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Governor promises to get film industry shooting again

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised film and television industry leaders that new state guidelines will allow production to start up again in some counties, providing relief to workers forced to hit pause to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Newsom made the announcement May 20 during an Economic Recovery and Reinvention Listening Tour virtual roundtable with industry leaders, who estimate that 890,000 entertainment industry professionals are not working due to coronavirus shutdowns.

Guidelines for film and television production were expected to be released May 25, but Newsom said the state is still working with industry officials and unions to finalize those plans.

“We’re in real time drafting guidelines related to productions, TV, commercials … because we anticipate rolling out some sectoral guidelines that would allow those counties that are in better conditions than some of the others to begin to move forward and allow some modification, allow some work to be done, allow some movement in your industry,” Newsom told roundtable participants Sonia Angell, Ava DuVernay, Jon Huertas, Stacey Morris, Tom Steyer, Ted Sarandos, Danny Stephens-Lo and Julie Su.

Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, thanked Newsom for hosting the discussion.

“Our industry is quite important to the state and quite important to the world in terms of providing entertainment, providing escapism, but also providing employment and keeping people sustained,” Sarandos said. “This is a great time for us to figure out how we get back to work safely.”

Netflix is in production in South Korea, Iceland and Sweden, following local safety protocols, including voluntary quarantines leading up to productions, testing, not riding together in the same vehicles and other tactics.

Morris, a makeup artist and stylist, said the industry has to establish a new normal.

“Looking forward, we know this is not just going to disappear overnight, so we are going to have to navigate through this virus as safely and sanely as we possibly can,” she said. “We are trying to put together those protocols … not only protecting ourselves but protecting each other.”

She said it’s important to maintain social distancing, but she said that’s easier said than done.

“People inherently don’t like being told what to do, so I think it’s important for us to be on the same page, have some understanding and some education,” Morris added.

Huertas, an actor on NBC’s “This Is Us,” shared similar concerns. He said the crew of more than 200 people for the show want to finish telling the story, and will have to go back into production to do so, but not until it’s safe for everyone involved.

“We work in close proximity. We consider ourselves a family, and so when we talk about the protocols and the guidelines that we may be following when we get back into production it’s really kind of daunting to all of us,” Huertas said. “We are concerned about our crew as our family.”

Huertas said he believes it’s good to take time, have continued conversations and make sure the next steps are taken in a thoughtful, methodical way to keep everyone safe.

The governor’s office — through Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary — assured roundtable participants their voices were heard and that there is a sense of urgency to release the new guidelines while keeping safety top of mind.

She noted, however, that Los Angeles County may not be able to roll out production as quickly as some other parts of the state.“The biggest hurdle that we have with regard to your industry right now is this regional problem with regards to Los Angeles,” O’Leary said. “I don’t want to sugarcoat that, and it is that we have increasing cases in the L.A. area, and so because of that it is going to have some delays in the Los Angeles region. … I don’t want to say that it is going to be a switch on as quickly as it might be in other areas.”

Independent Wire Services