How long will it take before the Hollywood exodus is complete? Los Angeles has been losing film industry jobs for years, but recent data about the number of television dramas produced in the city has raised new concerns. According to the Los Angeles Times, only two of the twenty-three new shows this fall will be shot in Los Angeles County, which means a loss of approximately 20,000 jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in income.
In 2005, 80 percent of network dramas were based in L.A.; this year, only 10 percent. While plenty of half-hour comedies and reality shows are still shot here, it’s the hour-long dramas that industry insiders consider the real prize, due to their bigger budgets, crews, and eight- to nine-month shooting schedules.
"What this means is you've got all of the secondary employees here ... who are all dependent on these productions and they don't have work," Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute said. "The longer this goes on, the [more these] effects will ripple. In the long-term, it's especially deadly because television production is really the core of entertainment industry employment here in Los Angeles Country."
Klowden says it's expensive to film everywhere, but the problem lies in California funding policies.
"California does not give tax breaks or any kind of film credits to hour-long network dramas, which most of the other states and Canadian provinces do," he explained.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti said that legislators need to understand the importance of the business to California.
"Los Angeles is synonymous with 'entertainment industry.' Detroit would never let the car companies go away, New York would never let Wall Street go away, and yet California is letting its key and most defining industry leave," he said.
Sharon Waxman, founder and editor of thewrap.com, said that television dramas are following a pattern that movies have already traversed.
"I can't tell you how many movie folks I've talked to who are shooting in London, and are shooting the United States location in London," she said, adding that they tell her without hesitation that shooting abroad is worth it for the savings.
The councilman proposed an increase in tax credits to allow productions to stay local. "Every single study that we've done shows that every dollar we give in a tax credit comes back to the state treasury with at least one dollar," he continued. "And of course the impact on our economy – whether it's the grips and the gaffers, the writers, the gaffers, people who are also secondary, the caterers and the florists and the dry cleaners ... each one of them has a much better shot at adding to our economy many, many more dollars."
According to the councilman, California's current state tax credit is good one, but more money needs to be pumped in. "A lot of L.A. producers say that L.A. doesn't have to be the cheapest, but it needs to be cheaper," he said. "Our tax credits end at $100 million a year, and we see billions of dollars of production leaving the state."
Is there something city officials can do to help the hemorrhaging? What are the potential long-term effects on the city and the state if the business is lost permanently? And what do we lose culturally when the state that made film and TV great no longer has any influence?
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilmember, 13th district
Kevin Klowden, director of the California Center at the Milken Institute
Sharon Waxman, founder and editor of thewrap.com