Los Angeles filming activity still remarkably low in immediate wake of strikes

Film and TV production activity in the Los Angeles area is still remarkably low in the immediate aftermath of the Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes, which brought filming to a near standstill during much of 2023.

Fourth-quarter production levels (tracked from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31) were down 36.4% compared with the previous year, according to FilmLA — which attributed the decline to lingering effects of the overlapping WGA and SAG-AFTRA walkouts. FilmLA is a nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county.

The Writers Guild of America strike lasted 148 days before concluding in September, while the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike stretched on for 118 days before ending in November.

Excluding data from 2020 (an anomaly that saw filming come to a screeching halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic), production activity in Los Angeles during the fourth quarter was 33.9% below average.

“History offers no point of comparison to the present,” said FilmLA President Paul Audley in a statement. “The pandemic year aside, we have to look very far back — farther back than permit records allow — to find a time when production levels stayed so low, for so long.”

Partially because the work stoppages ended just as the holiday season was beginning, the return to production has been slow and gradual.

The lack of scripted TV shoots has been particularly stark, with TV drama production 91.3% lower than in 2022 and TV comedy production lagging 85.6% behind 2022. However, the report found that dozens of scripted shows — including Apple TV+’s “Loot,” BET+’s “The Family Business,” NBC’s “Quantum Leap,” ABC’s “The Rookie” and CBS’ “S.W.A.T.” — were expected to resume filming this month.

Filling the void were reality TV productions, which were responsible for 76.5% of all Los Angeles TV shoots in 2023. Still, reality TV production was down 29.2% in the fourth quarter.

It’s worth noting that TV pilot shoots were up 66.7% in the quarter compared with 2022. Variety and late-night talk shows were also among the quickest to return to production after the strikes.

In total, small-screen production levels during the quarter were 54.3% lower than the previous year. On the feature film side, production levels plummeted 57.5% compared with 2022.

“Everyone we are speaking to is eager to see production resume,” Audley said. “Even as it does, we’ll remain in uncharted territory. We have months to go before we can describe what the new normal looks like for filming in LA.”

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