Once Bright Pilot Light Now Only Flickering In L.A.

LOS ANGELES, June 30, 2009, — Not long ago, each February found the Los Angeles region abuzz with film production activity. New television pilots, produced in anticipation of May screenings for network television advertisers, joined continuing TV series, feature films and commercial projects in competition for talent, crews, stage space and sought-after locations.
    But, pilot producers working in L.A. might find that they have their pick of local resources these days.
    Earlier this month, FilmL.A. released a 2005-2009 Television Pilot Production Report, a five-year look back at network and cable television pilot production by location. Among the report’s key findings, FilmL.A. observed that the overall number of primetime television pilots produced per season has declined by 17 percent since 2005. At the same time, the number of pilots produced in Los Angeles has fallen nearly 42 percent.
    During the 2004/’05 development cycle, L.A. played host to 101 of the 124 pilots produced, claiming 81 percent of the total. Fast forward to ’08/’09 when 59 pilots were lensed in L.A., giving it a 57 percent stake of overall TV pilot production. Forty-two of those pilots were filmed in competing jurisdictions outside the State of California. 
    Estimated pilot production spending in the L.A. region amounted to $309 million in ’05. That tally fell to $207 million in ’09.
    According to the FilmL.A. survey data and the ’09 edition of Entertainment Partners‘ Essential Guide to U.S. and International Production Incentives, some form of production incentive was available in every one of the non-California locations used during the ’08/’09 series development cycle. Domestic locales used by pilot producers included Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Non-U.S. jurisdictions included multiple Canadian provinces, the Czech Republic and New Zealand.
    New York, as one of Los Angeles’ strongest competitors, has claimed between eight and 11 pilots each year, according to FilmL.A. survey data. In the ’08’09 cycle, Canadian provinces emerged as L.A.’s most powerful contender for pilot production business. Fifteen pilot projects filmed in Canada this year–the most produced there in any of the five years FilmL.A. has studied.
    The accelerating loss of pilot production to incentive-granting U.S. and foreign jurisdictions is leading some to fear that L.A. has lost its grip on this once-captive facet of the industry.
    “We’ve moved past the point where this industry is ours to lose,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. “It’s now a question of what we’re going to do to get it back.”
    FilmL.A. is the nonprofit organization that coordinates permits for filmed entertainment lensed on location in the City of Los Angeles, unincorporated parts of L.A. County and other local jurisdictions.