Los Angeles On-Location Filming During WGA Strike Plunges To Lowest Levels Since Early Days Of Covid, FilmLA Says

On-location filming in Los Angeles has plummeted during the ongoing Writers Guild strike to levels not seen since the dog days of the Covid pandemic, according to FilmLA, the city and county film permit office.

On-location shooting days for locally produced TV comedies was down 72.8% in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year. And the five-year average of second quarters was even worse for comedies, down by 77.1%. Filming of TV dramas, meanwhile, plunged 63.8%, and shoot days for feature films were off by 18.9%.

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“The last time production levels were this low, we were in the middle of a global pandemic,” said FilmLA President Paul Audley. “Families and businesses affected then are again being tested today, lending urgency to the moment to sustain creative careers.”

FilmLA’s latest report for the second quarter – from April 1 through June 30 – includes two months of the WGA strike, which began on May 2, but doesn’t include the shutdown caused by the SAG-AFTRA strike, which began July 14. If those strikes continue to drag on, third-quarter figures likely will be much worse.

See the full report here.

“Greater Los Angeles is the North American epicenter of scripted television production,” Audley said. “Before long, this sector’s shutdown will be felt in every corner of the regional economy. Like all others watching with hope from the sidelines, we are eager to see the studios and unions reopen their contract negotiations. Much is at stake for WGA and SAG-AFTRA members, and also for the small business supply chain on which future filming depends.”

According to the latest FilmLA report, TV comedies filmed locally accounted for only 84 shooting days in the second quarter, down from 324shoot days from a year ago. And not one of those scant few shoot days in this year’s second quarter was for shows that received California tax incentives. FilmLA defines a 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 filming of TV dramas fell from 995 shoot days a year ago to just 360 in the second quarter, with 89 of those days (24.7%) being on shows that received the state’s tax incentives. Productions filming here last quarter included Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), S.W.A.T. (CBS), The Old Man (FX), Good Trouble (Freeform), Interior Chinatown (Hulu), and How to be a Bookie (HBO Max).

Noting that TV comedies and dramas “are the categories most heavily impacted by the ongoing WGA work action,” FilmLA said that “viewed in a different way, TV dramas declined by 52.8% for April-June of 2023, as compared with January-March. TV comedies dropped 72.8% using that same approach.” SAG-AFTRA members, the report notes, “were not yet on strike at the time this data was captured.”

On-location shoot days for feature films, meanwhile saw a much less dramatic decline, falling by less than 19%, from 898 shoot days a year ago to 728 shoot days in the last quarter. Compared to the five-year average of second quarters, which excludes 2020 due to the distortion of historical comparisons wrought by the Covid shutdown that year, last quarter’s feature film shoot days were down 27.6%. And only 23 of those shoot days (3.2%) were on incentivized projects. And nearly all of the feature projects in production from April through June “were smaller, independent productions,” the report found. Titles included All That We Love, Father & Son, Goodrich, The Puritan II and Unicorn.

FilmLA’s on-location data, it should be noted, does not include productions that occur on certified sound stages or on-location in jurisdictions it doesn’t serve.

On-location shoot days for reality shows were also down for the quarter even though they’re not affected by the strikes, falling 22.9% from a year ago to 2,013 shoot days. Even so, the report found that the category “is still up 26.5% over its five-year quarterly average, and TV reality production rose 24.5% from April-June 2023 compared to January-March.”

Local TV reality productions, which are not eligible for tax incentives, included American Idol (ABC), Basketball Wives (VH1), The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Bravo!), Buying Beverly Hills (Netflix) and Selling Sunset (Netflix).

Commercial production also continued its downward trend even though it’s not affected by the strikes either, falling 22.4% from a year ago and down 37.8% compared to its five-year second quarter average. “Though commercial production is not directly affected by the present WGA or SAG-AFTRA labor actions,” the report notes, “loss of production to rival jurisdictions is an ongoing concern.” Automobile commercials that shot locally last quarter included spots for Acura, BMW, Ford, Mini Cooper, Subaru and Toyota, in addition to companies like AT&T, Delta Airlines, Paycom and Verizon.

FilmLA’s “Other” category, which includes documentaries, music videos, still photography, student films declined 23.7% to 2,347 shoot days.

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