Cutting fees to save TV production jobs in California studied by Los Angeles

150 150 Alexandra Bjerg

Film crew and star Chris O’Donnell prep for filming of “NCIS” in Venice, CA. (Photo credit: SpecialWindler via Flickr)

This piece was originally published on the California Economic Summit blog.

If there is just one city synonymous with television production and the film jobs, it has to be Los Angeles and the California economy in general. Television studios are sprinkled throughout the city; drive around long enough and you’re bound to run into one. 

As an Angeleno and recovering TV junkie, I’ve been able to attend my fair share of television shows “taped before a live studio audience.” I have even appeared as an extra in an episode of Baywatch. I mean, who hasn’t attended a taping of The Price is Right or bumped into a television crew filming on the “mean streets” of downtown L.A.? 

Film and television production are both vital components of the California economy. So we are keeping an eye on steps taken by state, county, and city governments to prevent runaway production. 

Last Thursday the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution, introduced by Council President Eric Garcetti to study the effects of reducing or eliminating many permits and fees to shoot television pilots in the city. The idea is that pilots shot in Los Angeles will stay in Los Angeles if they get picked up. 

Proponents of the motion claim that the tax revenues earned by keeping production in LA will more than make up for the estimated $300,000 annual cost to the city.

The results of a study conducted by the LAEDC in 2009 after the Ugly Betty moved its production from Los Angeles to New York supported what many advocates already knew — production flight has a negative impact on jobs and the local economy. The study concluded that a one-hour television program creates 180 direct and 540 indirect jobs, as well as generates roughly $880,000 in state sales tax revenue and $2.2 million in state income tax. 

Other states like New York, which is already working hard to lure film production away from the Golden State, are ramping up their efforts to entice the television industry away from the city of angels. Just last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law intended to boost the state’s film and television industry by tripling the tax credit available for post-production work. The increased incentives will “help make New York the television and film capital of the world,” said Cuomo. 

These and other incentives seem to be working. According to a recent study by FilmL.A., a nonprofit that coordinates film location permits for Los Angeles city and county, during the 2011 pilot season, just 51% of all television pilots were shot in the city, a significant drop from 80% in previous years. 

Television production is a job creator and economic driver for the city and the state, so it’s no wonder the Los Angeles City Council is putting out all the stops to keep television production from leaving town.

Taking smart steps to keep jobs in California is one of the Economic Summit’s big topics. Streamlining regulation to make the state competitive at keeping and creating jobs in all regions right here in California is part of what that’s all about.


Alexandra Bjerg

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