While California Gov. Jerry Brown is still “not committed” to expanding the state’s film and TV tax credit, Los Angeles is seeing another drop in broadcast pilot production to what appears to be an all-time low. Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been doing photo ops with Disney and Marvel execs to celebrate their commitment to film some 60 episodes of Marvel’s four Netflix series and a miniseries in the Big Apple. And now New York, which also lured The Tonight Show franchise away from Los Angeles, has more reasons to celebrate after another very strong pilot performance, returning this year to the top as the most popular drama location and reinforcing its strong position in comedy.
A record 15 broadcast pilots will be filming in New York this year, including 10 — almost a third — of the 34 drama pilot/direct-to-series projects filming within the regular cycle that have set their locations (two remain TBD). That is up from 13 total and eight dramas last year and just shy of the city’s all-time drama record of 11 in 2012. (Keep in mind that the number of NY-based was zero just four years ago, before the state implemented its aggressive tax break program.) New York is chipping away at Los Angeles’ comedy dominance. LA used to own the comedy space, with virtually every pilot filming here. Just two years ago, it housed 100% of the broadcast comedy pilots. The percentage dropped to 89% last year and is at 85% (39 out of 46) this season. New York made a big move in the arena in 2013 after seven years of no major broadcast comedy pilot presence there. A whopping five broadcast half-hour pilots were filmed in the city last year, including straight-to-series The Michael J. Fox Show. Proving that that wasn’t a fluke, New York matched its comedy haul this year with another five pilots, including NBC’s straight-to-series Tooken. Like last year, all five are single-camera. What’s more, a hybrid comedy, How I Met Your Dad, which is filming the pilot in Los Angeles, will move to New York if it goes to pilot. In most cases, the NY location is talent-driven (Irreversible star David Schwimmer, Dead Boss‘ Jane Krakowski, How I Met Your Dad star Greta Gerwig, Lowell and Gaffigan are all based in NY). But studios wouldn’t have been as open to setting shop in New York had the tax incentives not been strong enough to rein in production costs on comedies, especially the expensive single-camera format, which are still higher than a Los Angeles-based half-hour pilot but not by much. One drawback of comedy series filming in New York has been the shortage of writing talent as broadcast shows have to compete with such cable comedies as Louie and Girls, but with New York-based comedy production appearing to be here to stay, more writing talent may relocate there to support them.
The number of comedy pilots filming outside of LA hit an all-time high this year, seven, with ABC’s Galavant and NBC’s Two To Go joining the five filming in New York. Galavant became the first U.S. broadcast pilot to film in London, lured there by the country’s recently voted new intensive package, and Two To Go is filming in Dallas, also attracted by tax breaks. Texas’ vote last summer to triple its film and TV production incentive program had a big impact. The state went from one pilot last season to three this year: dramas American Crime and Salvation in addition to comedy Two To Go. Additionally, ABC’s 10-episode summer drama Astronaut Wives Club also is filming in Houston. Other popular pilot location states — Atlanta, North Carolina and New Mexico, each with two pilots — also offer incentives as TV studios focus more and more on curtailing production costs on pilots. Honorable mention for another city with generous tax incentives is Chicago, which houses one pilot, Fox’s drama Empire, with the planted Supernatural spinoff also filming scenes there.
Meanwhile, LA’s drama tally went from 12 to an all-time low five this year, pushing the city to No. 2 behind New York and tied with Vancouver, which slipped from last year’s seven. LA’s total does not include CBS’ summer drama series Extant, which also films here. Two episodes of Los Angeles-based series, CBS’ CSI and NCIS, serve as backdoor pilots for potential new series. One of them, the CSI offshoot, will be filmed in LA if picked up to series.
A surprising drop-off for tax credit-friendly New Orleans, which housed a whopping four pilots last year. There are none this year, though the NCIS: New Orleans planted spinoff episode will film some footage there and will shoot in the Big Easy if picked up to series. The filming future of the third planted spinoff this season, Supernatural: Tribes, is TBD, with the mothership series based in Vancouver where most of the spinoff episode will be shot. Besides Galavant, there is little pilot production activity outside of North America this season. Morocco is emerging as a hot destination. FX pilot Tyrant and Showtime series Homeland recently filmed there and two broadcast drama pilots, Fox’s ancient Egypt adventure Hieroglyph and NBC’s thriller Odyssey, will be filming scenes there.
Here is the list of this year’s pilots by location (all remaining comedy pilots shoot in LA):
(10 drama +5 comedy )
Richard Lagravenese (ABC)
Madam Secretary (CBS)
Wall Street (CBS)
Babylon Fields (NBC)
Mysteries of Laura (NBC)
State of Affairs (NBC)
Tin Man (NBC)
Tooken (NBC, straight to series)
Dead Boss (Fox)
Jeff Lowell (ABC)
Jim Gaffigan (CBS)
How I Met Your Dad* (CBS)
*Filming pilot in LA but will move to NY if picked up to series
Exposed (ABC, with some filming in San Francisco)
Sea Of Fire (ABC)
*Series order to pilot from last season
Los Angeles (5)
Battle Creek (CBS, straight to series)
Kevin Williamson (CBS)
Jane The Virgin (CW)
*Summer series films in Los Angeles
American Crime (ABC drama, Austin)
Salvation (NBC drama, Dallas)
Two To Go (NBC comedy)
Astronaut Wives Club* (ABC, Houston)
Red Band Society (Fox)
Wilmington, NC (2)
Secrets & Lies (ABC)
Nikki Toscano (CBS)
New Mexico (2)
Hieroglyph (Fox, straight to series, with some filming on pilot only in Morocco)
The Messengers (CW)
Other pilots filming outside LA
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC, Philadelphia)
Empire (Fox, Chicago)
Odyssey (NBC, Boston, Morocco)
Identity (CW, Charleston, SC)
The Club (ABC) TBD
Only Human (CBS) TBD
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.