When producer Adam Ganser needed a place to shoot a video for humor website Cracked.com in November, he wanted a location that looked like a hospital, but lacked the budget to shut down a functioning ward for the day.
So he and his cast and crew of about 40 filmed the video, part of a series spoofing video games called “8 Bits,” in a replica facility at downtown’s Central City Studio.
For Central City, booking a small production was not uncommon, but Ganser and his roughly $15,000 project were actually part of a rapid shift going on in local filming.
Location shooting for videos destined for Cracked, Yahoo, YouTube and other websites is exploding, helping mitigate a marked decline in TV production in Los Angeles.
Location shooting for web videos boomed in 2012, reaching 1,633 permitted production days, an increase of 46 percent from 2011, according to FilmL.A., a non-profit that coordinates and processes location permitting for film, television and commercial productions in the city of Los Angeles, parts of Los Angeles County and other areas of the region. These projects accounted for about 10 percent of overall TV location production, under which they are categorized by FilmL.A.
Television production days declined more than 3 percent to 16,762 compared with the previous year. The largest drop within that segment was a 20 percent year-over-year decline in location shoots for one-hour dramas.
Overall, the picture was brighter, however. The number of film, television and commercial location shoots in 2012 rose by almost 2 percent over the prior year.
While the increase in productions destined for the web was significant, the economic impact is not yet close to making up the loss in TV production. Web videos are mostly brief and have budgets that pale in comparison with traditional TV shoots: While Cracked can spend as much as $20,000 on a production, on the high end for web videos, a single-camera comedy shot on location in Los Angeles will spend about $2 million per episode, according to FilmL.A.
Hourlong dramas, which are more expensive to produce – $4 million to $5 million per episode, are taking flight to New York and other states that offer richer production subsidies. To qualify for such incentives, projects must often have a minimum budget of about $1 million, precluding just about all web productions.
Cause for optimism
The smaller budgets have contributed to the jump in local web production. Web producers can often find cast, crew and other necessities in Los Angeles more efficiently than other places, said Ganser.
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