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Just two of 23 new one-hour TV dramas will be shot in L.A. County, as producers seek tax credits elsewhere. Crews and Hollywood-related businesses struggle.
The five broadcast television networks will be rolling out 23 new one-hour dramas for the upcoming season. That would normally be good business for Hollywood's hometown industry — with bookings for soundstages and plenty of work for the costumers, camera operators and caterers needed to put a show on the air.
But not this year. Just two of the 23 new fall and midseason shows will be shot in Los Angeles County, as cost-conscious producers seek tax-friendly production havens in New York, North Carolina, Georgia and other states.
The exodus has been going on for years, especially in feature film production. But television dramas such as"CSI,""Criminal Minds"and"Desperate Housewives"have long been anchors of Los Angeles' entertainment economy, helping to offset the decade-long slide in moviemaking. One 22-episode-a-year network series has a budget of $60 million and generates 840 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
That economic bang is beginning to fizzle. Fewer than 10% of new network dramas this season are based in Los Angeles, down from 50% in 2010 and nearly 80% in 2005.
"The loss of hourlong dramas is very significant," said Kevin Klowden, director of the California Center at the Milken Institute, noting that a typical drama shoots for eight to nine months, compared with just six to eight weeks for a film. "This is the heart of television production. If this continues, you're going to see a direct impact on the employment base of Los Angeles."
Though L.A. still hosts the bulk of new half-hour comedies and reality shows, dramas are more prized because they use bigger crews and have bigger budgets. That translates to more spending in the local economy.
Repercussions from the downturn are being felt across the local film and TV industry, putting the squeeze on prop houses and other businesses that rely on production and creating growing hardship for the grips, location managers and other crew members who are finding it harder to get work in the entertainment capital of the world.
David Henke is one of them. For most of his career, the 52-year-old location manager rarely went more than a month without a job. The Sylmar resident earned more than $100,000 a year working on such TV shows as"Nip/Tuck"and "Deadliest Warrior."
But Henke hasn't worked in more than a year, squeaking by on unemployment checks and what's left of his retirement savings.
"Everything has gone out of town," he said.
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