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Hollywood faces new restrictions on filming in L.A. amid coronavirus spread

Filming in L.A faces new restrictions in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Filming in L.A faces new restrictions in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
(Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times)

Film crews in Los Angeles are starting to face restrictions on filming in the city that are intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

While filming continues in some areas, some jurisdictions have opted to limit or suspend filming, said FilmLA, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and L.A. County.

Among the new restrictions: On-location filming at all locations is temporarily restricted to productions with a combined cast and crew of 250 people or fewer, while filming on city property is limited to productions with 50 or fewer people. City Hall, a popular film location, also is temporarily off limits for all filming and scouting.

California officials are calling for the cancellation of all gatherings with 250 or more people to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, a decision that came after a federal travel ban and the suspension of the NBA season.

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In an update to a notice on its website, FilmLA is continuing to process permits, with the exception of some L.A school campuses where filming and scouting have been halted through the end of March.

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“Film sets, like other workplaces, are scenes of responsible precaution, not panic,” FilmLA posted on its website. “As of Thursday, filming activity continues to occur on area streets and stages, providing economic security for local families.”

Film sets include huge groups of cast and crew, often working closely together outside or in trailers and would naturally be a potential source for human transmission of the virus. Any halt to work would be painful for Hollywood studios, which have been ramping up TV and film production to help fuel the launch of several new streaming services.

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The revelation Wednesday that actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, his wife, had shared that they had contracted the virus while filming in Australia, brought new awareness of the threat of the viral spread among Hollywood productions.

Studios have scrambled to push back release dates for potential blockbusters including Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place Part II” and Universal Pictures’ “F9,” the latest in the “Fast and the Furious” saga. The new “Fast” movie has been delayed by nearly a year.

FilmLA said Thursday it was continuing to process permit requests except for Los Angeles City College, which has suspended scouting and filming activities for the remainder of March.

Other Los Angeles Community College District campuses may remain accessible to filmmakers, it said. As of Thursday, the Los Angeles Unified School District had suspended all outside use of its facilities, including filming and film vehicle parking.

Already some signs of a slowdown in shooting were apparent, with the volume of permits for on-location filming in the last two weeks dropping as much as 8% compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, entertainment industry unions across the nation are working to update their members on new working conditions. Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America East, said its representatives were in close contact with all of the shops where its members were working. The East Coast branch of the WGA has been spearheading a wave of unionization in digital media, at news organizations and podcast networks.

“At a number of digital news shops, most Guild members have been encouraged (or sometimes required) to work from home,” Peterson said in an email.


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