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L.A. County reveals requirements for filming. Will they fly?

A production crew prepares to film the season finale of "Goliath" in downtown Los Angeles.
A production crew prepares to film the season finale of the Amazon Studios original series “Goliath” at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County has released the list of requirements Hollywood productions will have to meet so they can return to work beginning Friday.

The 10-page list for music, television and film productions was revealed late Thursday afternoon, giving the green light for shoots to get underway since work ground to a halt in March because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this month, unions and studios submitted a white paper to the governors of California and New York, outlining protocols recommended by their health advisors.

Health officials have given L.A. County the green light to start film production beginning Friday, despite concern that the coronavirus is spreading.

Under the county’s rules, employers will be responsible for “regular, periodic testing of the cast and crew” on a given production to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus, especially for those involved in “high risk scenes requiring close contact without face coverings for extended periods of time.”

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For smaller shoots where testing isn’t feasible, such as commercials or music recording sessions, close physical contact between cast and crew will have to be eliminated “as much as possible.”

The release caps weeks of negotiations between unions, health officials and studios over how they can return to work safely. It might, however, still take weeks for productions that were halted to resume. Budgets for films and TV shows are expected to rise as they have to account for increased sanitation costs and potentially longer shoots. At possible risk are many jobs that might not return as health officials press for casts and crews to be kept small or work remotely.

The instructions detail how to deal with a confirmed case of COVID-19 on a set. Anyone in the cast or crew that was within six feet of the infected person for more than 15 minutes may need to be quarantined, potentially bringing a complete halt to filming. The name of the ill employee must not be disclosed, according to the rules.

Physical distancing will be required, which will be a challenge for crowded sets. Productions with live audiences will need them seated at least six feet from each other and wearing face coverings if possible.

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Many of the protocols are similar to those in the industry white paper, such as the use of digital scripts rather than printouts that are shared, and regular disinfection of equipment as well as doors or tables. Large crowd scenes are to be avoided.

But the restrictions raise questions over how actors can realistically perform. Under the county’s rules, for example, actors must not touch their face during filming. Any work that requires cast and crew to be less than six feet apart must be brief and done silently, to avoid the spread of the virus by droplets through talking. Fight scenes and sex scenes in which there is prolonged contact between actors “are discouraged at this time.”


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