Production Up in L.A. But Experts Warn of Dim Future

Despite a quarterly increase, film and television production continues to lag behind historical averages in California at a rate that should "anger" residents, according to Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A.

A new report by the not-for-profit, which coordinates permitting for local productions in the Los Angeles area, shows an increase in film and TV production in the last quarter, but the figures reveal an “underperforming” entertainment industry.

"We used to own 80 percent of what you see on network television and now we're down to 40 percent," Audley told Backstage.

A report about pilot season released by FilmL.A. last month found that the city's share of those productions had fallen to 52 percent—the second lowest on record with the group.

Audley said he hoped these figures would make Southern California residents "a little bit angry about having lost this signature industry and push them to try and compete and bring it back."

The $100-million California Film and Television Tax Credit Program has existed since 2009 but it's dwarfed by the incentives available in states like New York. "It helped us to stem the loss, but it was more like a tourniquet," said Audley. "We're just not competing for this work."

On-location filming in the L.A. area increased 8.6 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year (12,173 in 2013 versus 11,209 permitted production days in 2012), according to the new FilmL.A. report. But a five-year historical analysis “reveals consistent underperformance in key television subcategories, particularly dramas.”

The TV Drama subcategory underperformed in its five-year average by 12.0 percent this quarter, even after logging year-over-year gains of 29.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Web-based TV (up 63.1 percent year-over-year to 499 PPD), TV Pilots (up 51.8 percent year-over-year to 384 PPD) and TV Sitcoms (up 39.1 percent year-over-year to 381 PPD) delivered solid performances, building on momentum gained in the first quarter.

The Commercials category increased 4.5 percent last quarter to 1,986 PPD. On-location Feature production squeaked ahead just one-half percent for the quarter to 1,758 PPD. Nonetheless, the category’s latest results were 9.4 percent better than their five-year average.

"We've seen some good numbers this year if you look at them in a vacuum, but we have a heck of a lot of work to do to bring this work back and keep Californians employed," said Audley.