On-location filming in Los Angeles continued its rebound in the second quarter of 2021 after reaching pre-pandemic levels in each of the last two quarters, according to FilmLA, the city and county film permit office. This year’s second quarter – April through June – was the best quarter since late-2019.
On-location filming in the second quarter of 2021, which totaled 9,791 shoot days, also exceeded the pre-Covid four-year average of second quarters (9,253 shoot days) by 5.8%. During last year’s second quarter, which marked the first full quarter of the Covid-19 shutdown, on-location filming in Los Angeles totaled only 194 shoot days – a record low. Due to the industry’s pandemic lockdown, production was suspended in Los Angeles County between mid-March through mid-June 2020.
“By almost any available measure, the second quarter was good for filming in Los Angeles,” said FilmLA president Paul Audley, who noted, however, that “with local Covid-19 cases rising, it’s not clear whether that will be sustainable.” Even so, he said, “the industry’s commitment to community, cast and crew safety remains firmly in place.”
On-location filming of TV shows – the single largest category tracked by FilmLA – was 46.2% higher in the second quarter of 2021 than the pre-Covid four-year average of second quarters. In the latest second quarter, TV shows accounted for 4,913 shoot days, while the pre-Covid four-year second quarter average was only 3,360 shoot days. (FilmLA defines one “shoot day” as one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24 hour period.)
On-location feature film shoots, however, have still not caught up with pre-pandemic levels. This year’s second quarter saw only 824 shoot days – down 27.5% from the 1,137 shoot days averaged in four second quarters prior to the pandemic.
But commercials were up 12% – from the 1,379 shoot day averaged in the four pre-pandemic second quarters, to 1,544 shoot days in the second quarter of 2021.
The category FilmLA calls “Other” was down 25.7% this second quarter compared to the average of four pre-Covid second quarters. (This category, the second largest, includes still photography shoots, student and documentary films, music & industrial videos, and all other miscellaneous categories, and typically employers far fewer people than film, TV and commercials.)
The second quarter of 2021 also saw a 40% increase in shoot days compared to the immediate three months prior – from 7,011 shoot days in the first quarter to 9,791 in the second quarter. All of the major categories tracked by FilmLA saw significant gains. Commercials led the way with a 55.5% increase over to the first quarter to 1,544 shoot days. Features were up 43.3% to 824 shoot days; television was up 30.5% to 4,913 shoot days, and the “other” category was up 49.7% to 2,510 shoot days.
Feature films that shot locally include Netflix’s Day Shift; Hollywood Stargirl (Disney+), and Kimi (HBO Max). Steven Spielberg movie The Fabelmans also started shooting last month. A total of 9.3% of feature film shoot days in the second quarter were for projects that received California tax credits.
Television series that shot locally in the second quarter include CBS’ Ghosts, Hulu miniseries The Dropout, FX’s American Crime Story: Impeachment, TNT’s Animal Kingdom, Starz drama Gaslit, Paramount+’s Star Trek: Picard and Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer and Monster.
Television remains the region’s “main production driver,” and TV dramas and reality shows “are largely responsible for the second quarter increase in production activity,” FilmLA said. Shoot days for TV dramas (totaling 1,501 shoot days) were up by a whopping 120.7% over their five-year quarterly average – which includes last year’s dismal second quarter – and those for TV reality shows (totaling 2,447) were up even more – by 189.3%.
Shoot days for TV dramas in the second quarter of 2021 were comparable to first quarter levels (1,459 shoot days in the first quarter compared to 1,501 days in the second quarter. TV reality production increased by 61.6% over the same period (1,514 shoot days in the first quarter vs. 2,447 in the second). A total of 19.3% of TV drama shoot days in the second quarter were for California Tax Credit projects. None of the TV comedies that filmed here in the second quarter were incentivized, however.