Film industry takes a hit

Numbers show record drop in on-location productions, with many producers opting to leave county for incentives.

January 14, 2010|By Zain Shauk

On-location film productions in Los Angeles County plummeted 19% in 2009 — the largest drop since the figure was first recorded in 1993 — contributing to the decline in working opportunities for the regional entertainment workforce, experts and observers said.

Entertainment industry spending generates the majority of economic activity in Glendale and Burbank, where major motion picture and television studios — as well as related businesses ranging from prop shops to rental houses — are, experts said.

The drop in the county’s on-location filming — reported by FilmLA, a nonprofit that issues the film permits for Los Angeles and unincorporated county areas — capped off a rough period when many studios opted to move their productions to other states or countries offering financial incentives, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.


“If you look at it historically, it’s really sad when you see what’s gone on here,” Kyser said.

While total filming for all categories reported by FilmLA fell substantially, the drop in area feature-film productions was staggering, Kyser said.

That total fell 30% from 2008, to 4,976 permitted days of feature-film shoots, according to FilmLA.

The highest total of on-location feature film permitted days was in 1996, when there were 13,980, according to the group.

That drop in area productions, particularly in feature films that employ large staffs and contract with local industry service providers, has been a part of a decline in the county’s entertainment workforce, which lost about 13,000 jobs in 2009, experts said.

“We’ve been seeing a pretty steady drop in employment in the entertainment industry lately, for at least a couple of years,” said Don Nakamoto, labor market analyst for the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board.

That could change, however, as officials try to pull more films into the state with a new tax incentive, said Philip Sokoloski, a spokesman for FilmLA.

The incentive was responsible for boosting permitted feature-film production days by 13.6% in the fourth quarter of 2009, Sokoloski said.

Area film production could also get a boost from a developing Los Angeles plan to create a city film commission with a director that would market the area as a filming destination, he said.

“It’s one of many necessary steps,” Sokoloski said.

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