L.A. Production Slow to Rebound After WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes

TV and film production in Los Angeles was slow to recover from the industry-wide strikes last fall, according to new data released by FilmLA.

Scripted TV production ticked up slightly in the fourth quarter compared with the prior three-month period, but still remained far below historic levels. And feature film production continued to decline even after the strikes ended.

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The WGA strike ended on Sept. 27 after nearly five months, and the SAG-AFTRA strike concluded six weeks later, on Nov. 9.

Overall location filming was down 32.4% in 2023 compared to 2022. Those figures include commercials and reality TV, neither of which was directly impacted by the strike, but which were nevertheless down compared to the prior year.

“It hasn’t been good for anyone who works in the industry,” said Paul Audley, the president of FilmLA. “2023 was a really, really difficult year.”

FilmLA issues location permits for productions throughout the Los Angeles region. Though its data does not include production on studio lots, it is nevertheless seen as a reliable barometer for overall production activity.

In the period from October through December, TV dramas recorded 101 “shoot days” — up from 12 days in July through September, but still 91.3% below the fourth quarter of 2022. TV comedies moved up from two days in the third quarter to 51 in the fourth quarter — an 85.6% decline.

There was even less scripted TV production in 2023 than in 2020 — the year in which production was entirely shut down for several months due to the pandemic. In 2020, there were 2,891 total “shoot days” for TV dramas and comedies, compared to 1,696 in 2023.

While production is expected to ramp up in earnest starting in January, it’s not clear if it will reach pre-strike levels, Audley said.

“The question is, ‘What is the new normal?'” he said. “We know networks and streamers were going to cut back on production. We know some of it has gone overseas.”

Feature films — which have a longer lead time — continued to decline in the fourth quarter, from 376 shoot days in the prior quarter to 323. That figure was 57.5% below the figure from the same period in 2022.

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