FilmLA Urges ‘Strict’ Compliance With COVID-19 Protocols Amid Stay-at-Home Order

Dave McNary
·3 min read

Permitting agency FilmLA has made an extraordinary pitch to producers to remain in “strict” compliance” with COVID-19 safety protocols as California tightens overall regulations.

The agency made the announcement Tuesday in the wake of the new limited stay-at-home order issued by the state of California, which took effect on Nov. 21 in order to pause all non-essential work and gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night. FilmLA noted that California has viewed workers supporting the film, television and commercial production industry —who number in the hundreds of thousands in Greater Los Angeles — as “essential” for the state’s critical infrastructure.

“FilmLA is unaware of any plans to revisit or modify the state’s essential worker definitions, but new stay-at-home orders this week remind us that the COVID-19 pandemic’s progress is unpredictable, and new business regulation can affect any industry at the state, county or city level, at any time,” the agency said. “With coronavirus case counts surging and many sectors of the economy reeling, FilmLA asks all industry customers to be vigilant to help protect jobs and public health.”

On-location film permits for the L.A. area grew by 24% in October over September as productions staged a moderate recovery amid the ongoing pandemic, the agency reported earlier this month. FilmLA said current activity levels have stabilized at just under 47% percent of what analysts would expect under normal filming conditions.

“First and foremost, we urge strict observance of the LA County Public Health Order, Appendix J, written to help protect your cast, crew and vendors from COVID-19,” the agency said Tuesday. “Inattention to these protocols — even in just a handful of situations — could jeopardize community confidence in our ability to operate safely. In addition, now and through the end of the year, we urge filmmakers to voluntarily limit and/or avoid activities likely to invite a negative community response.”

Examples include any activity requiring community filming surveys, activity that affects customer access to retail businesses, significant prep, strike or filming on secular and religious holidays, and requests that involve extended street parking, overnight filming, street closures, or aircraft use.

“We realize that bringing filming to our communities always involves balancing a variety of stakeholder needs,” the message concluded. “As of today, applications for complex shoots will continue to be processed by FilmLA and reviewed by permit authorities on a case-by-case basis. But we also urge customers to keep community concerns in mind. The decisions we make today could determine the welcome we’ll receive tomorrow.”

FilmLA spokesman Philip Sokoloski explained the announcement to Variety: “We have not seen an increase in complaints, or allegations of non-compliance with health protocols. Over the last week, we have fielded numerous requests from film industry and community representatives related to rumors of a County curfew and the Governor’s limited stay-at-home order. The presumption is often that these orders do (or might soon) impose new limits on filming. To date, this has not been the case.”

Local production has been on a slow upswing since the September agreement between unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on industry-wide safety protocols. Prior to that, producers were crafting agreements with unions on a project-by-project basis.

Broadcast and cable dramas and sitcoms shooting in the month of October include “NCIS LA” (CBS), “The Rookie” (ABC), “Mayans MC” (FX), “Animal Kingdom” (TNT), and “Shameless” (Showtime). Streaming series include “Dear White People” (Netflix), “Big Shot” (Disney Plus), “Made for Love” (HBO Max) and “Rutherford Falls “(Peacock). Reality TV and game shows that filmed in October include “American Idol” (ABC), “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC), “Shahs of Sunset” (Bravo), “Selena + Chef” (HBO Max), “House Hunters” (HGTV) and “Lucky Dog” (CBS).

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