On-location filming in the Greater Los Angeles area declined 9.1% between the first quarters of 2018 and 2019, according to data from FilmLA.
Despite 2019's slower start, we continue to expect that this will be among the most productive-ever years for on-location filming in Los Angeles," said Paul Audley, president of FilmLA.” /> "We've identified several factors contributing to the slowdown, and in our view, they are not a cause for alarm.
FilmLA theorizes that contract talks between SAG-AFTRA and commercial producers may have played a role in the slowdown as higher-budget projects usually film where tax incentive support is available. Shooting days for commercials declined 15.1% from 1,633 to 1,387 days. Historically, commercials have been strong in Los Angeles — the first quarter of 2018 was the most productive quarter on record.
A slowdown in the production of feature films, television and commercials contributed to the decrease seen in the first few months of this year. Filmmakers logged 8,843 shoot days from January through March, down from the 9,724 days in the first quarter of 2018.
Production for pilots (-60.3%), reality shows (-25.2%) and web-based TV (-28.5%) made up the majority of the losses. Television dropped from 3,623 shooting days to 3,139 between the years' first quarters, a decline of 13.4%. Some of the larger drama projects that shot in Los Angeles last quarter include "This is Us," "Legion," "The Rookie" and "Animal Kingdom." However, scripted dramas and comedies were up 4.6% and 26.8%, respectively.
Despite the drop, FilmLA expects local filming to increase as the year continues.
According to FilmLA, the drastic decline in TV pilots comes from fewer new projects being made each year, and 2018 saw the fewest new pilots since 2008. In 2019's first quarter, only 27 pilots filmed on area streets, 10% fewer than 2018's first quarter.
There are 10 studio and eight independent projects for the tax credit program poised to start production in the state, the California Film Commission announced in April. Unusual timing seems to be one culprit behind the decline. Feature film production decreased 13% from the first quarter of 2018 to 2019, from 814 to 708 shooting days. Only one project brought by the California Film & Tax Credit Program has filmed in Los Angeles since January as other incentivized titles wrapped by the end of last year.

He expects that the high dynamic range of modern laser projectors — which eliminates the dimness inherent in prior 3D iterations — will spark “a renaissance of the 3D renaissance, in a sense.” Additionally, use of a high frame rate, which he thinks of as more of a filmmaking tool he hopes to employ judiciously, will give images a more realistic pop.
Now the kids are the risk-takers and the change-makers.” “What happens when warriors that are willing to go on suicide charges and leap off cliffs on to the back of big orange toruks — what happens when they grow up and have their own kids?” Cameron says. “It becomes a very different story.
And he has plans to expand the story into a five-film epic if the first few are successful. Filmmaker James Cameron is hoping to make moviegoers an offer they can’t refuse with the next round of “Avatar” movies by bringing an element of “The Godfather’s” epic sensibility to the world of Pandora.
“In terms of the storytelling, I found myself — not for any reasons of the zeitgeist or what was popular — but I found myself, as a father of five, starting to think about, ‘What would an "Avatar" story be like if it was a family drama? It's very different from the first film,” Cameron says. “It's a generational family saga. If it was “The Godfather?”’ Obviously, a very different genre, very different story, but I got intrigued by that idea.”
Despite the impending Disney-Fox merger, Cameron says production will keep moving forward. He expects the purchase of 21st Century Fox, the studio that released the first “Avatar” film, by the Walt Disney company to go through, and he notes that Disney already has a vested interest in the success of the “Avatar” franchise with the introduction of Pandora-themed attractions in its Animal Kingdom theme park.
“Our changes in the technology have been evolutionary, not revolutionary,” he says. Now we've just been cleaning up the pipeline, making it more user-friendly — better working tools, better creative tools, that sort of thing.” “We've made the big bold leaps before we made the first film.
Cameron points out that the five-film epic is "green lit" and he has personally committed to all of them, so he knows where he'll be for the next six years. But whether or not the fourth and the fifth film gets made is dependent upon the success of the second and third films.
It's got to be a much more nuanced perspective now, I think. “’Terminator’ films are about artificial intelligence, and I would say that we are looking at that differently than I looked at it when I made, when I wrote the first story in 1982,” he says. So ‘smart computers bad, but…’ is the new motif.”” /> “That was just a classic kind of ‘technology bad, smart computers bad’ kind of thing. And hopefully we'll show that.
“When you see the headlights of a car and your eyes are adjusted to the dark, it's blinding. [Now] you can sit in the movie theater when the car turns and the headlights hit the camera, it'll be blinding like a real-world experience,” he explains. “Anything that can make the theatrical experience better, that works for me.”
“That's based on the slice of Pandora that you see in the first movie,” he points out. So if you look closely in the ocean, you'll see some creatures that show up in a major way in ‘Avatar 2.’” “We throw in a few little Easter eggs of creatures that will show up in later films in the ride film that's there.
His logic for the new tack, he added, was that it was both universally relatable and a dynamic that has been as yet unexplored by the modern slate of studio blockbusters. “If you look at the big successful franchises now, they're pretty much uninterested in that.” “Everybody's either a parent or they had parents,” he says.
He reveals that as the culture’s relationship with technology has grown increasingly and swiftly more sophisticated in the nearly four decades since the original installment, he plans to re-explore the concept accordingly.
“We know the story through the end of 5, where it's all going, but there's no activity on 4 and 5 right now other than we've done most of the design work,” he says. “We know what the characters and the creatures and the places and so on look like, but we don't have any active teams building models and that sort of thing right now. Wait until we get through the first phase of production cycle.”
The cast and crew recently marked their 100th day of conjoined production on the second and third films, which Cameron reveals is a continuation of the same characters from the first film but with a multigenerational aspect added.
And even as Cameron builds out the world of his most successful film property, he’s preparing for a long-anticipated return to his original blockbuster baby — the “Terminator” franchise.
“Nobody knows 'till you make the movie and put it out. And anybody that thinks that this stuff is easy or it's a foregone conclusion or we're just printing money over here in ‘Avatar’ studio, it doesn't work that way.” “This could be the seeds of utter damnation and doom for the project, or it could be the thing that makes it stand apart and continue to be unique,” he says.
Cameron admits he may be taking his emerging franchise into creatively risky territory.
One of the first film’s most significant attributes was its groundbreaking advancement of 3D technology, and the filmmaker says he hopes to push the form forward again, but with nudges rather than massive leaps.