Scripted TV Production Keeps Los Angeles Filming Afloat

As feature, commercial and reality TV production dips in California, narrative shows remain the only sector to increase in the second quarter.
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Scripted television remains the ray of hope for production in Los Angeles.

According to the latest quarterly report from FilmLA, on-location filming of narrative TV projects increased in the second quarter — and was the only sector to do so. Feature, commercial and reality TV production, meanwhile, all lost ground.

Overall, on-location filming in the greater Los Angeles region slipped nearly four percent in the second quarter of 2019. A total of 8,632 shoot days were logged during the period.

In FilmLA’s Television category, dramas specifically were up 17 percent, comedy was up three percent and pilots were up 35 percent. But a cyclical drop in reality TV (down 16 percent) pulled the category down a percent overall.

Scripted television production in Los Angeles is increasingly driven by the state's tax credit program. In the second quarter, half of local TV drama shoot days came from incentivized series — a new record. (Among them: Animal Kingdom, Ballers, Euphoria, Good Trouble, Mayans MC, Snowfall, Strange Angel, SWAT, Westworld, Why Women Kill and You.) As for comedy, incentive projects powered 20 percent of them.

Feature film production, for its part, decreased around 17 percent for the second quarter. The lack of available soundstage space is seen as the main impediment to growth in this category, even though financial incentives to bring new projects to the state are strong. Film projects brought to Los Angeles by California’s incentives program contributed nearly 10 percent of projects.

Incentivized features recently filming in the greater L.A. area include Covers, Island Plaza, Main Stream, Palm Springs, SJ2, Torrance and The Walk. During the first quarter, incentivized features were nearly absent from Los Angeles, although such projects were in production elsewhere in California.

Commercial production, which receives no state-level incentive support, dropped nearly 20 percent in the second quarter. Producers have increasingly been pursuing alternatives to L.A. for filming commercials. In addition, the market has been impacted by consumers’ turn towards streaming services and away from ad-supported entertainment products.

"Although our latest report reveals a decline in filming on location, local production facilities tell us that they are operating at capacity," said FilmLA president Paul Audley. "We’ll be looking at soundstage production again this fall to put some of these numbers in context, and examine demand and opportunities for new local infrastructure investment."