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California restarting film and TV production June 12 with stringent new coronavirus protocols

By Josh Grossberg
coronavirus particles

California has set June 12 as the day the entertainment industry can resume film, music, and television production after the three-and-a-half month shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times and announced by Governor Gavin Newsom's office on Friday, Hollywood's grand re-opening will come with big changes. Studios and labor unions will have to institute new protocols issued by the state's Department of Public Health to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19.

"To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers," said the department in a statement.

The protocols are based on a 22-page white paper submitted to the governors of California and New York by a task force of studio and union officials that outline the health and safety restrictions they believe are necessary to restart production.

Those measures dramatically alter business as usual on film and TV sets. Among the task force's recommendations: mandatory coronavirus testing of cast and crew, temperature checks, staggering call times, and using remote technology to minimize the number of people on set.

Major hygiene and sanitizing rules include wiping down props after each use; the use of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves; reducing the time hair and makeup artists are in direct contact with performers, while using PPEs and practicing good hygiene; organizing departments into small groups; creating handwashing stations; and getting rid of buffet-style meals in favor of pre-packaged individual meals.

As for auditions, the task force stipulated they should be done virtually, but if they have to be in person and without a mask, then the use of Plexiglas or other barriers between the actors and casting team are required. While live audiences would only be allowed if they wear face masks and maintain proper social distancing.

A COVID-19 compliance officer would also be required on every set.

California's film and TV industry suffered a devastating blow when it was forced to furlough thousands of workers in the wake of the pandemic due to government-mandated lockdowns. A slew of major Hollywood tentpoles were postponed, studio slates rewritten, pop culture events like SXSW and Comic-Con canceled, and television shows like the CW's Batwoman saw their seasons cut short as a result of the shockwave.

Internationally, though, it's been a different story. Netflix, for example, has resumed shooting in South Korea, which mostly has COVID-19 under control. While James Cameron and his longtime producer Jon Landau have since returned to New Zealand, where they're waiting out a two-week quarantine, after which the Oscar-winning director plans to get back to work filming his long-awaited Avatar sequels. The country is one of the world's few success stories, essentially flattening the curve thanks to stringent quarantine measures and extensive contact tracing, which has nearly eliminated the virus.

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