According to FilmLA’s latest report, on-location filming in the fourth quarter of 2021 (October-December) remained robust, setting an all-time quarterly record of 10,780 Shoot Days (SD)* This is four percent above the previous three month high of 10,359 SD set in Q4, 2018. It is also an increase over the previous quarter, revealing a brisk pace of production leading into the holiday season.
Despite increased levels of production in much of 2021, by year-end the region’s 37,709 Shoot Days finished below the previous peak of 39,627 SD in 2016. This was also below annual totals logged in 2017 (38,284 SD) and 2018 (38,795 SD) but exceeded pre-pandemic year 2019 (36,450 SD) by 3.2 percent. Comparing year-end Q4 with years 2016 through 2019 (the “pre-COVID average”), 2021 Shoot Days were down -1.6 percent.
“This is an encouraging report by most indicators, but how production will fare in 2022 remains uncertain at this time. With the highly contagious Omicron variant driving record COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, industry output is also affected. Just as 2021 got off to a slow start, the New Year has filmmakers feeling cautious, with many studios and production companies delaying their return to filming. Our hope is that 2022 follows a similar trajectory as last year – with a slow, responsible start and strong end-of-year finish,” says Paul Audley, FilmLA President.
The rise and fall of COVID-19 infection rates at the beginning of 2021 saw production get off to a soft start. To recap, the post-holiday surge at the end of 2020 had studio production on voluntary hiatus during the first part of 2021. As infection rates began to decline in Greater Los Angeles, Shoot Days increased significantly, reaching 9,791 SD in Q2, before rising higher to 10,179 SD in Q3
Among the major categories of production, the course of the pandemic has had the greatest impact on local Feature Film production. Last quarter, only 907 SD were logged for Features, down -17.3 percent over the Q4 pre-COVID average. Meanwhile, 2021 ended with a total of 3,406 SD for the category, -19.2 percent below the pre-COVID average.
Select features that filmed locally included Jordan Peele’s Salt Snake, four Netflix films – Me Time, Your Place or Mine, The Gray Man, and an Untitled Jonah Hill project. Independent films included He Went That Way, Way Down Bundy and Wild Chickens.
The Commercials production category fared better, ending the fourth quarter with 1,249 SD. Overall, this was on par with the pre-COVID average for the quarter (at 1,277 SD). Looking at the year, Commercial production generated 5,319 SD in 2021, compared to the annual pre-COVID average of 5,490 SD – a difference of -3.1 percent.
The Other category, which mostly includes still photography and student films, but also documentaries, music and industrial videos and miscellaneous permitted events, had a substantial quarter with 3,699 SD from October to December.
However, the category’s annual total of 10,424 SD remained -23.7 percent below its pre-COVID average.
TV Production Up
The bright spot in regional production continues to be television. In Q4, the Television category posted 4,925 SD, on par with the previous two quarters. For the year, the Television category posted a record 18,560 SD for 2021, besting the previous record of 16,463 SD logged in 2016, by 18 percent. Put another way, approximately one-half of all Shoot Days recorded by FilmLA in 2021 – 49.2 percent – were generated by scripted or unscripted television production.
Among the subcategories for television, TV Dramas in Q4 generated 1,294 SD, and a total of 5,610 SD were generated for the year – representing a 23.8 percent increase above the previous annual pre-COVID average. Local dramas that shot this past quarter include All American (The CW), Promised Land (ABC), Snowfall (FX), Euphoria (HBO), Bel Air (Peacock) and The Flight Attendant (HBO Max).
The TV Comedies subcategory continued to decline, finishing the quarter down -40.6 percent from the pre-COVID annual averages (1,302 vs. 2,192). Locally filmed TV Comedies include Home Economics (ABC), Kenan (NBC), Mr. Mayor (NBC), Chad (TBS), Grace and Frankie (Netflix), and Made for Love (HBO Max).
Finally, the TV Reality category continued to break records as networks and streaming platforms look for additional content to fill in their schedules. Shoot days for TV reality shows generated 9,551 SD in 2021, which is 129.8 percent above the annual pre-COVID average of 4,157.