Only months before California’s $330 million in annual film and TV tax incentives are made available — with the expectation of sharply increased production in the future — Film L.A. has issued its annual production report showing a mixed bag of results for last year.
Production of feature films on location in the Los Angeles area was down 3.2 percent in 2014 while TV production was up by 12.2 percent, driven by an 28.6 percent increase in TV drama production, which offset a 26.7 percent decline in sitcom production.
“This is big news for our city given the critical role the entertainment industry plays in creating tens of thousands of good middle-class jobs and showing the world what it means to be an Angeleno,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in the foreword to the report. “Our work to make L.A. more film-friendly is already paying off, and we’re excited to see even bigger numbers when the new film tax credit we got passed goes into effect.”
For the first time the numbers are presented as Shoot Days (SD) rather than Permitted Production Days (PPD). Film L.A. president Paul Audley said their research team, led by Adrian McDonald, spent six months revamping the way they track production to streamline the process. A SD, according to the report, “is defined as a single crew’s permission to film using a single government permit at one or more locations during a 24-hour period.”
Both the old and new systems only track production outside of studio and network production on soundstages.
The 3.2 percent decrease in total feature production in 2014 meant there were 4,535 days of location work compared with 4,687 in 2013.
The study also compares production to the categories five-year rolling average. On-location feature production peaked in 1996, but in the years since film work has fallen by about half, largely because other countries (led by Canada) and some 30 U.S. states have instituted incentive programs that have lured work from California.
In 2014, feature production was up 6.9 percent compared to the category’s five-year rolling average. The report credits the California film incentive program, first instituted in 2009, with helping increase production since 2009.
Among the movies that got California tax incentives in 2014 were American Sniper, Nightcrawler, The Purge: Anarchy, The Gambler and Jersey Boys.
The overall 12.2 percent increase in all kinds of television production means the number of workdays increased from 12,787 to 14,349.
On-location TV production was up 17.4 percent compared to the category’s five-year rolling average. The year 2012 was the worst on record, according to the report, fueled by the cancellation of several long-running series.
TV production in recent years, the report noted, has increased along with the number of cable channels (especially premium networks), reality TV shows and the development of digital platforms including Amazon and Netflix.
In 2014, among all network and cable dramas that shot in the L.A. area, 27 percent got state film incentives compared with just 4 percent four years ago. Among the 26 cable dramas that shot in the area, half received incentives.
The TV dramas shot in the L.A. area that received state tax incentives included Justified, Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, Major Crimes and Murder in the First.
The 26.7 percent fall in sitcoms, both single- and multicamera shows, means in 2014 there were 1,131 production days compared with 1,544 in 2013. Sitcom production in 2014 was down 7.3 percent compared to the category’s five-year rolling average.
The report cautions against reading too much in to the sitcom numbers because most such shows shoot on soundstages, which are not counted by Film L.A.
According to the report, production of TV reality shows on location was up 14.7 percent compared with 2013; production days increased from 4,825 to 5,532.
Reality TV production is now the biggest contributor to local on-location production days, accounting for 40 percent of shoots; but most reality shows have smaller casts and crews than either dramas or sitcoms.
The good news is that TV pilot production was up 15.4 percent compared with 2013, from 642 days to 741 days. That is significant because shows often stay to be produced in the place where the pilot is shot.
Pilot production was up 24.9 percent compared to the category’s five-year rolling average in 2014.
Web-based TV production fell by 7.3 percent in 2014, from 1,218 to 1,129 days. That was still up 19.3 percent compared to the category’s five-year rolling average.
Film L.A. believes even those numbers are under-reported because many new-media entrepreneurs don’t realize they need permits.
On-location commercial production increased 9 percent in 2014, from 4,765 to 5,192 days. Commercial production was up 16.7 percent compared with the category’s five-year rolling average.
One driver of this category is production for online. From 2010 to 2014, production of commercials for web-based distribution increased 336 percent, from 177 days to 771 days.
“This reflects a profound change in the commercial production market,” the report says. “Increased broadband connectivity, coupled with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and other media consumption devices, has created promising new opportunities for online advertising.”