COVID-19

Lights! Camera! Masks? TV and film production are ramping up

Jasmine Garsd Sep 10, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. There are a lot of starts and stops as production gets back underway in Hollywood. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Lights! Camera! Masks? TV and film production are ramping up

Jasmine Garsd Sep 10, 2020
Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. There are a lot of starts and stops as production gets back underway in Hollywood. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
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For months, filming in Hollywood has been mostly halted due to the pandemic, but production is slowly starting to rev up again. 

Los Angeles has seen a notable uptick in film permit applications. There’s a lot of optimism, but the billion-dollar question is: As the pandemic rages on, how can Hollywood balance the new safety protocols and production? 

 It’s complicated.

It’s hardly back to business as usual. COVID-19 safety courses are often required before arriving on set, locations must have enhanced ventilation, shooting days are limited to 10 hours — and lots of other precautions.

“If you have a prop and you have to give it to another actor, they disinfect it before you give it to the other actor,” comedian Kiki Melendez said. “You have to take a COVID test every couple of days. They’re doing everything in their power to make it work.”

That’s good news for California, where more than a quarter of a million people in the arts have filed for unemployment assistance since the pandemic began.

From July to August, film permit applications in the city were up by 40%. Most of the uptick in filming is for commercials. For a lot of actors with TV and film roles, the wait continues. 

Ada Luz Pla is an actress on shows like “Sons of Anarchy” and “On My Block.” She has work lined up on a show right now, but it just keeps getting delayed. 

“Pandemic hit, we were postponed until May,” Pla said. “Now we’re postponed until October.”

She said the vibe in Los Angeles is “hurry up, but wait.”

There are still a lot of starts and stops. Some productions that were ramped up were shut down again due to COVID-19 cases, and that has prolonged the mood of uncertainty. 

Just last week, filming of “The Batman” came to a halt because star Robert Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19. That is scary for people in the industry, said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief operating officer with the screen actors guild SAG-AFTRA.

“But what I would say is it’s also a sign that the system is working,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “The testing was conducted, the test results came in and the people in charge made appropriate decisions.”

So for Hollywood right now it’s lights, camera and some action.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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