During his Economic Recovery & Reinvention Listening Tour session on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom gave a surprise announcement that movie and TV production can begin in some areas of the state as early as next week.
A surprise industry reopening announcement
The meeting, which included many industry leaders and union representatives such as Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos and former presidential candidate Tom Steyer, was originally supposed to be a general check-up of where everyone was at and what the general rollout of the industry would be like in the summer. However, the Governor stunned the industry by announcing a reopening plan that will be released on Monday, as well as productions to continue outside of Hollywood later in the week.
“We’re in real time drafting guidelines related to productions, TV, commercials because we anticipate rolling out on Monday, May 25th, some sectoral guidelines that would allow these counties to begin to move forward and allow some modification, allow some work to be done, allow some movement in your industry,” announced Governor Newsom during the call. “That’s why this is timely.”
A notable exception to the reopening would be Los Angeles. Both the city and County are on their own timelines to reopen due to high coronavirus infection figures. Los Angeles County will reportedly not even open until July 4th.
Ann O’Leary, Governor Newsom’s Chief of Staff, made a point during the meeting of saying that the industry can’t simply be ‘switched back on’ overnight. Governor Newsom concurred, noting that the industry wouldn’t restart in Los Angeles until June at the earliest.
Studios are eager to start again but remain very cautious
Earlier in the week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti noted that he hoped the state would not just allow productions to start ASAP, but also possibly give limited tax credits to make sure that the movie and TV industry, one of the largest industries in California, gets back to normal.
“We’re going to find those safe rules,” explained Mayor Garcetti. “I hope we can convince the state to allow that as one of the safe activities that can be done with skeletal crews to start, and secondly, I’m hoping that the state will offer for the next two to three years a tax credit to anybody that will film here so we can get this industry back on its feet and bring that production back home so it’s a big part of our recovery.”
With major production companies losing money, industry leaders have shown a willingness to be begin with one or two skeleton crew productions and gradually increase the number up to normal.
However, many people in the industry were upset with the announcement, noting that the coronavirus pandemic is still very active in California and that even small productions carry a large risk.
“This is something we’ve had a lot of talks about,” noted a movie studio representative who spoke to the Globe on condition of anonymity. “We’ve looked at different ways we can socially distance in a safe way, we’ve looked at minimal staff on beginning productions, and we’ve looked at so much more. Suddenly opening, even outside of Los Angeles, even with guidelines, I mean, that’s a giant risk. A huge risk.
And it’s something many unions probably wouldn’t go for, even if it means they lose money too.
We want new movies and shows to be made more than anyone, believe me. But we just can’t do that if it means a possible outbreak or putting people in danger.”
Industry workers also remain cautious
Many workers shared the same concerns.
“I don’t think Newsom knows just how many people it takes to be on a crew, or where they live,” said cameraman Louis Phillips.
“Sure, you can shoot in, say, Riverside. But a lot of LA based people would be part of the team, and that means getting people out of an area that has had a lot of coronavirus cases.”
“It’s not just actors, a director, and a camera man either. Think of tall the periphery people. Sound, lighting, grips, gaffers, stuntmen, makeup, craft services, wranglers if there’s kids in the production, and so many more I’m not even mentioning right now.”
“We’ve been told July at the earliest over and over again. I know others in Vancouver and Atlanta who have basically been told the same thing.”
“It’s just not safe yet.”
Many other studio and union officials will wait until Monday until comment, when Governor Newsom announces what the guidelines and timeline would be for starting up again. Some others are instead following the lead of Mayor Garcetti for reopening, as his time table is more aligned with current production projections.
“Yeah, it hasn’t been Newsom,” confirmed Phillips. “A lot of us have been listening to when the Mayor says it’s ok because he knows the situation, and our industry, much better. The Mayor and the head of our union that is. We won’t shoot anything until they say it’s ok either.”
Governor Newsom’s official movie and TV industry reopening plans are expected on Monday, May 25th.