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Studios to restart production in Los Angeles amid COVID-19 surge

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After a brief hiatus following recommendations from the county health department, major Hollywood studios are rolling the cameras again.

As Los Angeles public health officials call the city’s current wave of COVID-19 in which 10 people test positive for the virus every minute as “the worst disaster our county has seen in decades,” top studios Hollywood have started their return to production in Los Angeles.

The industry had suspended much of its filming in Los Angeles over the holidays and in early January, when it became clear that a surge was underway, following recommendations from the County Health Department. Los Angeles and several unions, including SAG-AFTRA and the Producers Guild. Disney, Warner Bros. Universal, CBS and Netflix have all pushed back their filming schedules after the holidays, with the goal of resuming filming in mid-January (some were targeting January 11, while others were watching and still watching the January 18 as a comeback.)

A few of these projects are said to be restarting this week. Sources say The Hollywood Reporter that many titles that had planned a return to filming do. Start-up productions include CBS ‘All stand up andBob Hearts Abishola, Showtime’s Shameless and Netflix You, which are all produced by Warner Bros. The Goldbergs and Netflix Atypical, both produced by Sony, as well as five scripted series from CBS Studios:NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Why Women Kill, Team SEAL and Diary of a future president.

Universal TV launches three of its projects, including two NBC series,Mr. Mayor andKenan, and an untitled Jean Smart comedy for HBO Max. Meanwhile, at least three of the Netflix studio’s other productions I have never and NBC showsBrooklyn Nine-Nine andGood girls There are no plans to resume filming until January 18. Disney and Netflix are also reportedly waiting until next week to resume principal photography for their Los Angeles-based projects (at least the ones they’re directing on). , From Amazon Goliath is also in the queue to film this week, along with a handful of reality TV series.

Not everyone in the industry supports the decision to go ahead at this time. Just yesterday, the county reported nearly 12,000 new cases, nearly 300 deaths and nearly 8,000 hospitalizations, and even recommended that essential workers put on their home masks to further reduce the spread of the virus. “We continue to monitor the data and the continued pressure on hospital capacity across the region,” said a spokesperson for SAG-AFTRA. “In light of this, it’s hard to understand how an increase in production in this environment makes a lot of sense.” The guild, which called the industry’s return-to-work protocols a “remarkable success,” was one of the groups that called for a break in production earlier in the month, with its president Gabrielle Carteris drawing the attention to the sad reality of the city. . “Patients are dying in ambulances awaiting treatment because hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed,” she said at the time. “It’s not a safe environment for in-person production at this time.”

The studios’ decision to go ahead with filming is sure to be controversial, but does it represent a blatant disregard for the county health department’s guidelines? “The county’s recommendation to take a break does not take the form of an instruction,” FilmLA spokesperson Philip Sokoloski said. “They have been told it would be an advantage for Los Angeles to take a break for as long as possible, but I think the county health department also understands that there are business and other logistical imperatives that come in. at stake with a decision like this. “The production hiatus, he explains,” was a recommendation and a request, if possible. They understood that there would be exceptions to this and that the industry, where it needs these exceptions, will exercise them. ” The Department of Public Health did not respond to a request for comment.

Industry insiders and government officials who firmly believe that productions should maintain their green light argue that the COVID-19 film community’s strict safety protocols on set, which involve frequent testing, extensive PPE and improved sanitation practices are effective. Several point to AMPTP data which suggests transmission rates on set have been significantly lower than the spread of COVID-19 in the surrounding community.The report examined positivity rates at three key filming locations New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles between September and November and found that while the national community’s spread rate exceeded 13 percent by the end of November, the industry’s spread rate was around 0.3 percent. In Los Angeles, when the community’s spread rate was above 14% at the end of November, the industry’s spread rate was around 0.2%, according to data collected.

But that does not mean that there have not been positive tests recorded on the productions. According to public data on counties, there were a total of 28 positives in two Warner Bros. productions. Lucifer and Young Sheldon in December, as well as 12 on NBC’s Mr. Mayor. Some, however, warn that these numbers represent positive results over a period of time, not necessarily those identified at the same time and that the majority of actors and team who contract the virus do so in the community and not on set. .Lucifer, for example, never stop production following the positive results, as they would have been isolated and not part of a larger outbreak on the set.

The commercial industry, meanwhile, has taken its own, seemingly delayed, approach to county and guild recommendations. According to FilmLA’s database, dozens of commercials aired with their filming plan in early January, which Sokoloski says is expected due to the timing of the announcement and how the advertising industry works. He says he’s been told they should expect to see an encore as early as this week. On at least one commercial last week in Los Angeles, a FritoLays Super Bowl spot directed by Hollywood director Peter Berg, two crew members tested positive on the set. Film 47, Berg’s commercial production company responsible for the filming, confirms the cases and notes that production, which they said used strict COVID-19 protocols and contact tracing, resumed after the individuals were removed of the board. They declined to comment further.

When it comes to traditional film and television production, Sokoloski says that, overall, county health officials have been “impressed that the industry is so conscientious in the way they approach the threat of COVID-19. », Underlining the studios’ desire to stop production in recent weeks. “I think that’s part of the reason they have the confidence they make to allow the industry to function right now,” he says. But now that productions are running again, some are wondering if officials might not be able to ask nicely next time and impose an industry-wide shutdown instead. “They have refused to do this so far, preferring to use voluntary shutdown requests,” Sokoloski says, adding: “But they have the option to change the recommendations on how filming can be conducted at any time, by depending on efforts to control the surge in COVID. “



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