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Runaway Production

A combination of financial incentives and the convenience of digital media is making it easier to film outside of Los Angeles.

By Chris and Trish Meyer | April 10, 2009

One of the reasons we were happy to live in Los Angeles for so long is because it was where "it" was Happening - there was a critical mass of talent and infrastructure that made it one of the best places to create a film or television show. We also got started just when desktop production was becoming viable, which drastically reduced costs in many cases.

These are different times now. The cost savings of desktop production has already been fully priced in. Throw in an economic crisis, and producers are looking for other ways to save money - including filming in states that provide deep financial incentives (such as our new home state New Mexico's 25% rebate).

In the past, the relative lack of infrastructure such as talent, studios, and film processing labs has been a reason to either stay or return to places like LA, but viable digital replacements for film (such as the RED camera) are removing some of these barriers as well. Other parts of the infrastructure are also falling into place - for example, New Mexico now sports facilities such as Albuquerque Studios, but the post production issue is still muddled, including exceptions that in the past have prevented subcontractors like us from benefiting from the financial incentives (hopefully this is going to change with some new wording approved this legislative session). Other states such as Michigan offer even deeper incentives, but without quite the infrastructure (or weather). In other words, it's nowhere near a done deal, but at the very least the trend shows clearly shows diversification away from the highly centralized production landscape of years past.

This is not news to many of you. But when even the BBC starts reporting on production leaving Los Angeles, you know it's too big to ignore (click here for the video report; click here for the more complete text version).

Other associated links that may be of interest:

  • Mark Christiansen recently blogged about how the long-threatened SAG strike may be hastening the move away from film to digital


  • Newsweek.com recently ran a first-person account about how the contracting industry is making life tough on the worker bees in Hollywood


  • Last year, we mused about how new media required a much leaner business model


  • We previously shared why we left Los Angeles ourselves for New Mexico


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