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California ending coronavirus halt on filming; protocols due Monday

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom hosted a video call with leaders in the entertainment industry on restarting film production.
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

California next week will roll out protocols for productions to resume filming in the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a near hour-long video call with industry leaders.

Filming could start in some counties meeting a specific set of criteria as soon as Monday, Newsom said. However, Los Angeles is likely to be “a few weeks behind,” given the level of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He estimated 53 of the 58 counties in the state will be able to fire up production again, he said, if they can meet the requirements.

The move will be a ray of hope for Hollywood. It’s been about two months since the state shut down productions and other entertainment, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for entertainment companies and throwing more than 100,000 people in the industry out of work.

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Filming will resume in counties that meet testing, hospitalization capacity and other criteria established by the state.

As the shutdown drags on, several countries have raised their flags, vying for production, touting their incentives, facilities and locations but also their low COVID-19 numbers, testing capabilities and safety measures.

“It doesn’t mean they will meet the criteria,” Newsom said. “But if they do, they can begin moving, and your industry can start reopening. The good news is that we are starting to see some light.”

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However, Newsom and his team had less positive news for Los Angeles, which has recorded 1,973 deaths in L.A. County so far. The county has the highest number of coronavirus cases among the state’s 58 counties and the most deaths.

“It remains a challenging part of the state for us still,” Newsom said. “We are a little concerned, they will be a few weeks behind potentially everybody else.”

On Monday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti told The Times he saw “no reason why we shouldn’t have production back in the next few months.”

During the session, dubbed the “Economic Recovery Listening Tour,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos shared his company’s varied experiences filming in different regions around the world, including Sweden, South Korea and Iceland.

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At Netflix, we’ve resumed production in some countries. And we’re learning what safety will look like post-pandemic

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Sarandos said. He called for “fast” and “dependable” testing at scale and cautioned those seeking to take shortcuts.

Sarandos also said that other states were not significantly more advanced than California in restarting production.

Within a few days of the shutdown in March, Sarandos said Netflix’s post-production and animation teams had their entire productions running remotely. Netflix has about 220 productions that are in various states of post-production being done remotely from people’s homes, he said.

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Director Ava DuVernay spoke of the challenges faced by crew members without work, including her own brother who works as a barber, and how her production company, Array, is focused on improving diversity in Hollywood. “How can we make sure doors are remaining open for women and people of color, that we don’t constrict in our fear,” she said.


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