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Showing posts with label Permits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Permits. Show all posts

July 28, 2018

Filming history for Altadena locations now available on the Altadena Filming Map

We have added a new feature to our Altadena filming map. Users who click on a map marker may now see a 10-year history of filming activity for the location at that marker.

Click here to expand the map
The map was generated from LA County filming permit data

Here are the steps to view the filming activity for a location
  1. Click on the marker for that location (orange or reddish color.) A legend will appear on the left with summary information about that location. A link now appears at the bottom of the legend under the title "all filming."
  2. Click on the "all filming" link. A new tab will open with a table showing the 10-year filming history for that location.
Example listing of film history at an Altadena Location

Please note: The listing capability only applies to locations with street addresses like private residences, parks and businesses. Locations are designated by orange or reddish colored markers. Currently the map does not provide the detailed listing of activity on streets and grid. Streets and grids are designated by blueish markers.

Please send along any comments, questions or suggestion for improving the map.

June 25, 2018

Altadena filming frequency map

AltadenaFilming has posted a new map that charts a 10-year history of filming frequency in Altadena and the unincorporated neighborhoods in adjacent zip codes. The data for the map was derived from filming permits issued by LA County's filming permit service, FilmL.A.

The map illustrates two types of filming activity: filming at individual locations and filming on area streets and grids. Scaled location markers are used to show varying levels of filming activity.

For more information about the map see Altadena Filming Frequency Map in the "AF Resources" menu.

Click here to expand the map.

Coming this Fall: The Altadena Filming Frequency Map will be upgraded. Each location will include a clickable link that displays the history of permitted productions that occurred at each location.

For an account of how the data was acquired see

The source data for the map is available at

December 2, 2017

Down in the weeds looking at permit fees

Keeping film jobs in LA is a source of recurring concern for our local officials. Filming advocates are often quick to point out the importance of incentives — otherwise film producers might just pick up their jobs and run off to Georgia, New York or or, goodness gracious, the other LA! (i.e. Louisiana)

It wasn't so long ago, we heard a LA County official assert that Altadena was an attractive filming location because of the permits fees were the lowest in the region. While this might not represent a majority view among our officials, it seemed a topic worth a bit of noodling.

In a previous posting, we had surveyed the cost of filming permits and related fees for Altadena and a few other communities in LA County. We discovered that fees for filming in Altadena1 were actually among the most expensive in the region. We recently updated our fee survey with data for Altadena, Pasadena, La Canada, Burbank and Santa Clarita. (Click here to see that data.) Here's what we found:
  • Highest permit fee: Pasadena has the most expensive filming permits. Altadena is a close second. Permit fees for either Pasadena and Altadena are more than twice as much as any of the other communities surveyed.
  • Highest notification fees (door hangers): Altadena
  • Highest monitoring fees: Altadena
  • Most expensive law officer: Arcadia
  • Most expensive fire review: Altadena and Santa Clarita
  • Most expensive fire safety officer: Arcadia
  • Most expensive use of public right of way: La Canada
  • Most expensive permit violation fees: Pasadena (only Pasadena lists fees for permit violation)
Surprisingly, the cost of a filming permit in Altadena may not only among the most expensive in the region, it may be among the most expensive in the nation.

Last March the LA County CEO submitted a report to the County Supervisors that compared the cost of filming permits in LA to the permit costs in 10 other cities. The result: filming permits in LA were far and away the most expensive. (The data from the CEO's report is summarized in a table at the end of this posting.)

It's safe to say permits in Altadena are no bargain. Is this a problem? Do high permit fees hinder job growth? Is there any relation between filming permit cost and filming activity?

To test these questions we used an unscientific sampling method (close eyes, move-mouse, click) to pick five filming permits from November 2010 and another five filming permits from November 2017.2 We then compared the selected samples for cost differences by squinting sideways with one eye to determine if there was a huge difference. While this approach may not be statistically representative, it is surely illustrative. There is no apparent difference — the cost of a filming permits has remained quite steady in the $2K to $10K range. (The tables for the 2010 and 2017 permit costs appear at the bottom of this posting.)

30% growth in Shoot days 2010-2016
We then compared filming activity in 2010 to filming activity in 2016 using 'shoot day' data from FilmLA's quarterly reports. It appears that filming activity increased 30%; during those 7 years.

In other words, filming jobs seem to be growing apace in the LA despite the high permit fees. 

