For the first time since California in 2015 implemented a new $330 million-a-year tax credit program to stem runaway production, the state is seeing a drop in the number of broadcast drama pilots this season with 7 shows, down from last year’s 11. Following the dismal all-time low of 5 broadcast drama pilots in 2014, which helped push through the tax credit initiative later that year, L.A.’s tally went up to 7 in 2015 and to 11 for the state (10 in LA plus one in San Diego) last year, when the program was expanded to TV pilots.
Last year, two broadcast pilots were approved for tax credits during the fall session, NBC’s off-cycle This Is Us and Fox’s Pitch, both from 20th TV, followed by CBS’ Pure Genius (Uni TV/CBS Studios) and Four Stars (CBS Studios) in the spring. This season, there were no broadcast pilots on the list of awarded TV projects in November. Several studios have filed applications with the California Film Commission for their LA-based pilots in the current round, with the winners expected to be announced the week of March 20.
Some of the -36% drop in broadcast drama pilot production in LA could be explain by the the slight decline (-7%) in the overall number of broadcast drama pilots, 38 vs. 41 last year. On the bright side, the recent trend of comedy pilots leaving California has reversed itself in 2017 with LA once again firmly in control as home of all but one of the 32 half-hour broadcast pilots ordered. The exception is ABC’s single-camera Start Up, which is filming in New York. (Additionally, CBS’ hybrid comedy Distefano, whose pilot is filming in LA, would relocate to NY if picked up to series.) In 2015, 6% of the comedy pilots (3 of 43) shot outside of LA. Last year, that portion jumped to 15% (6 of 39), with four single-camera pilots shot in Canada and two in Atlanta. This year, the percentage of comedy runaway production dropped to 3%.
New York gained some ground with 8 pilots — seven drama and one comedy — up from 6 last year, four dramas and two comedies.
To paraphrase Atlanta’s old tagline, “Atlanta: the CW Pilots Seem to Like It Here”. Out of six CW hourlong pilots this season, five are filming in Atlanta, WBTV’s Black Lightning and Life Sentence and CBS TV Studios’ Dynasty, Valor and Insatiable. There is a variety of reasons — setting (Dynasty), suitable locations (Valor), and for WBTV – available facilities and crew after the wrap of the studio’s long-running CW drama series The Vampire Diaries, which filmed in the city. This may be the first time ever at least one CW pilot is not filming in Canada. (The CW’s sixth pilot, Searchers, will be shot in South Africa.)
Overall, Atlanta — which has been steadily adding high-profile series with AMC’s The Walking Dead, FX’s Atlanta and Fox’s Star among those filming there — also inched up with seven pilots — all hour-long — vs. six — four dramas and two comedies — last year.
Similarly, Vancouver’s tally also ticked up to seven US broadcast pilots — all dramas — vs. six — four dramas and two comedies last year.
But Toronto went down from five pilots and straight-to-series dramas to 1 drama pilot. Production in Canada has been booming, and observers suggest that Vancouver and Toronto may have maxed out in terms of available production space, forcing TV productions looking to shoot north of the border to stay in the U.S. instead, with Atlanta as a popular alternative. Toronto houses such series as ABC’s Designated Survivor, USA’s Suits, NBC’s Taken and two big-budget productions, Starz’s American Gods and CBS All Access new Star Trek.
Speaking of maxed out, Chicago, home of four NBC Chicago drama series and Fox’s Empire, only took in one broadcast drama pilot this year vs. four last year.
Overall, the broadcast pilots this season will be filming in 14 different locations, on par with last year’s 15. That includes New Orleans, back on the map with one pilot after failing to attract a single broadcast pilot last year following the state of Louisiana’s move in summer 2015 to cap its film and TV tax credit.
Here is the list of the broadcast drama pilots by location as well as the one comedy pilot filming outside California:
1. UNIT ZERO (ABC)
2. UNT PAUL WILLIAM DAVIES (ABC, + 1-2 Days in NYC)
3. THE GET (CBS)
4. UNTITLED PAUL ATTANASIO PROJECT (CBS + San Diego, pushed)
5. SWAT (CBS)
6. BEHIND ENEMY LINES (FOX)
7. GOOD GIRLS (NBC)
1. THE CROSSING (ABC)
2. DOOMSDAY (ABC)
3. THE GOOD DOCTOR (ABC)
4. THE TRUSTEE (ABC)
5. WISDOM OF THE CROWD (CBS)
6. THE BEAST (FOX, pushed)
7. REVERIE (NBC)
PERFECT CITIZEN (CBS)
1. DECEPTION (ABC)
2. SALAMANDER (ABC)
3. UNTITLED JENNY LUMET PROJECT (CBS)
4. INSTINCT (CBS)
5. DRAMA HIGH (NBC)
6. REDLINERS (NBC)
7. UNTITLED WARREN LEIGHT PROJECT (NBC)
8. START UP (ABC, half-hour)
1. UNTITLED MARC CHERRY PROJECT (ABC)
2. THE RESIDENT (FOX)
3. BLACK LIGHTNING (CW)
4. LIFE SENTENCE (CW)
5. DYNASTY (CW)
6. INSATIABLE (CW)
7. VALOR (CW)
1. THE GOSPEL OF KEVIN (ABC) – Austin, TX
2. UNTITLED MARVEL PROJECT (FOX) – Dallas, TX
3. UNTITLED UNIVERSITY PROJECT (FOX) – Chicago
4. LAS REINAS (ABC) – Miami
5. MISSION CONTROL (CBS) – Albuquerque
6. UNTITLED SEAL PROJECT (CBS) – New Orleans
7. MARVEL’S INHUMANS (ABC, straight to series) – Hawaii
1. FOR GOD & COUNTRY (NBC) – Morocco
2. SEARCHERS (The CW) – South Africa