As filming is beginning a slow return in Greater Los Angeles, a new FilmLA report released this week reveals the enduring effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region’s film, television and commercial production industry. Updated data from FilmLA indicates that filming in area communities declined by 54.5 percent year-over-year to just 4,199 Shoot Days (SD) from July through September, 2020.
With Reality TV (up 10.3 percent to 1,159 SD) and Commercials (down 41.2 percent to 782 SD) together accounting for 46 percent of all filming on-location, the local film industry’s road to recovery hinges on a planned October restart for scripted Television and Feature projects of scale.
Looking specifically at September, FilmLA saw multiple weeks of business activity increases, receiving on average around 34 film permit applications per day. September was also the month that Television edged out Commercials as the source of new applications for the first time since June.
Operating with smaller crews and casts and the freedom to easily adjust storyline and location choice, reality projects came online quickly after LA County reopened to filming in mid-June with robust health protection protocols in place. The advertising industry, represented in FilmLA data by Commercials and Still Photography, also saw a quick return to production over the summer.
Permit turnaround time has returned to prior efficiency, at around three business days for non-complex shoots.
Scripted Television, including TV Drama (down 73.2 percent to 286 SD) and TV Comedy (down 96.3 percent to 28 SD), fared worse last quarter, as did the production of Features (down 64.1 percent to 352 SD). These larger-scale projects, poised to resume now that unprecedented labor agreements were reached in late September, are job creators and essential to the survival of thousands of local businesses that depend on production.
These high-value projects are also the types of productions that are eligible for the successful California Film & Television Tax Credit Program. The state tax credit’s Program 3.0 incentivizes in-state production of TV projects and feature films, with several application periods each fiscal year.