Hollywood COVID-19 protocols agreement extended to Sept. 30

Actors and crew on a film set
Behind the scenes on the set of the CBS show “NCIS: Los Angeles” as they practice social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols.
(Ron Jaffe / CBS)

Hollywood’s major unions and studios have agreed to extend an agreement on COVID-19 protocols for productions until Sept. 30.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Thursday confirmed the extension, which includes requirements for more stringent protocols on sets, such as masking and other safety measures, as well as sick pay for crew. The contract, which was due to expire July 15, has been renewed several times since it was first negotiated in 2020.

A recent surge in cases — 8.3 new weekly coronavirus-positive hospital admissions per 100,000 residents — has triggered masking on film sets once again around Los Angeles.

The tentative agreement, which is subject to formal approvals by the unions, comes as Hollywood is trying to get back on its feet in the wake of the pandemic. Studios are under pressure from the rising costs of producing due to the health crisis and the safety measures required by the so-called Return to Work agreement. Demand for new shows and films is at fever pitch as streamers compete for subscribers and producers try to catch up from shutdowns caused by the pandemic.

The Return to Work agreement, which is backed by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and a group of leading unions such as SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America, was first agreed to in the fall of 2020 as a way of restarting production safely. It has evolved over time to loosen requirements for testing and masking as coronavirus cases have waned.

Unions got involved after some crew members tested positive for COVID on the set of Amazon’s “Expats,” raising questions about safety protocols.

June 18, 2022


However, the agreement has built in triggers to reinstate stricter requirements when hospitalizations from COVID-19 increase in metropolitan areas.

While the protocols have reduced outbreaks on film sets, according to data from the Motion Picture Assn., Southern California-based studios such as Warner Bros. are dealing with major outbreaks. As of Tuesday, 43 confirmed cases were reported to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, just a month after the Burbank-based studio started asking employees to come back to the office for at least three days a week.

In just one example of how productions have been affected, the Prime Video show “Expats” experienced several positive cases on set that caused it to wrap filming in L.A. early. Amazon Studios representatives said the streamer followed county and union health guidelines.