L.A. TV Production Spikes 12 Percent Thanks to New Tax Program

Suzanne Tenner/FX
On the L.A. set of 'American Horror Story,' which recently relocated production from Louisiana.

"I can just roll out of bed and be at work," says 'Veep' co-star Reid Scott as tax credits, proximity and comforts induce far-flung TV shows likes the HBO comedy to return home to Hollywood.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

For its first three seasons, Veep was shot in an old mattress warehouse 30 minutes outside of Baltimore. "There was nothing," says Timothy Simons, who plays obnoxious White House staffer Jonah. "You had a parking lot, and that was it." But this fall, the Emmy-winning HBO comedy started filming at its new home at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, and the move has opened up a new world for the show's actors. "When I have a couple of hours off, I go into Larchmont, get some coffee and say hi to a friend," says Simons. "These are uncharted waters for me."

Convenience is only one reason Los Angeles is seeing a resurgence of TV production this past quarter, with shows like American Horror Story (now on the Fox lot) and Secrets & Lies (Paramount) also relocating to the city. Chalk the pilgrimage up primarily to California's revamped tax credits program. In May, the state replaced its old lottery with a new ranking system heavily based on a production's ability to create jobs and boosted annual incentives from $100 million to $330 million. In an attempt to lure existing shows, a portion of those funds specifically is reserved for relocating series.

'Veep’s' Julia Louis-Dreyfus now shoots her HBO sitcom about the first female president on a soundstage at Paramount.

It's clearly working: TV production in L.A. hit a record high this quarter, up 12 percent compared with last year, according to a FilmL.A. report released Oct. 6. Shoot days have jumped a whopping 168 percent for sitcoms, 24 percent for dramas and 32 percent for pilots (though reality TV, normally the region's largest production segment, is down 20 percent). "You can't compete with the talent pool both in front of and behind the camera," says Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission. "There's an ease to working here in terms of the level of expertise, the availability of the equipment and, for most people, the proximity to home."

And not just to home. American Horror Story, which shot its past two seasons in Louisiana, returned to L.A. for its latest installment, Hotel, in large part because creator Ryan Murphy wanted to be closer to his other FX anthology series, American Crime Story, also shooting at Fox in Century City. "You often see Ryan hustling between the two shows on the lot," says 20th Century Fox TV head of production Jim Sharp. "That wouldn't be possible [elsewhere]." Another benefit of shooting in Hollywood: Stars like Lady Gaga are much easier to wrangle. "We get her for [only so] much time, and that's it," says Sharp. "I don't see that happening if you add the travel time to Louisiana."

Even shows that aren't getting rebates are finding reasons to stick around L.A. Colony, USA's upcoming alien-invasion drama from Carlton Cuse and Ryan Condal, has taken root at CBS Radford in Studio City (home to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Odd Couple). "We made it work, but not without campaigning from Carlton," says Condal, who desperately wanted his L.A.-set series to look "geographically authentic."

"There's a fun sense of history being on one of the old lots," says Veep's new showrunner David Mandel, noting that creator Armando Iannucci's London base was a key reason the show had been shooting on the East Coast. "The stages have a plaque that tells you what else was shot there — Happy Days, Family Ties and whatnot."

Indeed, for the cast of Veep, moving production to L.A. was the best thing to happen since last month's Emmys. "The timing was perfect," says new dad (his wife had a baby six months ago) Reid Scott, who plays ousted vice presidential aide Dan Egan. "I can just roll out of bed and be at work."