No surprise. The cost crew travel fees would quickly offset any savings that might be earned by traveling out of the area to get a cheaper filming permit. In other words, the high cost of a filming permit in LA does not seem any more impact on jobs in the film business than than the growing pile of junk in our garage has on the rotation of the earth.  We can rest easy on both scores.

Supporting Data

Comparisons of filming permit cost in LA to other cities

LANYAtlantaChicagoNew Orleans
Application fee$660$300$100$25/location$0
Fire safety officer$163/hr$210/hr$280 (8h)$5/hr
Law Officer$134-84/hrtraffic control $0$40/hr
Comparison of costs between CitiesSource: Memo to LA County supervisors from LA County CEO

Comparison of 2010 filming permit costs to 2017 filming permit costs
Arbitrarily selected examples of filming permit fees in November 2017
Permit #1Permit #2Permit #3Permit #4Permit #5
Application fee660660660660660
Notification charge42492656656164
Fire review282282282
Fire safety officer3,570
Road inspection346346
Road application157157
Fire Dept. spot check858585
Special effects permit288
Road encroachment permit286312286
Total permit cost1,2722,5182,26811,8641,895
2017 example permit fees
Arbitrarily selected examples of filming permit fees in November 2010
Permit #1Permit #2Permit #3Permit #4Permit #5
Application fee525625625625625
Notification charge1,180540465955
Fire review10410410485
Fire safety officer1,792
Law officer4001,669
Road inspection
Road application5252
Fire Dept. spot check8585
Special effects permit
Road encroachment permit624305610312
Total permit cost9,5821,0861,9313,1956,072
2010 example permit fees

Note: According to the County CEO, 'review fees' pay for the staff time need to review a filming permit application and 'service fees' recover the personnel cost need to support filming.

1 The filming permit fees are the same for all unincorporated communities in LA County. Fees are determined by the LA County Supervisors
2 Student filming permits were excluded. While student filming may be key to developing a work force for the film industry, it does not figure to be a significant source of those well-paid film industry jobs.

September 7, 2017

First look: permit data for unincorporated communities in LA County

LA County Districts
(click to see larger map)
If you should happen to be a regular reader here, you may recall that the County Supervisors asked the County's Film Liaison to make some recommendations.

That was a bit of a puzzle. Who knew the County had a Film Liaison? What did this Film Liaison do? The office wasn't listed. Googling was useless. But, with help from our local County Field Deputy, the Supervisor Barger's Planning and Public Works Deputy, and a few other hard working County officials, we were able to reach Gary Smith, LA County's newly appointed1 Film Liaison.

Among other things2, Mr. Smith manages FilmLA's contract and receives quarterly reports on filming for the unincorporated communities of LA County. We asked Mr. Smith if the quarterly reports for the past 3 years were publicly available. Mr. Smith, like his County colleagues, has been extremely helpful. He sent along a composite report with frequency and complaint data for each Supervisor's District. The report includes data for each quarter from January 2014 through January 2017. (a link to the report appears below)

We used this quarterly-report data to put together a few charts that show filming activity for the unincorporated areas of the County. If you should happen to be a person who prefers data as a basis for fact, perhaps the following will be of interest.

Q: How much filming occurs in the unincorporated communities compared to other areas of LA County?
On average 12% of the filming permitted by Film LA occurs in the unincorporated areas of the County. The estimate does not include filming in places like Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena which do not use the FilmLA permitting service.

Q: How much filming occurs in LA County District 5 (Altadena's District)?
On average, 60% of all shoot days in the unincorporated areas occurs in District 5.

Approximately 2 million people live in the unincorporated communities in LA County. Approximately 400,000 people live in the 70 or so unincorporated communities of District 5. Altadena is the largest unincorporated community in the District with approximately 44,000 residents.

The Film Liaison's report does not include enough information to determine what percentage of the District's filming occurs in Altadena zip codes. However, using AltadenaFilming's film permit map data, we can estimate that 29% of District 5 filming occurs in Altadena.

Q: How many filming complaints were recorded from each of the unincorporated communities.
Between 2014 and 2107, FilmLA recorded 293 complaints from the unincorporated areas of LA County. Nearly 71% of the complaints concerned filming activities in District 5.

Note: Last year NBC4 reported that, in 2015, there were over 2,900 filming complaints just in the City of Los Angeles — a rate much high than that reported in the unincorporated areas. The disparity suggests that either complaints are under reported in the unincoporated areas or that film companies are, in general, better behaved when they leave the city limits.

