L.A. TV Production Has Strongest First Quarter Since 2007

Teen Wolf Episodic Still - H 2012

Teen Wolf Episodic Still - H 2012

The opening months of 2013 also saw impressive gains for features shooting in Los Angeles County, according to a report from Film L.A.

Production on the streets of Los Angeles County rebounded during the first quarter of 2013, jumping 17.6 percent compared to the same period in 2012, according to a report released Wednesday by Film L.A.

The gains were especially impressive in feature films – up 25.5 percent over last year - and in television, where a lot more pilots were shot this year. Permits for TV pilot production soared 37 percent to 460 compared to 335 in first quarter 2012.

“We’re viewing the latest numbers with caution and optimism,” says Film L.A. president Paul Audley. “One quarter can’t undo all the troubling declines we’ve experienced, but we’re certainly encouraged to see things moving in an upward direction.”

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Film L.A. is a private, non-profit that processes permits for on-location production in the city of L.A., unincorporated parts of L.A. County and other localities. It does not include productions on studio lots but does typically provide an indicator of trends in production in the region. That is important because in an era in which there is a lot of “run away” production going to other states and counties offering incentives, it impacts local employment and is a factor in incentives offered by the state.

Some of the movies and TV projects shot in L.A. were financed in part by the California Film & Tax Credit Program, which provides $100 million a year in incentives. That sounds like a lot of money but the program is actually  modest compared to what states including Louisiana and Georgia or countries including Canada offer to lure filmmakers.

The strong first quarter showing is an indication of more production and a healthier economy. Film L.A. permitted work that took 13,362 production days in the quarter compared to 11,360 in the first quarter a year ago.

Feature production rose to 1,279 from 1,019 last year. Among the features shot which got state tax incentives were 10 Things I Hate About Life, Dark Skies and Walk of Shame.

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The most striking turnaround was in TV where last year saw losses in almost every category. This year there was an overall 19 percent gain. Film L.A. declared it “the strongest fist quarter TV has seen since 2007,” the last full year before the recession.

The growth in TV pilots was followed by a 36.9 percent increase in TV sitcoms, a 22.4 percent increase in TV dramas and a slim 2.1 percent increase in the TV reality subcategory. A new category, web based TV, saw a 35.4 percent increase to 539 production days.

Among the TV productions that got state tax incentives were Body of Proof, Bunheads, Franklin and Bash, Justified, Major Crimes, Rizzoli and Isles and Teen Wolf, representing about 3.5 percent of activity in the TV categories.

One thing that pumped up the numbers was a sharp increase in still photography, which was up 51.8 percent over last year’s first quarter. Audley points out that still photography doesn’t produce as much local revenue as a movie or TV shoot. He says it is “considered ‘low yield’ from an economic standpoint.”

Production of TV commercials was down slightly in the quarter, by 0.6 percent after breaking records in 2012.