TV Drama Production Plummets While Commercials Climb in L.A.

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On-location filming across all categories increased 1.7 percent in 2012 (46,254 permitted production days [PPD] in 2012 vs. 45,484 PPD in 2011), according to a report FilmL.A. released earlier this month. Compared to the same period a year ago, the year saw an increase in on-location feature film production and a drastic decrease in the local production of television dramas.

On-location Feature production saw its best year since 2008, having increased 3.7 percent for the year (5,892 PPD in 2012 vs. 5,682 PPD in 2011). The California Film & Television Tax Credit did its part to spur local production; state-qualified Feature projects in L.A. included 10 Things I Hate About Life, Baggage Claim, The Bling Ring, Dark Skies, Gangster Squad, The Hive, Jesus in Cowboy Boots, Look of Love, and Plush. Other projects driving a significant amount of Feature activity in 2012 included Bad Words and Star Trek Into Darkness from director J.J. Abrams.

The TV Drama category (down 20.0 percent) plunged drastically last quarter, capping off an already uncertain year for Los Angeles-based television workers. Also affected was TV Reality (down 11.8 percent) which helped to drag overall television production down 3.4 percent for the year (16,762 PPD in 2012 vs. 17,349 in 2011).

Loss of television production share has been a concern for FilmL.A. since the agency first realized the decline in television production in 2011. The publication of the not-for-profit organization’s 2012 Television Pilot Production Report did little to relieve those concerns.

“We know that part of the decline in our TV Drama figures stems from producers’ desire to cut costs by filming more on studio back-lots and soundstages,” noted FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “Unfortunately, last year we also saw a record number of new TV drama series shot out of state, resulting in negative economic consequences.”

The California Film and Television Tax Credit, which is also made available to television producers who meet the state’s strict qualification criteria, was utilized by many productions that shot on-location in the Los Angeles region.  Incentivized projects in the Television category included Body of Proof, Bunheads, Five More, Franklin and Bash, Justified, Major Crimes, Pretty Little Liars, Rizzoli and Isles, Shadow on the Mesa, Switched at Birth, Teen Wolf and Thanksgiving House.

The Commercials category, which has seen record growth over the last four years due in part to the rising number of locally produced web-based commercials, increased 14.1 percent for the year (8,078 PPD in 2012 vs. 7,079 in 2011). Web-based commercial projects accounted for 7.9 percent of the category total and 641 PPD in 2012, a large increase from 1.7 percent and 101 PPD in 2008.

“Last year saw our industry rocked by dramatic changes in the local production landscape,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “If we seek a more secure future for filming in Los Angeles, we must continue to innovate and expand upon the programs proven to attract new projects to California.”


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