Creativity Production Index: Bring Out the Dead

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The Creativity Production Index fell again in April, lagging behind the six-month average and dropping to the lowest level since the strike days of October. True, it's a traditionally slow time of year, but the year-to-year numbers aren't looking good out of the Los Angeles Film Office either. After 11- and 13-percent drops in year-to-year commercial production days in February and March, April saw production days there drop 24 percent from last year.

Needless to say, this trend has production houses in a less than chipper mood. "The business is terrible," says Chelsea Pictures executive producer Steve Wax. "I'd use a disease or bodily function metaphor to describe the patient's condition - maybe like an anemia combined with severe constipation. I'd say board flow is down by 50 to 60 percent, with every job hard fought."

Dread diseases, in fact, seem to be the metaphor of the moment. "It's like all of a sudden the industry has been taken over by Ebola," says one somber East Coast director, who adds he's seen business slow substantially since the beginning of spring. "I'm getting calls from editors saying, `Hey, can I cut your reel?' To me, the true mark of a slow market is when the editors don't have anything going on."

Not much has changed since last month, in other words, and houses on both coasts are holding their breath. "There's some great stuff on the horizon if we can land it but it hasn't booked in yet," says Alex Seiden, creative director at New York-based Cyclotron. "The boardflow is there, we're seeing it, but it's not great. I think the economy's got to pick up a little bit. It's a confidence thing, not just for us but for the clients. There's no frenzy like the dot-com thing where people were doing lots of ads and lots of expensive ads. That kind of took the wind out of the sails. No one's doing really expensive ads."

"It's actually a little slow," confirms Leslie Snow, head of production at Straw Dogs in Los Angeles. "It's a lot slower than it was during the SAG strike. We weathered the strike pretty well, but a lot of it now has to do with the economy, and the impending strike and whether or not there's going to be a fall lineup."

The story is much the same between the coasts. "I think that the production companies, just like in New York and L.A., are having a harder time. It seems like there are fewer spots being made and more directors vying for fewer spots," says Darren Larkins, executive producer at Uppercut Editorial in Minneapolis. "I think there's a smaller pie now, especially since the strike. And you're either getting work or your not, depending on who your rep is."

So again we ask: When is the slump going to end? "I think people have stopped guessing, because every time they've guessed in the past two months they've been wrong," says the `quarantined' East Coast director. "As far as I know, people are just praying. They're all facing east, praying toward New York and Madison Avenue, hoping they'll open the gates."

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