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June 16th, 2020
Los Angeles County Authorizes Television, Film, and Music Production Resume on June 12, 2020 With Strict Regulations
Last week, Governor Newsom announced that film and television production could restart as early as June 12, 2020, subject to approval at the county-level. In anticipation, Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force submitted a white paper with proposed COVID-19 policies and procedures, which we summarized here.
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. In general, the county’s rules are more strict than the Task Force’s guidelines. Where the Task Force used suggestive language for best practices (e.g., “should,” “whenever possible”), Los Angeles County’s uses mandatory language (e.g., “must” and “shall”). For example:
- All new or re-starting productions and group recording sessions must have a written protocol before work begins to ensure physical distancing of six (6) feet or more between people throughout the production. It must ensure that:
-Only essential cast and crew should be on or near the set at any time
-Production or editing meetings should be limited to essential staff only and should be held in areas where physical distancing can be maintained.
-All cast and musicians performing work in which they cannot wear a face covering should strive for a minimum of 8 feet of social distancing during rehearsal or performance.
-Audiences must be seated at least 6 feet from each other and wearing face coverings whenever feasible; audiences should be limited to 100 people or 25% of the maximum occupancy of the space, whichever is smaller. Essential staff may include paid employees that serve as an audience for a production. The same group of employees should serve as the audience throughout a production whenever feasible.
- Any work, including scenes, requiring cast or crew to be closer than six (6) feet must be as brief as possible and cast must be as silent as possible to avoid spreading droplets through talking. Scenes with direct prolonged physical contact between cast (intimate scenes, fight scenes) are discouraged at this time.
- All on location filming must adhere to operating hours between 7am and 10pm whenever feasible.
- If the producer, director, showrunner, owner, manager, or operator knows of three (3) or more cases of COVID-19 within the workplace within a span of 14 days the employer must report this cluster to the Department of Public Health, and assist Public Health in the investigation and take steps required by Public Health to control the outbreak.
- The production must meet all other requirements for ON LOCATION FILMING and SCENE RESTRICTIONS in the Los Angeles County checklist.
In addition to Los Angeles County’s regulations, the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and Teamsters issued further COVID-19 safety guidelines on June 12, 2020 (the “Union Guidelines”). The Union Guidelines emphasize heightened testing, distancing, and general protection for actors who often cannot wear PPE. It also promotes a “Zone System” consisting of three Zones: A, B, and C.
- Zone A is where the production cannot employ physical distancing or the use of PPE, such as performers on set. Zone A should be treated as a “bubble” of closely and frequently vetted people, limited to only those necessary, with controlled points of access.
- Zone B is where the production takes place that is not Zone A, such as a production office, base camp, a vehicle, a control room/truck, basically any work space or place that a crew member may be performing work. Use of PPE and stringent physical distancing practices are observed and enforced within Zone B.
- Zone C is outside the production, such as homes, hotels, or restaurants.
The Union Guidelines state that “No one can be allowed access to Zone A or Zone B for the first time unless they have been tested and cleared within the last 24 hours.” Zone A personnel should be tested three times a week at a minimum, with the understanding that certain circumstances may require daily testing (such as performers and crew involved in production of scenes that require close or intimate contact, or extreme exertion, etc.).
Again, the goal is that people cleared to work in Zone A only come into contact with people in Zone B who are rigorously practicing physical distancing: “Think of it this way: from door to door, people working in Zone A travel along a cocooned path – sometimes involving multiple Zone As – laid out and controlled by people working in Zone B.”
We will continue to monitor further regulations and guidelines issued by the government, public health organizations, unions, and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers and update our clients with new developments. Meanwhile, if you have any 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
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. Read more.
June 9 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