Hot Locations: Slow Start To L.A. Lensing In 2019
  • Friday, May. 24, 2019
Paul Audley of FilmLA

On-location filming in Greater Los Angeles declined 9.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019, due to a simultaneous slowdown in feature, TV and commercial production. In all, area filmmakers logged 8,843 shoot days (SD) from January through the end of March. Despite the drop, FilmLA’s Research group expects local filming levels--which last year attained near-record highs--to ramp up as the year progresses.

“We’ve identified several factors contributing to the slowdown, and in our view, they are not a cause for alarm,” said FilmLA’s Paul Audley. “Despite 2019’s slower start, we continue to expect that this will be among the most productive-ever years for on-location filming in Los Angeles.”

According to FilmLA data, feature film production decreased 13 percent in the first quarter, to 708 SD. Timing appears to have played a role in the decline. In an unusual twist, only one project brought to Los Angeles by the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program has filmed on-location since January, after other incentivized projects wrapped by year’s end. According to the California Film Commission (CFC), there are many new feature films poised to begin production in the state, including 18 projects (10 studio projects and 8 independent projects) announced for the tax credit program in April. FilmLA predicts local feature activity will increase once some of those films begin production.

Television production decreased 13.4 percent to 3,139 SD in the first quarter. Scripted series activity was brisk, bringing increases for TV drama (up 4.6 percent to 1,197 SD) and TV comedy production (up 36.8 percent to 544 SD). Losses stemmed from substantial drops in TV pilot (down 60.3 percent to 108 SD), web-based TV (down 28.5 percent to 259 SD), and TV reality production (down 25.2 percent to 690 SD).

On the positive side, the California Film & Television Tax Credit continues to be a major catalyst. According to FilmLA data, nearly one-third (31.6 percent, or 379 SD) of all production in the TV drama category is incentive-driven.

Some of the larger drama projects shooting in Los Angeles last quarter include Animal Kingdom, Euphoria, Good Girls, Legion, Snowfall, Strange Angel, SWAT, The Affair, The Orville, The Rookie, and This Is Us.

On-location commercial production declined 15.1 percent in the first quarter, to 1,387 SD. Historically, commercials has been a very strong category in Los Angeles. Contract talks between SAG-AFTRA and commercial producers may have played a role in the Q1 slowdown.

Saul Calls On New Mexico
The television series Better Call Saul began principal photography on season five last month. 

“The fact that Sony Pictures and Better Call Saul are filming for a fifth season in New Mexico is a tribute to our professional crews, our climate, and our new package of incentives which make New Mexico the best in the country for this industry,” said New Mexico Economic Development cabinet secretary Alicia J. Keyes. 

“Albuquerque itself is one of characters in Better Call Saul and we welcome the show back for season five,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “Productions like these give our city a boost and employ hundreds of talented Burqueños.” The production will employ approximately 375 New Mexico crew members, 200 New Mexico actors and 500 New Mexico background talent. 

Better Call Saul is executive produced by Peter Gould, Vince Gilligan, Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, and Thomas Schnauz. A Sony Pictures Television production and created by Gilligan and Gould, the series stars Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, Michael Mando and Giancarlo Esposito.

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