Los Angeles Film and TV Permits Plunged in December as COVID Surged

Jazz Tangcay
·3 min read

Film permit applications in the city and county of Los Angeles declined steeply in December, dropping 24.9 percent from November levels to 613 permits. FilmLA reported Tuesday.

This is the second straight month that FilmLA has seen permit requests drop, as production levels that picked up after the pandemic shutdown began to drop again. In November, monthly activity slipped 7.6 percent from October levels to 813 permits.

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FilmLA spokesman Philip Sokoloski explained, “When production was allowed to restart last June, the majority of work that powers the greater Los Angeles economy didn’t start up right away. It wasn’t until September that we started to see some of the scripted television production work and feature work resuming.”

That accounts for the surge that happened in August when film permit applications rose 40% in August over July as location production restarts in the Los Angeles area amid COVID-19 restrictions.

As COVID-19 surged over the holidays, Sokoloski notes, the industry did begin to pull back.

On Dec. 24, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health urged the film industry to consider pausing production for a few weeks during the COVID-19 surge. The studios were highly invested in efforts to keep cast, crew and communities safe, and had already begun dialing activity back, as the extended holiday hiatus began. CBS Studios, Warner Bros. TV, Universal Television, Disney Television Studios and Sony Pictures Television all indicated recently that they were pausing production until at least mid-January.

Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA and the Producers Guild further recommended that on-set commercial production be temporarily paused in Southern California.

Sokoloski said that productions shut down “largely on a voluntary basis because the industry, as it has all along, has placed enormous trust in the county public health authorities for their guidance and been very cooperative voluntarily with a request to do so as part of stopping the COVID-19 surge.”

Sokoloski added that FilmLA hasn’t seen the typical pickup in permit application after the holidays. “If you look at the permits that are being requested of our office, the ones that apply to larger-scale productions have typically been for a later in January start.” That indicates to FilmLA that the industry intends to maintain its hiatus for a time.

However, there are still some permits in the process of being issued for filming to begin this week. Sokoloski says they are for predominantly for still photography.

“The industry has been extraordinarily responsible throughout the time of the pandemic, as demonstrated by their recent actions during the rise in cases of COVID-19 and embrace of strict safety protocols,” reflected FilmLA President Paul Audley.

“Everyone is waiting to see what’s going to happen before making a firm commitment to restart,” said Sokoloski.

Television production comprised 27% of permits released in December.

Only a handful of TV series started shooting locally in December, including CBS’ “Ghosts,” “Insecure” (HBO), “Tacoma FD” (HBO Max), “The L Word: Generation Q” (Showtime) and “The 3 of Us” (CBS).

Feature film production comprised 6% of permits in December. A total of 26 feature films, largely independents, commenced shooting in December, including “Monstrous,” “Slayers” and “This Land.” Reality TV shows shooting around town included “Dog Impossible” (NatGeo), “Jay Leno’s Garage” (NBC), “Teen Mom OG “(CBS All Access), and Season 5 of “People Magazine Investigates” (Investigation Discovery).

Commercial production comprised 28% of permits approved in December. Projects that shot in Los Angeles County last month included spots for products like Haagen Dazs, Honda, Mountain Dew, and retailers/services such as Carl’s Jr., Lowe’s and Progressive.

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