Film­ing in L.A. slides in quar­ter

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Richard Ver­rier richard.ver­rier@la­times.com

Fea­ture film pro­duc­tion ac­tiv­ity in Los An­ge­les County plum­meted 15% in the first quar­ter of this year, con­tin­u­ing a slide in a sec­tor that has been squeezed by run­away pro­duc­tion.

Los An­ge­les gen­er­ated 926 shoot days in the first quar­ter, down from 1,094 dur­ing the same pe­riod a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from FilmL.A. Inc., a non­profit group that han­dles film per­mits in the city and county.

The drop fol­lows a 28% decline in fea­ture film ac­tiv­ity in the fourth quar­ter of last year and re­flects the dwin­dling avail­abil­ity of state in­cen­tives in­tended to keep movies in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Un­der a pro­gram en­acted in 2009, most of the state’s tax credit funds have been set aside for ex­ist­ing tele­vi­sion shows, which have con­sumed an in­creas­ingly large share of tax cred­its in re­cent years.

“Be­cause of com­mit­ments to re­turn­ing tele­vi­sion se­ries, there was no fund­ing left for fea­tures in the last year of the pro­gram,” said Paul Audley, pres­i­dent of FilmL.A. “So we’re see­ing the im­pact of that.”

Lo­ca­tion fea­ture film­ing has fallen about 50% since it peaked in 1996. Cal­i­for­nia has faced more com­pe­ti­tion from other states and coun­tries that have lured away busi­ness with tax cred­its and re­bates that en­able film­mak­ers to save 30% or more on film ex­penses.

Seek­ing to re­verse the trend, Cal­i­for­nia film­mak­ers have moved to bol­ster in­cen­tives for Hol­ly­wood. Last year, the Leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a bill that would triple an­nual fund­ing for the state’s film and tele­vi­sion tax credit to $330 mil­lion.

The Cal­i­for­nia Film Com­mis­sion will take ap­pli­ca­tions May 11-17 for stu­dio TV projects and July 13-25 for in­de­pen­dent and fea­ture films. A third al­lo­ca­tion will oc­cur some­time in the win­ter.

The com­mis­sion will launch the new pro­gram next month for stu­dio TV projects and in July for in­de­pen­dent and fea­ture films. A third al­lo­ca­tion will oc­cur some­time in the win­ter.

“We’re hop­ing that the new pro­gram can bring th­ese num­bers up pretty quickly,” Audley said.

There were some bright spots in the lat­est re­port. Pro­duc­tion of tele­vi­sion dra­mas such as “Hit the Floor,” “Jus­ti­fied” and “Teen Wolf” jumped nearly 30% to 1,058 shoot days in the first quar­ter com­pared with a year ear­lier.

Re­al­ity TV also jumped about 20% in the quar­ter, off­set­ting sharp de­clines in TV sit­coms, which dropped 15%, and TV pi­lots, which fell 19%.

More TV pi­lots have been shoot­ing north of the U.S. bor­der, es­pe­cially in Van­cou­ver, Canada, as pro­duc­ers take ad­van­tage of fa­vor­able ex­change rates.

“We’re told the change in the value of the dollar has driven some of the work up that way,” Audley said.

The new film tax credit pro­gram, how­ever, should help re­tain more pi­lots in Los An­ge­les. Un­like the cur­rent pro­gram, it in­cludes a pro­vi­sion that al­lows TV pi­lots to qual­ify for tax cred­its.

Mean­while, com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion in­creased 6% in the quar­ter with 1,435 shoot days. Brands such as Best Buy, Bose, Honda, Sam­sung and Yelp all filmed com­mer­cial spots in the L.A. area this year.

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