On-location filming in Los Angeles fell last year to its lowest levels in 25 years, totaling just under 19,000 shoot days – or about half the number in each of the previous four years, according to data compiled by FilmLA.
Despite the pandemic, production activity picked up considerably in the fourth quarter of 2020, though it still slipped by more than 25% compared with the same period in 2019, the city and county’s film permit office reported today.
FilmLA estimates that 198 television projects were forced to shut down last year between mid-March and the end of May, including 57 TV pilots. “What was to be a solid year for scripted TV was quickly reversed, as production schedules were delayed until the fall of 2020 and/or pushed back into 2021,” the agency said.
Recovery for the feature film category, however, “could be close at hand,” FilmLA said, noting that fourth-quarter levels for features “resemble pre-pandemic levels” seen in the first quarter of 2020.
“The impact of Covid-19 on local film production and jobs cannot be overstated,” said FilmLA president Paul Audley. “With production paused for 87 days and the industry responsible and cautious in returning to work, total annual production fell to unprecedented lows.”
On-location shooting days for feature films were down 55.8% last year compared with 2019; commercials fell by 40.2%; television production was off by 38.3%, and other productions – including student films, still photography, music videos and industrial videos – were down 55.8%.
Films that shot on-location in LA during the fourth quarter of 2020, and which received the state’s tax incentives, include Dog, Don’t Worry Darling, Invasion, King Richard and Rescue Rangers. These incentivized films, however, accounted for only 68 shooting days in the fourth quarter, or just 11% of feature films shoot days, which are defined as one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24-hour period. (FilmLA’s data does not include production that occurs on certified soundstages or on-location in jurisdictions not served by FilmLA.)
On the TV side, on-location shooting days for comedies were down a whopping 79.5% last year compared with 2019, dramas fell by 45.8%, TV pilots were off by 61.2%, and web-based shows fell by 60.8%. Reality shows were the only category that saw gains last year, up 12.1%.
Incentivized TV dramas that shot on-location in LA during the fourth quarter of 2020 include American Crime Story: Impeachment, Animal Kingdom, Euphoria, Good Trouble, In Treatment, Lucifer, Mayans M.C., The Rookie, Rebel, Snowfall, Special, This Is Us, Why Women Kill and You. These incentivized dramas accounted for 432 shoot days in the fourth quarter, or 35.2% of TV drama shoot days. Only one incentivized TV comedy – Good Girls – was shot on-location in LA during the fourth quarter, accounting for only seven shoot days, or 3.5% of the TV comedy category.
In a separate “2020 Television Report,” FilmLA found that California and Los Angeles remain the top locales for television production, though it notes that the majority of the research contained in the report runs through the week of August 24, 2020.
“Looking at the locations of new broadcast projects, which includes 59 shows (32 one-hour/27 one-half hour) regardless of their completion status, California/Los Angeles is again the top location for 2020,” the report says. “The Golden State accounts for nearly one-half (49.2%) of filming locations for new broadcast shows (29 total). As the historic home to sitcoms, a total of 25 of the 29 new broadcast projects – 86% of the total – consisted of comedies. California was followed in a distant second place by Canada with 10 projects, New York with six projects, and other U.S. states with at least one project each (9 total).”
And California “still leads as the number one filming location among streaming companies,” the report found, with 29 projects shot here in 2020, comprising 29.9% of all new streaming projects. The report noted, however, that California’s share of this work was higher in 2019 – at 31.5% of new projects. In second place last year was Canada (24 projects), followed by New York (17) and other foreign countries (10). Both Georgia and other U.S. states tied for fifth place with six new projects, respectively.
California was also the undisputed leader as the top production location for scripted series – home last year to 70 one-hour shows and 89 half-hour programs. The ranking of the top five locations in 2020 – California, New York, British Columbia, Georgia and Ontario – did not change from 2019, but the number of series filmed in Los Angeles/California declined by 19.6% (from 198 in 2019), while the numbers for New York (60) and Illinois (13) remained the same in both years.
The top 10 filming locations for live-action scripted series captured more than 85% of all series that aired last year. A total of 159 series were shot in California, followed by New York (60), British Columbia (48), Georgia (39), Ontario (25), the U.K. (17), and Illinois (13). Rounding out the eighth place position was a tie between New Mexico and Louisiana (7 series each), followed by Utah (6) and other Canadian provinces (4).
FilmLA counted a total 59 total new cable projects last year, but in a surprising reversal, other U.S. states, in aggregate, hosted 17 new projects, outranking California (9 projects) as the number one location. In 2019, California was the number one destination with 14 new cable projects, followed by New York (10), Georgia (9) and Canada (8). This means that California hosted 36% fewer cable projects last year than in 2019; that New York was down 10%, and Georgia was down 22%, while other U.S. states, in aggregate, were up 143%, with Canada up 14% and other foreign countries combined up 67%.
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