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Film in the time of corona: L.A. shoots restart

A film crew works on the film "Ocean's Eight" as it shoots outside Los Angeles City Hall.
A film crew works on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall as the film “Ocean’s Eight” shoots scenes on the Spring Street steps March 6, 2017.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Even as a rebound in COVID-19 cases brings new business closures, the gears of Hollywood’s film industry have started to turn as filming resumes on the streets of Los Angeles.

Since June 19, FilmLA, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and L.A. County, said it has received about 14 film permit applications per day and hundreds of calls from filmmakers interested in resuming work. That’s just 20% of the daily applications intake that existed before the pandemic halted production in mid-March, FilmLA said.

The permits include location shoots for TV shows such as Freeform’s “Love in the Time of Corona.” Three TV soap operas, “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “The Young and the Restless” and “General Hospital,” have resumed production on stages in L.A., the group said.

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

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“Since reopening we’ve seen growing interest from filmmakers and the community about how filming can safely and responsibly resume,” FilmLA President Paul Audley said in a statement.

The activity represents a ray of hope for filmmakers, studios and other entertainment companies desperate for content to keep viewers subscribing to their services. It also will be a relief to tens of thousands of entertainment industry workers who have been reliant on emergency funds and unemployment insurance since the pandemic shut down film and TV shoots in March. Production could be halted again, however, if COVID-19 infections continue to rise.

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation, supported by famous actors, raised its fundraising target to $12 million to help performers hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hollywood remains hobbled, as the U.S film industry has yet to see a return to very large-scale shoots and many studios have delayed releasing films to protect their box office sales as the return of cinema patrons remains uncertain. Some big shoots, including Walt Disney’s “Avatar” sequels, have resumed in countries such as New Zealand that have been more successful in containing the virus.

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FilmLA described the resumption of filming as “cautious and gradual.” Smaller still photo shoots and commercials account for more than half of the incoming applications. Some 13 of the 16 city and county jurisdictions served by the group have reopened to filming. One of the six school districts in the region has allowed filming and base camp parking on its campus.

“New health orders that apply to permit seekers — which are mandates issued by the County Public Health Department with guidance from industry advisors — need to be taken seriously,” Audley said. “That will make our work of reintroducing filming to local communities much easier.”


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