Thursday, January 14, 2010

Production Plummets in Los Angeles in 2009

From The Los Angeles Times:
 
Overall, on-location filming on the streets of Los Angeles plummeted 19% last year, falling to the lowest level on record, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for much of the L.A. area.

The production sector, a major employer and key facet of L.A.'s signature entertainment industry, was buffeted on several fronts: by a deep recession, which caused studios to release fewer movies and advertisers to curtail spending on commercials; a protracted contract dispute earlier in the year with the Screen Actors Guild; and the continued outflow of film and TV work from Southern California.

Hardest hit was feature-film production, which had been steadily falling over much of the last decade as L.A. lost jobs to Canada and, increasingly, other states such as New Mexico, Louisiana and Michigan that offer lucrative tax credits and rebates to filmmakers.

California's newly adopted film tax credit program helped to blunt the downturn, with production activity increasing by double digits in the second half of the year. About 50 productions have qualified to receive about $100 million in tax credits since the state program debuted this summer.

Nonetheless, the uptick wasn't enough to keep features from falling 30% for the year overall. Feature films accounted for 4,976 permitted production days (defined as a crew's permission to film a single project at a single location over a 24-hour period), the lowest level since 2003 and less than half what it was a decade ago.

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Lesson(s) to be learned - just because the money is being made by the studio in term of box office return it doesn't  mean that the people working (below-the-line)  on those films are making money.  That cripples infrastructure, talent pools, and ancillary industries.

This means that people go elsewhere to make their movies / TV / etc...

So what's called for are further tax incentives to stimulate production; more "smaller" movies and perhaps "mini-series special event programming" ; a complete sense of cooperation between all the unions and the studios and an overhaul of the old California First program for indie film and mediamaking.  We also need to build infrastructure for these new media distribution and production channels - more shows on the web.

And again, that's not the whole of the solution, but certainly it's a step in the right direction: More media making (finance, development and production) and more avenues to distribute that media.  Removal of the systems that are inefficient and strategies to build for the future.

Oh boy, we have a lot of work ahead of us... 

2 comments:

RJ said...

Tax credits are the smallest part of the answer -- remember the first words of the Pulpster's Oath: "First, I shall entertain..."

That's the starting point for California to start generating more productions--the entire system needs to be based around entertaining the audience rather than catering to celebrity "presence" and executive ego. Get better product flowing to the masses and make sure that the system is the best way of delivering that product.

Infrastructure can and has been built anywhere. Bollywood and Nollywood have infrastructure, as do China, Britain, and Canada. Those infrastructures are what California is competing against and, according to this LA Times story, losing to.

If you can make good product, and you're located in California, then you will have the cash flowing in to continue to fund productions. If California's infrastructure is able to produce better product than elsewhere, then more production will happen in California. This was the case in the 1940s-1970s, where Hollywood was the supreme media colossus. The colossus has crumbled of late and even with ever-increasing box office numbers, Hollywood can no longer claim media production supremacy.

California's punitive taxation levels on small businesspeople, high cost of living, and current budget woes make CA a tough sell for anyone wanting to do business there, let alone film. And the infrastructure in Britain, and Canada, and China, and elsewhere is able to produce shows as good as and often better than what Hollywood gives us.

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