2012: Another Year Fighting Runaway Production

2012: Another Year Fighting Runaway Production

from: FilmWorksLA.com

Earlier this month, FilmL.A. released its year-end 2012 report covering on-location film production in Los Angeles.  The total number of Permitted Production Days (PPDs) for all categories saw a marginal increase of 1.7% in 2012 compared to 2011.  But the overall numbers for all categories conceal what’s happening in the key production subcategories that matter most in terms of employment and economic impact.

In the important Features category, there was good news with a 3.7% increase in production in 2012 vs. 2011.  For the Television category, overall production was down 3.4% in 2012.  While a 3.4% decrease isn’t a catastrophic decline for overall Television production, here again it is important to delve deeper and look at where those losses come from:

As the table above shows, the TV Drama subcategory saw a significant 20% decline in 2012 compared to 2011.  As the Los Angeles Times recently pointed out, the 20% decline for TV Dramas is the largest on record and a hard blow the local economy:

Production of one-hour dramas plummeted 20% in 2012 — the largest annual decline on record — reinforcing concerns among industry officials that cost-conscious producers increasingly are taking their business to tax-friendly production havens in New York, North Carolina, Georgia and other states… Dramas are coveted by local economists because they employ bigger crews and have larger budgets than comedies and reality-TV shows.

FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said two factors were at play for the decline of TV Dramas:

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.  Unfortunately, last year we also saw a record number of new TV drama series shot out of state, resulting in negative economic consequences.

The number of new network TV Dramas filming out of state is a relatively new and troubling development.  As we shared in our Film Works Filming Fact series last year, only 8 percent of last fall’s new network television dramas were made in L.A.  Just seven years earlier, the region was capturing 79 percent of new shows.

Even the 53% year-over-year increase for TV Sitcom production is of little comfort.  As a rule, TV Sitcoms are less expensive to produce than TV Dramas.  Their shorter running length makes for smaller budgets and smaller crews, so it would take a much larger increase in comedies to make up for L.A.’s loss of new dramas.

FilmL.A.’s latest report shows how vulnerable even established production centers like L.A. can be in the face of stiff global competition.  Progressive production loss, first in the Features category and now in Television, continues to pose a serious threat to L.A. area families.

So let’s take a lesson from the past and look forward.  We’re now on the verge of a new pilot season, so here’s to hoping 2013 brings better news.

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