Pandemic Pushes Los Angeles Production Down 54% in Third Quarter

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed down location production in the Los Angeles area by 54%, FilmLA reported on Wednesday.

The permitting agency’s data showed 4,199 shoot days from July through September. Reality TV was up 10.3% to 1,159 shoot days, while commercials slid 41.2% to 782 days. Paul Audley, longtime president of FilmLA, said production is poised for a moderate recovery during the current quarter.

“The stage is set for a return — not to business-as-usua,l but to the ‘best-progress-possible’ for film production in area communities,” Audley said. “L.A. loves film, and there is a real enthusiasm to see this work come back, plus real effort on the part of the industry and local public health authorities to see that it does so with care for public health.”

He noted that the recent agreement between unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on industry-wide safety protocols has led to feature film and television productions slowly ramping up production plans. Prior to that, producers were crafting agreements with unions on a project-by-project basis.

“There are really no surprises in the third-quarter numbers,” Audley told Variety. “Everyone had been holding their breath about the AMPTP agreement, so when it got announced, that’s when major production companies began to put their toes back in the water. We had been seeing activity prior to then from smaller producers, who can be more nimble.”

Audley also said fourth-quarter location production will increase over the third quarter — barring a major resurgence in COVID-19 cases — but will almost certainly fall short of the 2019 fourth quarter.

“We’re seeing more activity from larger productions that need more lead time to gear up ,but we’re not going to go back to normal until there’s a vaccine,” he said. “Even while exercising all due caution, we may see a few productions shut down for the sake of worker safety. None of this is incompatible with the county’s road to recovery. This is a system set up by conscientious people, working as designed for the protection of Greater L.A.”

Recent productions shot in Los Angeles include feature films “Limbo,” “Soggy Bottom,” “Waking Up Dead,” “Without Remorse” and “Night Teeth.” TV dramas include “NCIS,” “Animal Kingdom,” “On the Verge,” “L.A. Undercover” and “Mayans MC,” while TV reality shoots include “Dancing With the Stars,” “Celebrity IOU,” “Guy’s Grocery Games Delivery,” “Dog Impossible,” “The Con,” “Wheeler Dealers” and “Botched.” Commercials have included Toyota, Nissan, Harry and David, Cigna, Facebook, Bank of America and the NFL.

FilmLA saw multiple weeks of business activity increases, receiving on average around 34 film permit applications per day. In September, television topped commercials as the source of new applications for the first time since June.

TV drama dropped 73.2% to 286 shooting days during the quarter, and TV comedy plunged 96.3% to 28 days. Features fell 64.1% to 362 days.

Half of FilmLA’s staff of 108 was furloughed in early April, but Audley said employees have been recalled as production resumes, since the agency’s operating revenues are derived from the permit fees. Staffing is now at about 60%, with plans to continue working remotely for the rest of 2020, he added.

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