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Netflix to ramp up California filming

Hollywood BlvdNetflix plans to shoot more of its original content in California, rather than chasing the most generous filming incentives in the US.

The streaming platform reportedly has an annual production budget of around $6bn for about 1,000 hours of original content a year. 

“When you think about productions chasing tax credits all over the world, it puts the onus on the cast and crew who have to travel,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, in an interview with The Wrap. 

“You move to Los Angeles – or you grew up in LA – because you wanted to be in show business. Then you have to move to New Orleans six or eight months a year.”

Sarandos claimed that crew who are based in California are less happy on set when they are forced to travel to Georgia, Louisiana or New York for work, and that this lower morale impacts the quality of the content itself.

“I’m happy to participate in the incentives if they work, but there is a cost on the creative of the show,” he said. He singled out the political TV satire Veep as an example, which relocated to film in California after several years doubling Baltimore in Maryland for Washington, DC. 

“Veep is a great example – when they moved from Baltimore to LA, it got way better,” Sarandos said. “They have the best writers on television now. The show is funnier. Everyone’s happier. I think it shows up on screen. Shooting in LA is an investment in the quality of the show.”

For more on filming in California and for local contacts see our production guide.

California currently focuses on supporting TV production and hosts very few big-budget features.

Only a minority of productions applying for tax credit support to film in California actually get it, although Netflix’s upcoming fantasy crime movie Bright was recently awarded just over $7m to shoot in Los Angeles.  

Sarandos also talked of a need to upgrade some of Los Angeles’ more historic studio facilities to help the city cater more effectively to increased demand.

Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings recently revealed that the company has spent $1.75bn on European content over the past five years and is currently involved with 90 European productions. The platform will support 15 European languages by the end of this year.