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Opinion and Insight

Production in LA: Making Commercials in the Home of Blockbuster Movies

What’s it like to produce ads in Hollywood? LBB’s Addison Capper finds out

Production in LA: Making Commercials in the Home of Blockbuster Movies

“Everyone’s an actor or screenwriter here. Everyone. Uber drivers, baristas, waiters, the people you meet out hiking. There’s no other place in the world where you could fill an entire cast or have a working script in your pocket just by eating three square meals a day out at restaurants.” Elliot Lucas, executive producer, Joinery

Celebrities, beaches, sun, tacos, the City of Angels, traffic, Lakers, Dodgers, Chargers, Clippers, and Rams. 

Los Angeles is known for many things but its most well-known and exported entity I have omitted from the list above. I’m obviously referring to Hollywood and the whopping great movie industry that’s based in the city. As the quote above is testament to, Los Angeles is full of people either already in or aiming to get into the movie business. And with that prevalence comes an abundance of on- and off-screen production talent, facilities and equipment, schooled in the art of creating the biggest blockbusters in the world. 

So where does that leave the LA commercials production industry? Is it a case of having everything at your fingertips or more so being outweighed by the almightiness of Hollywood? Upon speaking with industry locals, the latter is certainly the most popular answer. 

“Each city, at least each production-savvy city, has varying degrees of depth to its talent pool, be it on or off-camera talent… There’s a deeper talent base in LA and much more steady business. It's a much larger portion of the city's commerce than probably any other city in the world,” says Dictionary Films managing director Chris Rossiter, who is based in Chicago but closely related to the LA industry. 

It’s a point that Ryan Simon, a partner at Strike Anywhere, and Luke Ricci, executive producer at Bullitt, agree with: “There are more layers of quality crew, equipment and vendors,” says Ryan. “Your second or third choice for a key grip will be just as strong as your first. In other markets you are more likely to run into surprises after you go past your second available option.

“So much film and television production has gone out of state or overseas but LA is still the deepest pool of talent in the world as far as all production goes,” adds Luke. 

Nina Soriano, producer - music video / content at Anonymous Content, and Darren Jaffe, executive producer at Flavor, the creative production studio within the Cutters brand, are keen to highlight that the talent pool people speak of doesn’t just stop with directors and actors - it goes much deeper. “The film industry here sets the bar for what we are capable of,” Nina says. “It also attracts not only the top directing talent from all over the world, but the best producers, below the line crew, on-screen talent and editors. We have the greats at our fingertips. And applying the cinematic integrity we have for films to our commercial productions is what makes our jobs special.”

“There is a lot of artistic and technical talent across the board in Los Angeles,” adds Darren. “The fact that so many industries have a footprint here creates a community of artists that often work without borders, be it film, commercial, performing arts, fine art, etc. In addition to the artists crossing between worlds, so do those who help bring it to life: producers, DOPs, lighting, electrical, etc. In many cases, people have the ability to challenge themselves and refresh their perspective by moving between the various worlds.”

And as the worlds of entertainment and advertising continue to blur, the resources at hand for LA’s commercial production community grows, as talent previously put off by the constraints of adland are attracted by new models (which is something we’ve actually explored previously here). What’s more, celebrity endorsements are much more prevalent in campaigns today - especially important in LA due to the amount of celebrities that live in the city. 

“Now more than ever before, talent is crossing over into other mediums,” says Elliot from Joinery. “Gone are the days where celebrity endorsements are somewhat looked down on.  With the right brand and product, (and especially the right creative), celebrities are very open to collaborating with brands.”

The influence of tech companies and new-model content creators is also proving influential. Admittedly this isn’t unique to Los Angeles - but the way in which it is happening arguably is. “We have this convergence of talent and industries,” says Darren from Flavor. “There are movie and TV studios, there are ad agencies, production companies and post facilities, then we have the burgeoning Silicon Beach with tech and content creators. There is nothing like LA anywhere that I can see. We have all these people from various backgrounds coming together to share their love of art, create, and learn from each other. Then you add in the arts community and the ever-growing social community, and what you get is an incredibly supportive, creative and expanding community of creators.”

“We are witnessing constant changes to our landscape, in advertising and content making,” adds Landia EP Juan Taylor. “The lines that would separate the movie guys from the ad guys is disappearing day-to-day. I think that there will always be experts and specialists for specifics - but we will all end up being content creators and makers. But I do still think LA is a majority of movie talent.” 

Another thing worth pointing out when exploring the production scene here - regardless of the ties with Hollywood - is the weather and landscape. LA enjoys around 284 days of sunshine per year and incredible diversity when it comes to location, offering beaches, mountains, desert and cityscapes, so it’s unsurprising that many of the locals spoken to for this story said the always aim to keep productions within “The Zone” if the creative or agency requires it. “Also, the variety of stages and studio locations means you can capture any look you’d like at any time,” adds Luke from Bullitt. 

It seems that that many productions are being kept within the confines of the city. “Production in LA is busy!” says Megan Dahlman, executive producer at editorial shop Cutters. “Most of the jobs that we have edited this year have been shot in LA.”

And given everything discussed above, it’s little surprise that the City of Angels proves to be such a magical place in which to make films. 

“You need to remember that LA is full of people who thought they were too good for their hometown,” says Elliot from Joinery. “The result of which is a huge talent pool of extremely hungry, enthusiastic, energetic and motivated individuals throwing everything they have at their chosen fields. The cream rises to the top here very quickly. 

“Shooting in LA is a dream.”