LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — On-location feature filming is the highest it has been in years in Los Angeles.

Feature film shoots grew by 12 percent in the Los Angeles area last year, making 2016 the biggest year for feature film production in Los Angeles since California introduced a film incentive program in 2009, according to a report released Tuesday by FilmL.A. (FilmL.A. measures local production by counting film permits).

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“It helps us to get validation that the program is working as it was intended,” said Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, who oversees the state’s $330 million in film tax credits.

Total filming, which also includes TV and commercial shoots, increased 6.2 percent last year over 2015, FilmL.A. said.

City leaders and visitors to City Hall Wednesday got some living proof as Johnny Depp was spotted filming scenes for a movie in which he plays an LAPD detective.

Depp, famous for his roles in “Edward Scissorhands” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, told City News Service the film is based on a 2002 book called “LAbyrinth” about the killings of rappers Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace — aka Biggie Smalls — in 1996 and 1997.

A publicist for the film said Depp and the crew were only scheduled to be at City Hall for one day, and also recently filmed scenes outside Parker Center, the former downtown headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department.

“LAbyrinth” was written by journalist Randall Sullivan and is based on former LAPD Detective Russell Poole’s investigation of the killings, which rocked the entertainment world when both of the top-selling rappers were gunned down within months of each other.

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Depp, who is playing Poole, was sporting a mustache with his hair dyed light red and wearing a mid-90s suit as filming took place on the fourth floor overlooking City Hall’s rotunda.

Shakur was killed while riding in a car in Las Vegas on Sept. 13, 1996, and Smalls was gunned down while riding in a car on Wilshire Boulevard near the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997.

The rappers were rivals and while some theories have connected the two homicides, they have never been solved.

Poole’s book implicated several former LAPD officers in the killing of Smalls and alleged that top brass in the department shut down his investigation.

The surge in local production comes as states such as Georgia and New York try to lure film productions away from California with tax incentives.

Such competing incentive programs have largely been blamed for LA’s loss of film shoots in recent years.

Now, those projects appear to be returning. Seven series, including HBO’s “Ballers” have recently relocated to California, CBS2’s Brittney Hopper reports.

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