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Toeing the Line: Benefits of filming here at home

October 12, 2013|By Ray Richmond

The Wednesday night CBS crime procedural "Criminal Minds" is one of those shows that just kind of rolls along beneath the radar, a productive foot soldier in its ninth season that's easy to take for granted because it performs with such ridiculous consistency.

You know how everyone lost his collective lunch over the fact that the "Breaking Bad" finale attracted a "record" 10.3 million viewers to AMC on Sept. 29? Well, since its debut in 2005, "Criminal Minds" has averaged more than 13 million pairs of eyeballs each week. Nine seasons in, it's still drawing around 11 million. Mind you, the series puts up those numbers despite competing directly against Fox's the X-Factor in the fall and American Idol in the winter/spring.

"But that kind of steady performance isn't a story," reasons Harry Bring, a "Minds" co-executive producer since 2011.

Well, it is now.

"Criminal Minds" is Exhibit A in the argument that television production need not run away to tax-break havens like Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico to thrive. The ABC Studios/CBS TV Studios co-production is one of the most visible shows regularly shooting around Burbank, Glendale and surrounding areas, producing 24 hour-long episodes annually and budgeted for location shoots for half the days in an eight-day shoot.

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As Bring explains it, the "Criminal Minds" budget averages about $3.5 million per episode, which is fairly modest by network primetime standards.

Of that $3.5 million, roughly a third goes to the so-called "above-the-line" people who work on the show, including the actors, writers and producers. The other two-thirds goes to "below-the-line" expenditures, including paying the crew, renting equipment, securing locations and constructing sets.

"We're essentially doing $2 million worth of business in the communities where we work every eight days," Bring explains.

A lot of it winds up in Glendale and Burbank, though the "Criminal Minds" crew moves around other areas of Southern California to represent the different cities depicted in the series.

When filming, say, in Glendale, the production might pay out several thousand dollars to regular homeowners, a dry-cleaning business or a church to shoot a scene, or several. It will rent parking for the shoot's many hulking work trucks and trailers. It'll order in meals from local restaurants.

Of course, there's also a downside to all of that money being funneled in, Bring acknowledges.

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