On-location filming in Greater Los Angeles declined 9.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019, due to a simultaneous slowdown in Feature, Television and Commercial production. In all, area filmmakers logged 8,843 Shoot Days (SD)* from January through the end of March. Despite the drop, FilmLA’s Research group expects local filming levels – which last year attained near-record highs – to ramp up as the year progresses.
“We’ve identified several factors contributing to the slowdown, and in our view, they are not a cause for alarm. Despite 2019’s slower start, we continue to expect that this will be among the most productive-ever years for on-location filming in Los Angeles.”Paul Audley, President of FilmLA
According to FilmLA data, Feature film production decreased 13.0 percent in the first quarter, to 708 SD. Timing appears to have played a role in the decline. In an unusual twist, only one project brought to Los Angeles by the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program has filmed on-location since January, after other incentivized projects wrapped by year’s end. According to the California Film Commission (CFC), there are many new feature films poised to begin production in the state, including 18 projects (10 studio projects and 8 independent projects) announced for the tax credit program in April. FilmLA predicts local Feature activity will increase once some of those films begin production.
Television production decreased 13.4 percent to 3,139 SD in the first quarter. Scripted series activity was brisk, bringing increases for TV Drama (up 4.6 percent to 1,197 SD) and TV Comedy production (up 36.8 percent to 544 SD). Losses stemmed from substantial drops in TV Pilot (down 60.3 percent to 108 SD), Web-Based TV (down 28.5 percent to 259 SD), and TV Reality production (down 25.2 percent to 690 SD).
On the positive side for TV, the California Film & Television Tax Credit continues to drive considerable activity in the region. According to FilmLA data, nearly one-third (31.6 percent, or 379 SD) of all production in the TV Drama category is incentive-driven.
Some of the larger drama projects shooting in Los Angeles last quarter include Animal Kingdom, Euphoria, Good Girls, Legion, Snowfall, Strange Angel, SWAT, The Affair, The Orville, The Rookie, and This is Us.
Meanwhile, the once-reliable boost in production from the January-April pilot season continues to diminish. By FilmLA’s count, 27 television pilots filmed on area streets last quarter, ten percent fewer projects than the previous year. Also, as FilmLA revealed in its 2018 Television Report – fewer new television projects are being made each year, industry-wide. Excluding straight-to-series orders, which do not involve producing pilots in the traditional sense, fewer TV pilots were made last year than at any time since 2008.
On-location Commercial production declined 15.1 percent in the first quarter, to 1,387 SD. Historically, Commercials has been a very strong category in Los Angeles, and the first quarter of 2018 was its most productive quarter on record. Contract talks between SAG-AFTRA and commercial producers may have played a role in the Q1 slowdown. Commercial producers are also vulnerable to economic pressures; higher-budget projects are often filmed where tax incentive support is available.
“As always, we caution against inferring too much from a single report,” observed Audley. “California and Los Angeles will continue to attract new film projects, because our creative workforce and support resources are unmatched in all the world.”