Production Index

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The Creativity perked up slightly in July, scoring its first month-to-month gain since February. Production industry insiders, meanwhile, say they are seeing an encouraging, if slight, uptick in projects. "It's not here yet, but it's going to rain soon," says one New York-based director, who, like so many, has recently jumped production companies. "That's what it sounds like. Our crops might not grow, but they're going to get wet." According to the Los Angeles Film Office, commercials shooting days were up almost 50 percent in June and July compared to 2000, after falling 15 percent year-to-year for the previous four months. Of course, last year's June/July numbers were marred by the onset of the SAG strike, and July's numbers are still sharply down from the same month in 1999.

Charles Wolford, executive producer at Satellite Films in Los Angeles, says he saw business improve in August but he's waiting until next year for the real comeback. "I don't really think things will change much until next year," he says. "The economy is still adjusting from the craziness of the internet boom and it will take awhile before things get back to normal. That will continue to cause agencies to be careful about how and who they're spending their dollars with. " Wolford also thinks the stage is still set for a further thinning of the industry. "It's really competitive out there now," he says. "I think that medium-sized companies will close and what will be left are either small creative shops or the larger production companies with many directors."

One complaint, even among those who are bidding more projects than earlier in the summer, is budget constraints. Clients are greenlighting projects but keeping the purse strings tight. "A lot of people are coming in with great ideas and absolutely no money," says an East Coast director. "But the creatives still want the car to fly through a ring of fire."

Steve Wax, executive producer at Chelsea Pictures, says things picked up in July with a few large projects hitting the marketplace. In August, on the other hand, there were more projects up for grabs but mostly in the low range, from $60,000 to $300,000. "It's a very strange environment," he says. "It feels like a thinly traded stock. With a thinly traded stock, people can't really establish a trend. The whole commercials business is like that."

Many still anticipate that September will be the month for at least a partial comeback - or, put another way, many are counting on September being a comeback month, according to Wax. "If there isn't a whole lot of work out there by October, there's going to be big trouble."

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