The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Incentives help boost LA's on-location feature film production

FX's "Justified" is one of several TV dramas that have received incentives under California's film and TV tax credit program.
FX's "Justified" is one of several TV dramas that have received incentives under California's film and TV tax credit program. FX Networks

FilmL.A., the non-profit that issues permits for on-location motion picture, television and commercial production, said Monday financial incentives have helped boost on-location feature production in the area.

On-location feature production increased 24 percent to 1,588 permitted production days in the first quarter, according to a report by FilmL.A., which handles film permits for the City and County of Los Angeles. That amount was higher than the category's five-year average.

"Virtually all of it is related to films that have been able to get the California film and television tax credit," said FilmL.A.'s president Paul Audley. 

California currently offers $100 million annually in tax credits for certain films and TV shows, but Audley doesn't believe that's enough to compete with other states and countries. There are efforts in the state legislature to expand the state's program and Audley would like to see the tax credits at least match New York's $420 million.

RELATED: Report: California's film and TV jobs at critical risk

Overall, on-location film production in Los Angeles declined about one percent in the first quarter, compared to the prior year, FilmL.A. said in its report.

Here's how the other production categories performed in the first quarter compared to a year ago, according to FilmL.A.: 

  • On-location television production is down 9 percent to 4,624 permitted production days. That category includes TV dramas, which were down about 8 percent. FilmL.A. believes this number would have been worse if it weren't for some shows receiving tax incentives.
  • Commercials increased roughly 3 percent to 2,360 permitted production days.
  • The "other" category, which includes projects like student films and music videos was flat.

"So we're in trouble in the region as far as production goes overall," said Audley, adding the production losses is so sustained that vendors, cast and crew are leaving the state. "The ability of California to be the center of the film industry is eroding rapidly."

RELATED: Legislators introduce bill to expand California film and TV tax credit program

Are film tax credits necessary?

There has been a big push by some local officials to increase the amount of tax credits offered to films and TV shows. 

But Joseph Henchman, who oversees the Tax Foundation's state policy and legal programs, said more incentives isn't going to solve the problem.

"Other states will match that and it will just continue to be a race to the bottom," Henchman told KPCC's Larry Mantle

But Audley says we're already losing jobs to other states. He said 85 percent of the film and TV tax program applicants that did not receive funding spent their budgets in other states.

"California's failure to compete is surrendering the business to others," Audley said.

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