California Ranks as Top Filming Location for Narrative Feature Films

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California leads among the top international competitors when it comes to attracting US-based narrative feature films, according to a new study published today by FilmLA. Feature Films: A Profile of Production analyzes a sample of 291 live-action theatrical-release and 56 streaming-release films from 2018. All films are English-language titles produced by U.S.-based production companies.

The study found that that while just five international competitors – California, New York, the UK, Georgia and Canada – captured approximately 75 percent of narrative films released that year, the economic value of captured projects differs greatly by jurisdiction. California and New York emerged as leaders in theatrical and independent film production, capturing all or a share of 62 and 57 theatrical-release films, respectively. But when it came to top-grossing projects with large production spends, a highly- desirable segment of the business, California lost out to Georgia and the U.K., tying Canada in total project attraction with 11 films.

“This is a report at once encouraging and sobering in its conclusions. On the one hand, it’s wonderful that California locations are so widely sought after by filmmakers. But on the other, our ability to attract the highest-value projects is almost wholly dependent on incentives, and in that space the competition is outspending us.”

Paul Audley, President of FilmLA

An analysis of all filming locations for the 56 original movies released by streaming services in 2018 revealed that New York (13 films), California (11), Canada (10), the UK (6) and Georgia (3) were the primary destinations.

The California Film & Television Tax Credit Program added 14 feature projects – 12 theatrical and 2 streaming releases – to the slate in 2018. But competitive film production incentives are just one advantage that top production centers have in common, according to FilmLA. All of the top locations profiled in the study possess the requisite mix of solid projection infrastructure, a skilled local workforce and production vendor support.

At the end of the day, Greater Los Angeles remains a major beneficiary of feature projects based in California. Approximately 50 percent (32 count) of the feature projects filmed in California shot entirely within the Golden State. Meanwhile, nearly 18 percent of studied projects (11 count) filmed entirely outside of Los Angeles County – with the rest spending at least some of their time (and budgets) filming locally. A full list of California-based projects is included in FilmLA’s study as an appendix.

“Runaway production, historically associated with feature films, has been a fact of life for California for a quarter century. As long as rivals continue to covet this business, we will be permanently locked in international competition for film production projects and jobs.”

“The fact is that we’d love to see more feature work done locally, but the resources required to support that expansion are operating close to capacity,” Audley added. “To attract more feature projects white maintaining our leadership in television production will require new investments in incentives and infrastructure.”

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