FilmL.A. – the not-for-profit organization that coordinates permits for filmed entertainment shot on-location in the City of Los Angeles and local jurisdictions – released its annual study of television pilot production.
FilmL.A.’s official count shows that 186 broadcast and cable television pilots were produced during the 2012/2013 development cycle, making the past year the most productive on record by a large margin.
Out of those 186 television pilots, a total of 96 projects were filmed in the Los Angeles region, making this the second largest annual tally in Los Angeles’ history, totaling four projects more than the prior cycle and just six fewer than L.A. handled during its peak year of 2004/2005. Indeed, the Los Angeles region saw a large increase in the amount of on-location pilot filming.
From Jan. 1-June 10 of this year, permitted production days (PPDs) for pilots were almost 40 percent higher than the same period last year.
In terms of overall market share, L.A. captured just 52 percent of all pilots in the current cycle, the second lowest on record, down from L.A.’s record 82 percent share in 2006/2007.
The Los Angeles region captured just 22 percent of all television drama pilots, down from a 28 percent share in the previous cycle. During the previous three development cycles, drama pilots were filmed outside the L.A. region by a ratio of more than 2-to-1. This year, the ratio of drama pilots filmed outside L.A. was closer to 4-to-1.
L.A.’s share of comedy pilots was 83 percent, down from 91 percent during the previous cycle. On the positive side, the raw number of comedy pilots produced was 75 this year compared to 70 in the previous cycle.
After L.A., the top four competitors for pilot production were New York (19 pilots), Vancouver (15 pilots), Atlanta (9 pilots) and Toronto (6 pilots). Trailing the top four were New Orleans and Chicago, which each hosted five pilots.
The availability of financial production incentives and production infrastructure are key factors influencing where pilot producers choose to film. Some form of film production incentive was available in every one of the non-California locations used this year.
Drama producers use incentives to offset the increased cost of long-distance production while affording higher-end production values. Often, this means financial concerns trump creative concerns when deciding where to shoot.
For example, Atlanta and Vancouver each hosted pilots that were thematically set in L.A. Just one of the pilots shot in Atlanta is actually set there. Likewise, none of the 15 pilots shot in Vancouver are set in the city. Chicago, on the other hand, was the setting for all pilots shot there.
New York, L.A.’s closest rival, often plays itself. No less than 11 of the pilots produced in New York were set there. When New York was not playing itself, the only other location it substituted for was Washington D.C., which is the setting of four of the New York-filmed pilots.
As the initial episode of a proposed television series, many pilots are made, but only a few will ever be shown to viewers on broadcast or cable television. Before a pilot can be green-lighted for series, it must first be deemed marketable to television advertisers and foreign distributors in the annual “upfronts” process.
Overall, FilmL.A. estimates that approximately $277.8 million was spent on television pilot production in Los Angeles during the 2012/2013 development cycle, an increase over last year’s $262 million.