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January 3, 2017

Altadena's contribution to Los Angeles County's film jobs


Ask most any booster of filming why filming is good, there a good chance they will say "jobs." You can't argue with 'jobs'. Just like 'world peace', jobs are good.

Why bring this up? I'm afraid the reason isn't good. It's because U-dub got drubbed and I could not keep my mind on the game. When I started pacing about the house and my wife asked if I needed a job. So naturally, I returned to the game. But then I had jobs on my mind. After a few more minutes of boring football, I switched over to TCM which was then showing the The Day the Earth Stood Still. I got there just in time to hear Patricia Neal render Gorp harmless with those immortal words, "Klaatu barada nikto."

That's when it hit me. Because of a FilmLA slipup I might have enough information to estimate the number of jobs that are the direct result of filming in Altadena. All I needed was some economic data about County jobs. In less time than it took for Clemson to smash Ohio State, I had googled up a report with the just the right stuff.

I'm sure you will agree, this is alarming. I ought to have been thinking about a tropical vacation, or a hike in the Sierras or even reading one of my new books. Instead I grabbed a yellow pad and a sharp pencil and began to work up the following estimates. Here's the result:

2012 Report of the Entertainment Biz in LA County sponsored Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
In 2012 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce commissioned a report on the film business in Los Angeles County. The report, The Entertainment Industry and the Los Angeles County Economy, was prepared by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LADEC) using 2011 data. The document was written to amp up the state's support for the film industry in the form of tax credits and industry advocacy. It was a lucky find and perfect for this purpose.

Here's a few data points from the report:
2016 LA County jobs have increased 25% since2011.
Film Production has kept pace.
source: Economic Update for LA County
    2011 Jobs (details below):
  • Jobs in LA County: ~3.3 million
  • All film-related jobs in LA County: ~250,000 (8%)
  • Film production jobs in LA County: 205,000 (6%)
    2011 earnings (details below):
  • LA County total: $558B
  • Average salary for production related occupations: $96,000
  • Production-related total: $11B
    2016 update (see adjacent):
  • Increase in LA County jobs since 2011: 30%
  • Increase in film jobs (includes freelance): 28%
  • Film jobs have kept pace with the economy.

As an aside...
The LADEC Update for LA County projects that the number of film jobs will continue to grow at about the current rate. That's about 20,000 new jobs over the next five years.

Estimate of Altadena's contribution to filming jobs
So how many filming jobs are there in Altadena? Not surprisingly, I didn't find any ready-made estimates. However, given the available data for LA County, coming up with an estimated seemed straight forward.

Here's the idea: We know the ratio of jobs and the number of production days in LA County. And, we know the average number of permits issued to Altadena locations (2012-2015). If we make a couple of assumptions about work days per Altadena permit, we can use the LA County ratio to estimate the the number of jobs and overall wages generated by filming in Altadena.

This estimation method does not work1,2

Nice idea, but no cigar. So happens that method doesn't work. Here's why: on average, roughly 2% of FilmLA's permits are issued to Altadena locations. If 2% of the film jobs were the result of filming in Altadena, there would be nearly 4,000 people working on film crews in Altadena everyday. That's roughly the working population of JPL. If that were the case we'd see 40 to 50 large shoots here every day. Aside from all else, this method makes no allowance for the significant portion of the workforce employed on sound stages and studios around the county.

I struck on plan B: an estimate can be derived just using the FilmLA permit data.3 I did just that. But since the FilmLA does not include dates, a lot of educated guesswork was required. Guess work aside, the results seem reasonable.

Here's what turned up:
  • 1435 permits issued to Altadena locations between July 2012 and December 2015
  • An estimate of 164,283 on-location workdays are associated with film permits issued to Altadena locations between 2012 and 2015
  • 632 full-time equivalent on-location jobs are associated with film permits issued to Altadena locations between 2012 and 2015
  • On average 181 full-time equivalent on-location jobs are associated with film permits issued to Altadena locations each year
  • On average on-location film jobs represent 0.07% of the county film jobs

That's a lot of 'what ifs', but if the numbers are roughly accurate, filming in Altadena probably annually generates the equivalent number of jobs as a Whole Foods store, but, of course, with much better wages.

If you're curious about the this estimation process, here's a link to a document that describes the details, warts and all.

On a final note...
Altadena's population is 40,000 or roughly 0.4% of LA County's population of roughly 10 million. Based strictly on population, Altadena supports nearly 3 times the filming as might be expected if filming was evenly distributed across the County. We must live in a nice place. Which only underscores the point that there are better things to do here than watching a dull playoff game .

1. This total includes only permits issued by FilmLA. Filming permits issued by Burbank, Glendale, Santa Clarita, and other county municipalities are not include. Consequently Altadena estimate is likely to be on the high side.
2. FilmLA reported 45,484 permitted production days (PPDs) in 2011. A slight increase of 4% that which has a very minimal impact on the ratio of PPDs in Altadena to the County as a whole.
3. We have often requested a more complete data set, but FilmLA says they don't have the resources to generate one. (see Sokoloski (4-25-16))

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