
percent to 4,913 SD).

Another way to evaluate recent growth is to compare each category to its five-year rolling average. By this measure, Shoot Days for Television were up by an impressive 82.1 percent, followed by Commercials (up 38.5 percent). Trailing behind, however, were the Other category (down 7.7 percent) and Features (down 9.4 percent).

By almost any available measure, the second quarter was good for filming in Los Angeles. With local COVID-19 cases rising it’s not clear whether that will be sustainable, but the industry’s commitment to community, cast and crew safety remains firmly in place.

Paul Audley, President, FilmLA

Television, as Greater Los Angeles’ main production driver, remains important, and the TV Drama and TV Reality subgenres are largely responsible for the second quarter increase in production activity. Shoot days for TV Dramas (totaling 1,501) were up by 120.7 percent over their five-year quarterly average, and those for TV Reality (totaling 2,447) were up by 189.3 percent. Shoot days for TV Dramas in the second quarter of 2021 were comparable to first quarter levels (1,459 SD in Q1 vs. 1,501 SD in Q2), however TV Reality production increased by 61.6 percent over the same period (1,514 SD in Q1 vs. 2,447 SD in Q2). A total of 19.3 percent of TV Drama Shoot Days in the second quarter were for California Tax Credit projects.

Television series that shot locally in Q2 include CBS’ Ghosts, the mini-series, The Dropout (Hulu), American Crime Story: Impeachment (FX), Animal Kingdom (TNT), the new Starz drama, Gaslit, Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access), and two new Netflix series, Lincoln Lawyer and Monster.

Feature films that shot locally include Netflix’s Day Shift, Hollywood Stargirl (Disney+), Kimi (HBO Max). The new Steven Spielberg movie, The Fabelmans, also started shooting last month. A total of 9.3 percent of Feature Shoot Days in the second quarter were for California Tax Credit projects.

FilmLA analysts declined to predict how the spread of COVID-19 in Greater Los Angeles will impact regional production activity moving forward.

Appendix J protocols specific to filming were removed Los Angeles County in June. Nonetheless, the industry’s robust safety guidelines remain firmly in place an these have so far proven effective for keeping business moving safely.

Paul Audley, President, FilmLA

On-location production figures are based on days of permitted production within the jurisdictions served by FilmLA. One “Shoot Day” (or “SD”) is defined as one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24-hour period. This measure determines how many days of work film crews perform during a given time period. FilmLA data does not include production that occurs on certified sound stages or on-location in jurisdictions not served by FilmLA.

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» About FilmLA

FILML.A., INC® is a not-for-profit organization and the official film office of the City and County of Los Angeles, among an ever-increasing roster of local municipalities. Through expedited permit processing, comprehensive community relations, film policy analysis and other services, FilmLA works to streamline and enhance the on-location filmmaking process for communities and content creators, to ensure the Greater Los Angeles economy continues to thrive.

Integral to FilmLA’s work is ongoing research into the benefits that local filming brings to the Los Angeles region. To that end, we maintain an internal research division devoted to the production, collection and dissemination of information regarding the U.S. film production economy and global production trends.

Provided you cite FilmLA as your source, you are welcome to use all information, charts, graphs, etc. that appear in our reports.

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