Q: What is the most frequent complaint about filming?
Problematic film-company parking was the most frequent complaint in all unincorporated areas. 38% of District 5 complaints were classified as 'parking.'

Q: What about the rate of complaints? Are they higher in District 5?
With the exception of 2016, the rate, as complaints per 100 shoot days, for District 5 is in line with other districts. However, it appears the complaint rates for District 1 and 2 shot up in 2016.
The big picture
Overall, filming in the unincorporated areas plays only a minor part in LA County's overall film-production picture. However, a large majority of the filming in the unincorporated communities takes place in District 5.

Since the Film Liaison only provided data for the unincorporated communities, we'll conjecture that LA County's jurisdiction for film permitting approval and enforcement is limited to just these unincorporated areas. If true, District 5 is the District most affected by the County's filming permit approval and enforcement policies. In that case, Supervisor Barger should rightly have considerable sway in any Board decisions concerning film permitting and permit enforcement.

Data notes
  • The report only includes data for the unincorporated communities of LA County. The data does not include results from incorporated communities like Monrovia, Pasadena, Burbank, etc.

  • The Film Liaison's report included a summary of frequency and complaint data for each quarter in each district from Q1 2014 through Q1 2017. The report also includes a County-wide summary of frequency and complaint data.

  • The contents of the report were extracted to text and modified for export to excel.

  • Starting in 2015, FilmLA began reporting frequency as Shoot Days. Prior to 2015, FilmLA reported frequency as as both Permitted Production Days and Shoot Days. Here's FilmLA's definition of the difference.
    A Permitted Production Day (PPD) is defined as one crew’s permission to film at a single defined location during all or part of any given 24‐hour period. This measure is best used to quantify days of impact from filming on area communities. Determining PPD involves looking at all calendar days in which filming occurs, and summing the number of unique locations filmmakers were permitted to use on each day.

    Shoot Day (SD) is defined as one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24‐hour period. This measure is used to quantify how many days of work film crews perform during a given time period. Determining SD involves looking at all calendar days during which filming occurs, and summing the number of unique permits simultaneously active for filming on each day.

    In order to normalize 2014 frequency data with the 2015 and 2106 data, we used FilmLA's 2010-2014 data to calculate a Production Day to Shoot Day ratio. The ratio is roughly two-thirds. We used that ratio to estimate 2014 Shoot Days. It appears that this techniques underestimates the actual values.

  • The quarterly report data has errors. The County-wide summary is inconsistent with the data from the individual districts. In our reports we used the data for individual districts and ignored the County-wide data since it is likely that the inconsistency is the result of arithmetic errors.

  • FilmLA issues quarterly press releases on shoot-day data for all the incorporated and unincorporated areas they serve. These FilmLA press releases were used as a source of data for the county-wide comparisons.

  • An estimate of annual shoot days in Altadena was based on data that was accidentally released by FilmLA — the same data is used to generate the Altadena permit map that appears on this site.

    The Altadena estimate is based on the following: between 2012 and 2015, there was a yearly average of 478 filming permits issued in Altadena. If we assume a day-and-a half of shooting for each permit, that's an average of about 717 shoot days per year. Based on the Film Liaison's report, there are roughly 2,500 shoot days each year in District 5. If these estimates are accurate, then roughly 29% of District 5 filming occurs in Altadena.
Links to source material
Here are links to the data provided by the County's Film Liaison:

1 : The County's Film Liaison was recently moved to a new organizational home. Previously, the office was located in the CEO's Office of Unincorporated Area Services. It is now located in the CEO's Economic Development Affordable Housing Division.

2 : The LA County CEO recently publish a memo describing the Film Liaison's responsibilites.

April 20, 2016

Self-sufficient regulation: Who's the real customer?

When I moved in LA as a hungry freelancer, a gallon of gas was 65-cents and a stamp was 15 cents. If you worked with a crew of less than 20, it didn't really matter much if you had a filming permit. The risk was low; unless you got unlucky and caught the attention of a curious cop. It was the wild west. No one interferred.

Bigger shoots were different; you were sure to get attention. You needed a union crew, a cop and a permit. So you called Acme Permits Inc for the permit and the cop. For a couple hundred bucks, Acme arranged all the particulars. Even dropped your permit off at the production office. Life was good.

