According to a report released by the nonprofit group Film L.A. Inc., for the first time ever, more TV drama pilots were filmed in New York City over the last year than in Los Angeles.
According to the report, during the 2013-2014 development cycle, 24 drama pilots were filmed in New York while only 19 shot in Los Angeles, and only 44 percent of all the pilots from the 2013-2014 development cycle (90 of 203 total) were filmed in L.A. This is the first time that Los Angeles’s share has fallen below 50 percent; last year, the city was responsible for 52 percent, and in the 2006-2007 cycle it accounted for 82 percent. The remaining pilots were shot mainly in New York, Vancouver, Atlanta, and Toronto.
The decline in L.A.’s share of pilots, as Film L.A.’s President Paul Audley said in a press release that accompanied the report, is due to the fact that “California’s current incentive program makes it hard to attract and retain new pilots and TV series.” The TV industry’s relative abandonment of California follows on the heels of the film industry’s relative abandonment of California: In 2013, the Louisiana film program overtook that of California to become the “film-production capital of the world.” Louisiana’s newfound prominence in filmmaking can be largely attributed to its tax-credit program for TV and movie projects.
In 2009, the level of available funds in New York State’s tax credit program was increased to over $400 million, making it one of the highest incentive programs in the country. Since this increase, New York has seen a 600 percent increase in the number of pilots produced in the state. The most remarkable increase has been in the drama pilot production. In the 2009-2010 production cycle, none of the highly lucrative network dramas filmed in New York. In the most recent cycle, however, New York was home to 12 network drama pilots, including FOX’s highly anticipated new drama Gotham. Los Angeles, unfortunately, saw a 50-percent decline this year as it only hosted 7 one-hour network drama pilots.
California’s tax-credit program has caused many television shows picked up by networks to relocate elsewhere after filming pilots in California. The most recent example is the USA drama Graceland, which shot its pilot episode in Southern California. However, after it failed to receive the California Film & Television Tax Credit, production on the remaining 11 episodes of the first season relocated to Miami, Florida. Similarly, CBS’s new drama NCIS: New Orleans relocated to Louisiana—Louisiana’s generous tax credit program has been cited as an important factor in the decision.
The loss of productions to other cities also means a loss of jobs. “Losing television pilots—and then series—to other North American competitors leads to the destruction of steady, well-paying California jobs,” said Audley.
According to the report, industry sources have estimated that “the average one-hour drama pilot can directly employ 150-230 people for the entire duration of the project.” One-hour dramas are considered the most economically valuable because their pilots typically cost around $8 million to produce, and should it receive a full-season order, it could provide many steady jobs for several years. The loss of Graceland to Miami, for example, meant a loss to California of more than $19 million.
There is still hope, however, for California as L.A. remains the leader in comedy pilot productions. Although its share of comedy pilot production this year decreased from 83 percent the previous year to 71 percent, California is still way ahead of New York, which only hosted 11 comedy pilots this years. Furthermore, several series—such as Pretty Little Liars, Franklin & Bash, and Teen Wolf—that filmed in competing regions recently relocated their productions to California after qualifying for the California Film & TV Credit. And Film L.A. found that once a series received the tax credit, it remained in the state.