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Filming In LA Is Booming, Breaking Production Records

A on-camera monitor is in the foreground showing three people on a film set that can be seen in the background.
A view of a monitor during production of the indie feature film, “The Star City Murders,” in Los Angeles.
(Rodin Eckenroth
Getty Images)
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The pandemic stress test hasn’t hurt the film and television industry in the way many may have expected. In fact, filming in the greater Los Angeles area this year is at an all-time high.

Film L.A. is the nonprofit organization in charge of tracking and permitting shoots. According to its latest data, the industry has more than bounced back from the pandemic — it’s breaking records.

“It has been an amazing first quarter, actually [a] record for our entire time tracking the numbers,” said Film L.A. President Paul Audley, talking to our newsroom's Morning Edition show, which airs on 89.3 KPCC.

Nearly 9,900 shoot days occurred in the first quarter of this year — a 40% increase over the same period last year. The prior first-quarter record was set six years ago at 9,725 permits.

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Drama and reality television are helping drive the largest increases. TV filming grew more than 18% percent over the same period last year. That’s partially because the cult favorite American Horror Stories and other shows on Apple TV+, Hulu and HBO Max have filmed locally.

Audley credits that growth to the L.A. film industry’s strict enforcement of health and safety protocols, and the state’s tax incentives, which are managed by the California Film Commission. He said about 40% of drama filming is a result of those credits.

“The economic evaluation of it is showing that it is providing more revenue back to the state than it’s costing the state and local government in tax revenue,” he said.

“So it seems to be a win-win all the way around.”

Not all categories saw growth. There was a decline in TV pilot permits by more than a third over last year. Audley said that may be because more networks and streaming platforms are sending shows straight to series instead of testing them out.

Over the past five years, feature filming has also dropped to a quarter below its five-year average. That may be due to a shortage of soundstages the filming demand has created. Around 90% of spaces have been regularly occupied for years, according to Audley.

“There's just not a lot of room left for large features to come into Los Angeles and find stages to produce,” he said.

“If everybody builds that’s planning to, we'll see about a 27% increase in soundstage space. Hopefully, that'll mean a return of some of the feature film business to Los Angeles as well.”

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