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June 9th, 2020
California Will Permit Television, Film, and Music Production to Resume on June 12, 2020 Subject to County Public Health Approvals
As several production-heavy states announce the easing of stay-at-home orders and restrictions, the question of how to restart entertainment production in a safe manner has become paramount.
California has taken the lead. On Friday, June, 5, 2020, Governor Newsom announced that television, film, and music production may resume in California on June 12, 2020. However, although the governor is permitting productions to restart on June 12th, the guidance makes clear that local governments and municipalities will make the final decision on whether to allow productions to resume in their jurisdictions.
The California Department of Public Health stated that productions, cast, crew, and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force (“Task Force”), which submitted a 22-page white paper to the Governor’s office on June 2, 2020. While the Department of Public health has incorporated by reference the Task Force’s proposed health and safety guidelines, which we summarize below, we note that those guidelines have not yet been finalized.
With these stipulations in mind, here’s a summary of the Task Force’s proposed health and safety guidelines for California-based television, film and music productions:
COVID-19 Compliance Officer. Productions should designate one or more COVID-19 Compliance Officers with specialized training and authority for COVID-19 safety compliance and enforcement. COVID-19 Compliance Officers must undergo specialized training on health and safety precautions, policies and procedures. COVID-19 Compliance Officers shall be accessible in the workplace at all times during work hours and all personnel, cast, and crew shall be informed who the COVID-19 Compliance Officers are and how to contact them.
Infection Control. Early detection, preparation, and prevention are key to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and the Task Force recommends that employers make available regular, periodic testing. Personal protective equipment (“PPE”) should be worn by all those in the workplace (except in instances when it is not feasible to do so). Employers should provide masks and other necessary pieces of protective wear (face shields, cloth coverings, and medical masks) free of cost to those in the workplace. Furthermore, employers should issue individual protective gear to each staff/crew member, and to not utilize central pools of shared supplies, which pose a risk of cross contamination from person-to-person. The Task Force also recommends frequent handwashing, and physical distancing whenever possible.
In addition to regular, periodic COVID-19 testing, use of face coverings, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing, the Task Force also recommends:
- Props. Hand props (other than those with unique cleaning requirements) shall be cleaned and disinfected before and after use. For those with unique cleaning requirements (wigs, costumes), those responsible for cleaning such items should do so in the customary manner. Cast and crew shall wash their hands before and after handling props.
- Equipment. As much as possible, equipment should be issued to a single cast or crew member and used exclusively by that cast or crew member for the duration of production. Equipment (such as tools, headsets, microphones and radios) shall be cleaned before being issued and then at least once per day. Items that must be shared between members of the cast and/or crew must be wiped down with disinfectant between use and hands must be washed after handling.
- Paper. Use of paper (such as scripts, call sheets, and petty cash) should be minimized. When papers are unavoidable, they should be assigned to a specific individual, clearly labeled with their name, and not shared between others.
- Food and Beverage. Meal times should be staggered to avoid the gathering of large groups in the same location at the same time. Productions should eliminate communal “buffet style” food service or any food service that requires sharing of utensils such as serving spoons or tongs. Meals and snacks should be served in individually packaged or wrapped portions. Eating utensils should be disposable and individually wrapped. Cast and crew should not leave the job site to obtain food during the course of the workday.
- General Prevention Measures. In indoor spaces, ventilation systems and other measures should be used to increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible (e.g., by opening windows and doors, using fans and other methods).
Protecting and Supporting Cast and Crew Health and Safety. Daily symptom monitoring prior to arriving on set or at the workspace is required. The Task Force recommends electronic survey, manual screening and/or temperature spot-checks. Cast and crew must immediately report to the COVID-19 Compliance Officer if they are experiencing, or a member of their household is experiencing, symptoms of COVID-19. Cast and crew must be notified if they have been exposed to an individual who has exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 or who has tested positive for COVID-19. The Task Force recommends flexible paid leave policies to allow sick and quarantined employees to stay away from co-workers and the general public. Productions should also consider engaging board-certified infectious disease physicians and prevention specialists to assist in additional workflows as they arise.
Physical Distancing. Visible physical indicators (e.g., cones, duct tape or signage) marking 6 feet of distance should be placed in areas where people must congregate, such as crafts service, eating/meal areas, make-up and costume trailers. Whenever possible, productions should employ virtual writers’ rooms and virtual production meetings. Productions should minimize use of crowd scenes or street scenes. While the use of live audiences is generally discouraged, the Task Force left open the possibility of live audience presence, on a case-by-case basis and as state and local rules allow -- provided that all members of the audience are required to wear masks, sit socially distanced from one another, and undergo symptom screening prior to entering studio spaces.
Training and Education. All employees should be educated about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. All employees should receive dedicated training on PPE, hand washing, environmental cleaning and disinfection, policies and procedures related to COVID-19 on set or in offices, psychological impact of the crisis, protecting yourself at home, and preventing cross-contamination. Training principles should be reinforced by signage where production activities occur.
Unique Production-Specific Concerns. When possible, adjust shooting schedules to minimize the amount of back-and-forth travel needed by performers. Private (i.e., self-drives) or production-provided transportation to and from sets, offices, and locations should be prioritized over mass transit/public transportation whenever possible. For production requiring air-travel, such travel shall be booked only on airlines whose policies comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s COVID-19 regulations. As minors may have difficulty adhering to COVID-19 policies, when not working, they should be relocated to a secure off-set location to the extent possible. Employ virtual location scouting wherever possible. Casting should be conducted virtually via self-tape, online video conference, or other technology whenever possible. Animal handlers, if required, should be provided with PPE, and staff and crews should be kept away from any animals if not involved in the specific scenes in which such animals appear. Other animals not involved in production should not be allowed on set.
Conclusion. Depending on the epidemiological data, June 12 is a potential reopening date for certain California counties. But with health and safety guidelines still evolving, getting back to production will be complicated.
Frankfurt Kurnit is tracking COVID-19-related regulatory developments in California, New York and elsewhere. If you have questions about how to safely reopen your entertainment production, please contact Tricia Legittino at 310 579 9632 or email@example.com, Tiffany Caterina at 310 579 9620 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Lisa E. Davis at 212 826 5530 or email@example.com, Ben Moskowitz at 212 705 4856 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or any other member of our Employment and Entertainment Groups.
Other Entertainment Law Alerts
Los Angeles County Authorizes Television, Film, and Music Production Resume on June 12, 2020 With Strict Regulations
On June 11, Los Angeles County approved a staged resumption of film and TV production beginning June 12, 2020. However, it comes with extensive regulations. Read more.
June 16 2020
Federal Bill Would Increase Availability of Key Insurance Coverages
As states begin to gradually reopen and networks held virtual upfronts, the entertainment industry is contemplating both when and how production will be able to resume. Studio executives, union representatives and epidemiologists are meeting to develop new protocols that will permit production to restart safely. Read more.
June 1 2020
“Packaging Fees” Dispute: Court Permits Certain Writer Claims to Proceed
Film and television creatives and executives have been closely watching William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC vs. Writers Guild of America, West, Inc., a battle between talent agencies and writers over agency “packaging fees.” Resolution of the dispute will have a large impact on how writers, creators, and agents get paid. Recently, a federal judge issued an important ruling on the WGA and individual writers’ claims -- allowing certain claims to proceed. Read more.
May 11 2020