FilmLA’s year-end report for 2020 sheds light on the industry’s challenges to resume production last fall, while the 2020 Television Production Report dives deeper into the LA film industry’s most competitive segment – scripted television.
"Schindler's List." To gather costumes for 20,000 extras, the costume designer took out advertisements seeking clothes. As economic conditions were poor in Poland, many people were eager to sell clothing they still owned from the 1930s and '40s.
The year-end report shows how production activity picked up considerably in the fourth quarter of 2020 to reach 7,348 shoot days (SD). Nonetheless, compared with the same period in the prior year (with 9,839 shoot days), overall Q4 production slipped 25.3%.
The Q4 increase over prior periods in 2020 was largely tied to the return of television production, with an influx of episodic television series and reality TV shows that resumed filming in the fall.
"Get Out." Daniel Kaluuya was given the lead role on the spot after nailing his audition. Jordan Peele said Kaluuya did about five takes of a key scene, in which his character needs to cry, and each was so perfect that the single tear came down at the exact same time for each take.
The 3,996 total shoot days for television in Q4 even surpassed 2019 levels (at 3,716 SD) by 6.2%. Overall, television accounted for 54.4% of total Q4 shoot days, compared to just 38.2% in 2019.
However, TV’s biggest driver was reality TV as networks and streaming platforms scrambled to get more content to viewers. Year-over-year for the quarter, the number of shoot days for reality TV grew from 1,006 in 2019 to 1,946 in 2020 – a surprise increase of 93.4%. Even with the pandemic-induced filming moratorium from mid-March to mid-June, annual totals for reality TV in 2020 (3,906 SD) exceeded 2019 levels (3,484 SD).
Scripted TV did not fare so well, continuing to fall as it struggled to deal with the pandemic. Audley points out that, “We have seen some actors in cast and crew members, not wanting to return to work out of concern over the virus. Scripted television had just begun to step back in, but when the virus exploded over the holidays, it pulled back.” TV Dramas achieved 1,228 SD in Q4, finishing the year at 2,412 SD, for a 45.8% loss against 2019 (with 4,453 SD). TV comedies, with only 200 shoot days in Q4, absorbed a -75.9 percent loss year-over-year (479 SD in 2020 vs. 2,331 SD in 2019).
"My Left Foot." Daniel Day-Lewis broke two ribs during filming from assuming the hunched-over position in his wheelchair for weeks of filming. He also would refuse to come out of character. On visits to the set canteen, other people would have to help him with food.
The production of Disney's film Tangled was more expensive than Avatar's production.
As the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the middle of the 2020 pilot season, it is no surprise that annual TV Pilot activity (149 SD in 2020) declined by -61.2 percent.FilmLA’s Television Production Report details an estimated 198 television projects were forced to shut down between mid-March and the end of May, 2020, including 57 TV pilots. What was to be a solid year for scripted TV was quickly reversed, as production schedules were delayed until the fall of 2020 and/or pushed back into 2021.
Audley adds, “The logistics right now for on-location filming are pretty onerous. And that may be driving some of the decisions for television, in particular, dramas and sitcoms.” COVID protocols mean work is taking longer due to the number of people on-sets, and transporting crew and cast from base camp to a set. A transport van can no longer take 12, instead, it can take three. “Everything has caused them to have to apply for more days of activity. But that’s much more expensive and a much slower production schedule.”
"The Martian." Matt Damon admitted that the scene where Mark was getting emotional upon hearing Commander Lewis' voice was genuine. The other actors had wrapped and gone home, and their pre-recorded voices were actually being played to Damon from inside his spacesuit. When Damon began to think about how his character had been all alone on Mars for two years, alongside how he was only hearing pre-recorded voices of his co-stars who had already finished their scenes, he began to tear up. Ridley Scott was so impressed with Damon's performance, that he only did one take of the scene, which was used in the film.
He says, “I think the combination of the requirements that they have created for themselves, in supplements to appendix j, creating the cost expense, time and the surge in the virus, have really struck the television industry very hard.”
In comparison, feature film work, reaching 621 SD in Q4, finished last year down 55.8% to 1,641 SD. Seasonal patterns aside, recovery for the category could be close at hand; Q4 levels for features resemble pre-pandemic levels seen in Q1 of 2020.
Commercials filmed in Q4 generated 1,108 SD, a loss of 14.3% over against the same period in 2019. On an annual basis, commercials generated 3,162 SD compared to 5,290 in 2019, for decline of 40.2%.
"A Clockwork Orange." During the filming of the Ludovico scene, star Malcolm McDowell scratched one of his corneas and was temporarily blinded. He suffered cracked ribs during filming of the humiliation stage show.
Audley is optimistic as the vaccine starts to roll out. He said, “We have started to see with cautious optimism started to see a downturn in a number of cases and hospitalizations should allow the film industry to start coming back to levels over time to levels that we saw back in October which was a little below 50% of what we’re getting normal.”