In 2023, on-locating filming in Los Angeles faced a significant setback, as revealed by a recent report from FilmLA, the official film office for the city and county. The primary culprits behind this decline were identified as the simultaneous strikes initiated by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).
According to the annual report, the fourth quarter of 2023 witnessed a drastic drop in shoot days, plummeting from 8,674 in 2022 to a mere 5,520. The overall impact across the year was staggering, with nearly 10,000 fewer shoot days recorded in film, television, and commercials. The total number dwindled from 36,792 in 2022 to 24,873 in 2023, marking a sharp decline of 32.4%.
FilmLA President Paul Audley expressed the unprecedented nature of this situation, stating, "History offers no point of comparison to the present." Aside from the pandemic year, the industry hasn't experienced such prolonged low production levels in a considerable time.
The major downturn was predominantly attributed to the strikes that brought the entertainment industry to a standstill in 2023. Both WGA and SAG-AFTRA members participated in prolonged walkouts, with WGA initiating the strike on May 2, followed by SAG-AFTRA members joining on July 14. The strikes, lasting over 100 days each, finally concluded with agreements on Sept. 27 and Nov. 9 for WGA and SAG-AFTRA, respectively.
Although filming resumed in November, the substantial delay resulted in a scarcity of new episodes for on-air shows. Television production, in particular, witnessed a significant drop of almost 44%, recording just 9,430 shoot days in 2023.
The report highlights that the television production that did occur post-strike was largely dominated by reality television. However, even reality TV experienced a noticeable decline of just over 29% in the fourth quarter. Reality TV shows accounted for 76.5% of on-location television production in 2023, as per the report.
In a statement, Audley expressed the industry's eagerness to see production resume but acknowledged that the road ahead remains uncertain. "Even as it does, we'll remain in uncharted territory. We have months to go before we can describe what the new normal looks like for filming in LA," he added. The challenges faced in 2023 have undoubtedly left a lasting impact, and the industry anticipates navigating unexplored terrain in the coming months.
A Challenging Year for On-Location Filming in Los Angeles: WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes Take a Toll