Culver City’s Century Studio Corp. Struggles Against Runaway Production
Tucked into the recesses of a Culver City office park are several nondescript buildings, which might seem like unlikely places to house several sound stages, much less stages used for some of California’s most well-known and critically acclaimed productions. But like so much in “Hollywood”, looks can be deceiving.
Housed in the buildings pictured above are several of Century Studio Corp.’s nine total sound stages occupied each year by HBO’s Entourage and Showtime’s Californication. Despite hosting such well-known and successful productions, times have been very tough for Century Studios, which has been operating since 1998.
At its peak, Century Studios employed more than 30 people. Now, the company employs just 10, according to Century Studio President Gary Klimmer. Klimmer said his sound stages were booked solid with feature film productions and network television shows before many other states began offering lucrative film incentives. In 2005, 17 other states offered incentives; by 2009 that number grew to over 40.
Now, because those incentives have enticed many productions to film outside California, Klimmer is struggling to keep his stages occupied. At present, seven of the nine stages are empty and available. When Century Studios is able to book a stage, the client productions are often commercials and reality television shows. And, while Klimmer is grateful for the business, commercials and reality television shows are not long-term projects and do not provide Klimmer’s company the same level of security that feature productions and television series can offer.
Presently, Century Studios is hosting Fox’s hit reality show Hell’s Kitchen, which is one of the few reality television shows to endure for multiple seasons and which is helping Klimmer keep people on the payroll. A recent increase in the number of television commercials has also been a welcome bonus for the company. According to Klimmer, 20-30 new commercials have filmed on his stages since November 2010. But as each commercial production wraps, Klimmer never knows if another will come to replace it.
Klimmer notes that he has been reaching out to his elected officials for years about the need to take action on runaway production. To his dismay, he says that he has never received a response to his many letters, calls and emails. Nonetheless, he refuses to give up.
Klimmer was kind enough to give Film Works representatives a tour of Century Studios and talk about how difficult it is for small support businesses like his to make ends meet as productions continue to leave the state. According to Klimmer, many of the larger film and television projects that remain in California shoot on the sound stages of the major studios, which are now much more cost-competitive with the independents.
Hopefully, the increase in film and television production which started in 2010 will continue to provide a steady stream of new business for Century Studios, which we at Film Works are proud to have as a campaign supporter.