Production Returns To Pre-Pandemic Levels In L.A. As TV Continues to Surge
Paul Audley, president of FilmLA
Future filming forecast cloudy as COVID-19 cases climb
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FilmLA, partner film office for the City and County of Los Angeles and other local jurisdictions, has issued an update regarding regional filming activity.

Following nearly a year and a half of reduced production activity, high on-location production levels from April through June allowed FilmLA to announce its best quarter since late 2019. A total of 9,791 shoot days were recorded across all categories in the second quarter of 2021. A year prior, the COVID-19 shutdown sent filming levels crashing to record lows.

Last year’s unusual circumstances required FilmLA analysts to look for new ways to understand present-day filming levels. For comparison purposes, before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, the average number of shoot days recorded in a quarter totaled 9,135. This means that Q2 2021 activity bested the 2019 average quarterly by 7.2 percent.

The second quarter of 2021 also delivered an increase in shoot days compared to the immediate three months prior; by that measure quarterly production increased approximately 40 percent (from 7,011 shoot days to 9,791) since March. All of the four major categories tracked by FilmLA--features, commercials, television and "other" (including still photography, student and documentary films, music and industrial videos, and miscellaneous categories)–-experienced significantly increased activity. Leading the pack were commercials, with a 55.5 percent increase over Q1 to 1,544 shoot days, followed by the "other" category (up 49.7 percent to 2,510 shoot days), features (up 43.3 percent to 824 shoot days) and television (up 30.5 percent to 4,913 shoot days).

Another way to evaluate recent growth is to compare each category to its five-year rolling average. By this measure, shoot days for television were up by an impressive 82.1 percent, followed by commercials (up 38.5 percent). Trailing behind, however, were the "other" category (down 7.7 percent) and features (down 9.4 percent).

“By almost any available measure, the second quarter was good for filming in Los Angeles,” observed FilmLA president Paul Audley. “With local COVID-19 cases rising it’s not clear whether that will be sustainable, but the industry’s commitment to community, cast and crew safety remains firmly in place.”

Television, as Greater Los Angeles’ main production driver, remains important, and the TV drama and TV reality subgenres are largely responsible for the second quarter increase in production activity. Shoot days for TV dramas (totaling 1,501) were up by 120.7 percent over their five-year quarterly average, and those for TV Reality (totaling 2,447) were up by 189.3 percent. Shoot days for TV dramas in the second quarter of 2021 were comparable to first quarter levels (1,459 shoot days in Q1 vs. 1,501 shoot days in Q2), however TV reality production increased by 61.6 percent over the same period (1,514 shoot days in Q1 vs. 2,447 shoot days in Q2). A total of 19.3 percent of TV drama shoot days in the second quarter were for California Tax Credit projects.

Television series that shot locally in Q2 include CBS’ Ghosts, the miniseries, The Dropout (Hulu), American Crime Story: Impeachment (FX), Animal Kingdom (TNT), the new Starz drama, Gaslit, Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access), and two new Netflix series--Lincoln Lawyer and Monster.

Feature films that shot locally include Netflix’s Day Shift, Hollywood Stargirl (Disney+), Kimi (HBO Max). The new Steven Spielberg movie, The Fabelmans, also started shooting last month. A total of 9.3 percent of feature shoot days in the second quarter were for California Tax Credit projects.

FilmLA analysts declined to predict how the spread of COVID-19 in Greater Los Angeles will impact regional production activity moving forward.

“Appendix J (L.A. County Department of Health) protocols specific to filming were removed by Los Angeles County in June,” Audley noted. “Nonetheless, the industry’s robust safety guidelines remain firmly in place and these have so far proven effective for keeping business moving safely.”


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