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On-location ad filming in L.A. sees an uptick

Commercial shoots on the city's streets climb for a third straight week as companies become more willing to spend.

October 07, 2009|Richard Verrier

Commercial filming on the streets of Los Angles may be moving out of the doldrums, a possible early sign that there is a thaw in the nationwide economy as advertisers show more willingness to spend money.

On-location shoots for commercials increased for the third consecutive week, according to FilmL.A. Inc., which handles film permits for the Los Angeles area. Commercial filming generated 102 production days last week (defined as a single crew's permission to film at a project at a single location during a 24-hour period), nearly double the level from the same time last year.

The recession has taken a toll on commercial production, causing major advertisers such as the big three U.S. automakers to scale back their spending on ads, meaning fewer opportunities for commercial filmmakers.

Notwithstanding the recent upturn in filming, on-location year-to-date filming for commercials is still down 21% compared with a year earlier, according to FilmL.A. Although the advertising industry is based in New York, most commercials are filmed in Los Angeles, which has about 170 commercial producers.

Commercial production in the first two quarters of this year plummeted to the lowest levels since 2000, when a strike by actors crippled commercial filming.

Matt Miller, president of the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers, said it was too early to say whether the recent uptick in activity signaled a sustained rebound.

"The rhythms of the economy are very different than anything we've seen," Miller said. "It's hard to tell whether this is a momentum or whether this is just a blip."

Some producers, however, are seeing encouraging signs.

"There's definitely more momentum," said Brian Carmody, executive producer of Smuggler, a production company that is filming a Nikon commercial this week with Ashton Kutcher in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

In addition to the Nikon shoot, Smuggler is shooting commercials in the next week for Audi, AT&T Inc., Kayak .com -- even the U.S. Postal Service.

To be sure, budgets are tighter than ever. Advertisers who previously might have been willing to spend $500,000 on a two-day shoot might now limit their budgets to $400,000. But activity is definitely increasing, Carmody added.

"Advertisers are getting back on track," he said.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com.

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