TV, Commercials Support Another Record Filming Year

"Criminal Minds" in the downtown Newhall area

“Criminal Minds” in the downtown Newhall area

By Sara Mitchell, SCVBJ Editor – February 2013

Despite the continuing trend of filming heading for other states, 2012 was another banner filming year for the city of Santa Clarita, which issued 362 permits for a total of 919 film days — a two percent increase from 2011, the previous record year.

The city also bucked the trends of Los Angeles County, as Santa Clarita permitted more TV projects than previous years, whereas the county saw a 3.4 percent decrease in that category.

“Since 2008, Santa Clarita has seen a slight decrease in feature films, but increases in television and commercials,” said Jason Crawford, economic development and marketing manager for the city.

Santa Clarita holds onto the TV film market because of its quick turnaround for permitting, said Monica Harrison, owner of LA Film Locations, a Valencia-based location management company.

“Our film office can pull a permit in a few days. You go to some cities and it’s like a two-week turn-around,” Harrison said. “I’m scouting for this week for shooting next week. For TV and commercials, we need it to be quick.”

The city’s film permits are also cheaper than other parts of the county, Harrison said. Santa Clarita charges $437 for a motion picture permit, versus Film LA, which handles permitting for various Los Angeles-area municipalities and school districts and charges $625 for the application.

Harrison said she’s booking more commercials for Santa Clarita, and sees an increase in Internet commercial filming within that category.

"Switched at Birth" filming in the industrial center

“Switched at Birth” filming in the industrial center

“Those are a lot smaller and lower budget than regular commercials, so companies are doing more of them,” Harrison said. “They’re fun and interesting and a lot more of that is needed for the younger generation.”

Commercials and other smaller projects benefitted from Santa Clarita’s film credit program, which gave its annual $50,000 in incentives to 18 productions in 2012 versus five productions in 2011.

“Santa Clarita is unique in that all three production types [feature films, commercials, TV] all can qualify,” said Russell Sypowicz, a city economic development associate. “So we get some commercials interested in filming because of this.”

As for the decrease in feature films, Crawford attributes this to the more than 40 states that now offer varying degrees of filming tax rebates and incentives. The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation reports that Louisiana saw more than $1 billion in production spending in 2011. That was a nearly 25,000 percent increase since the state introduced its incentive programs in 2003. That same year New York state had a record television season, providing $420 million in annual tax credits.

But California’s own $100 annual film credit program particularly benefits Santa Clarita, as 20 percent of the incentivized projects have been filmed or based in the city since the program’s inception in 2009.

“The state program has helped keep certain productions that were considering leaving,” Sypowicz said. “When they decide to stay in the state, there’s a high chance they’ll be filming in Santa Clarita.”

And when productions film in Santa Clarita, they tend to stay longer. Harrison said she thinks the increase in filming days is not just because of increased permits, but because crews are doing more and more of their filming in Santa Clarita instead of traveling to multiple cities for one project.

"Criminal Minds" in the downtown Newhall area

“Criminal Minds” filming at the old Newhall Library

“We’ve got a lot of different looks here, so crews are able to fill in more film days in this city,” she said. “They can make it all here rather than a partial day in Santa Clarita and then moving to Long Beach for a couple of days. It’s really about saving the dollars.”

This also means Harrison is scouting for multi-purpose buildings for her clients.

“Before production companies would rent out a few buildings and that triples the cost,” she said. “Now they’re really more budget conscious and if a building has more to offer – a few different rooms — then it’s better to have it all in one place.”

Santa Clarita becoming more of a one-stop film location drives the local economy even more. The city estimates that filming contributed more than $21.7 million in local economic impact. The Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation estimates that the economic impact to the whole valley in the 2011-12 fiscal year was $57.5 million.

“As a whole the Santa Clarita Valley is very supportive of the film industry,” Sypowicz said.

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