In those days, filming on-location was just becoming the norm. Film crews in the neighborhood were still a novelty. Neighbors were curious and friendly. You could shoot at all hours. There were plenty of twenties to hand around. And, when it came to lawnmowers or chainsaws, the union men or the cops would be all business. How times have changed. At least in LA.

In 1990 the LA County Supervisors passed an ordinance that instituted the "Film permit Coordination Office" (Chapter 2.118. Ord. 90-0093 § 3, 1990). The ordinance established a government service with the mandate to issue filming permits and collect fees. FilmLA's predecessor, Entertainment Industry Development Corporation, was founded as a non-profit and obtained the contract to provide the service.*

Under the Ordinance sub-heading, "Office to be self-supporting—Cost-recovery fee schedule", the Ordinance set an "administration fee" of $315 with a formula for increasing the permit fees based on the CPI. Currently the fee is $635 which is more or less in line with the past 26 years of inflation. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices have gone up about 82% since 1990.)

Regulation without cost? For a nominal amount, the industry was going to pay for it's own regulation. It wouldn't cost the taxpayer a nickel. What could be better?

But, take a close look and you might see a couple flies in the ointment.

For one thing, the price of FilmLA's basic permit application is about the most expensive around. Check out the table below. Aside from Sierra Madre and Pasadena, an application for a filming permit in Altadena is the most expensive in the area. More expensive than San Marino, New York City, or San Francisco. It's nearly twice the cost of pro-film communities like Santa Clarita and Burbank. And Riverside is free! (Think mattress sale.) These prices make for a sharp contrast with pro-film Louisiana and Georgia. I know that if I was still in the film biz, I'd just assume skip the hassle and expense.

Film Permit fees
Film Permit Office
Application fee: $625
Atlanta, GA
Application fee: $100
Application fee: $272.95 (1st day)
$81.89 ea additional day
Application fee: $187 + 300/day
Application fee: $350/ 7 days
Application fee: $325
La Canada
Application fee: $100 + Film: $100
Los Angeles
Application fee: $625
Application fee: $0 (no fees)

Application fee: $500
Historic preservation: 75
New York, NY
Application fee: $300
Application fee: $716.96 per day
Parking signs: $1ea
Application fee: $500
Application fee: Free
San Dimas
Application fee: $347
San Francisco
Application fee: $200-300
San Marino
Application fee: $500
Santa Clarita
Application fee: $363
Sierra Madre
Small:$1034 1st day; $775 additional day
Large: $1701 1st day; $1,362 additional day
PLUS other charges
Note: these figures do not include all the extras that can easily double or more the cost of a permit.

If you should happen to also be thinking that the relatively high cost of a filming permit might be a disincentive to companies who might be interested in filming in Altadena, then consider this: the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program 2.0 gives film companies an added 5% bonus in tax credits if they take their business out of the "LA zone." If you just consider fees and taxes, Altadena may not be such a great place to shoot. I digress.

Why then is a FilmLA permit comparatively expensive? My hunch is that other governments with cheaper fees subsidize the cost of permit coordination. In other words, the business of issuing film permits is at least partly paid for by the taxpayers.

Is that a bad thing? Isn't "self-supporting" inherently good? The question suggests there's something else in the ointment of a self-supporting regulation.

Consider this: FilmLA has $10M in annual expenses, nearly 100 employees and a $300K per year CEO. That's a LOT of permits at $635 a pop. Let's try a conservative estimate. Let's say that FilmLA is able double the permit tab (by including charges for a Monitor and a few extras) so that the average permit fee for a film shoot comes to around $1,200. To make that mark, FilmLA must print around 8,300 permits per year or about a 150 per week. Mind you FilmLA provides permits for LA County, LA City, Monrovia and a few spots in Orange county so the volume might be there. But no matter, that's a lot of permits to crank through just to make their nut.

Here's the rub: If you think of a customer as someone who pays you money for a service, then FilmLA's customers are the film companies. Not the County. Not the neighborhoods. The film companies.

Sure there's a stipulation in the County Ordiance to "avoid or mitigate adverse effects or incompatibility between such short such short-term land uses activities and the surrounding area where these temporary activities are proposed," but without 30 film companies knocking on FilmLA's door every day, FilmLA goes bust.

All of that leads me to think that if FilmLA seems more protective of the film industry than our neighbors, it makes perfect sense. After all, who's the real customer?

* In 2005, the name was changed its name to FilmLA shortly after its President was found guilty of misdemeanor forgery.