California film and TV production allowed to resume

But Hollywood studios unlikely to start projects until at least next month

By Chris Evans 12 Jun 2020

California film and TV production allowed to resume
Will Smith in King Richard. Credit: BackGrid

The California Film Commission and health officials have confirmed that film and TV production can resume from today (12 June).

However, the Hollywood studios are unlikely to be rolling cameras for at least a few weeks, maybe months, as talks with labour unions representing everyone from grips to directors continue regarding safety procedures for how sets should operate.

Nearly 200 people from across the entertainment industry were involved in drafting a white paper, issued last week, outlining new safety protocols that range from increasing testing and temperature tests to quarantining casts and crews, as well as the widespread use of masks or face coverings. 

Insiders predict that the final sign-off on those plans is more than a month away. It is estimated that these new safety protocols could increase production costs by up to 20%.

Los Angeles County on Thursday issued extensive regulation for a staged resumption of film and TV production.

The county’s rules set out stringent directives for social distancing on sets. It mandates the use of cloth face coverings by cast and crew, orders that only “essential cast and crew” be allowed on set, and prescribes that actors should wash their hands before scenes.

Any prolonged physical contact — i.e. fight scenes or sex scenes — is “discouraged,” and actors are mandated to keep “as silent as possible to avoid spreading droplets through talking.” Crowd scenes are also discouraged. Actors and musicians who cannot wear face coverings during performances should keep eight feet apart.

The rules also say that actors should apply their own makeup, if possible. Craft service buffets are forbidden, and food service is required to be single-serving only.

In general, the county’s rules are more strict than the entertainment industry’s white paper, which used language like “whenever possible,” and “consider options,” while the county’s order uses the words “must” and “shall.”

One of the major projects shooting in Los Angeles when the virus struck was Warner Bros.' King Richard. The film tells the story of Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, played by Will Smith. Some of the major tennis scenes still have to shoot.

Other productions due to come back include those that were allotted funding from the California tax credit incentives, such as Damien Chazelle’s Babylon at Paramount, Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen musical movie adaptation, Amazon’s Lucy and Desi Arnaz biopic starring Cate Blanchett, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest from Focus Features. These projects are required to enact one day of filming to qualify for millions in rebates, within 180 days of the allotment. Extensions were granted after the pandemic hit.

“The calendar comes so much into play here,” Mike Moffett, managing director of the Production Service Network (PSN), said in our recent Talk about the location landscape. “I’ve had discussions where it’s a big studio project – they’re not even looking at doing anything until next year. Other projects where it’s a smaller scale are looking at maybe being able to do something in the fall.

“The biggest projects are getting pushed to next year, almost without discussion. At the moment the industry can’t get its head around trying to make that happen with all the requisites.”



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