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COVID-19

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

Jasmine Garsd Sep 10, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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