Hollywood Production Is Up, Though Studios Are Keeping a Close Eye on 'COVID Exhaustion'

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Hollywood Production Is Up, Though Studios Are Keeping a Close Eye on 'COVID Exhaustion'

Film and television production in Los Angeles picked up last month, driven by shows such as Netflix's "Dear White People" and Showtime's "Shameless."

But the threat of a second wave of coronavirus has studios worried that the filming uptick — still far below pre-COVID levels — may not last, said FilmLA president Paul Audley.


FilmLA granted 880 film permits in October and received 40 applications daily, a sign that the thorough testing protocols set in place by Hollywood guilds and unions were helping build confidence that the industry could create a safe workplace.

There hasn't yet been one outbreak on set, Audley said, in part due to the new studio safety protocols. But state public health officials could soon suggest that unions and guilds pause production if cases in L.A. County continue to rise.

Overall production still remains just under 47% of what FilmLA would expect under "normal filming conditions."

"When [coronavirus case] numbers start going up...that's where we start worrying that [public health officials] may have to start pulling back on some of the permissions they've given," he said.

A recent jump in transmission rates in Los Angeles County is being linked to essential workplaces, restaurants and places of worship as well as household gatherings. In a press conference Monday afternoon, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was concerned about the surge and that an "over exuberant" public could get lax with the prospect of a vaccine around the corner.

It's that "COVID exhaustion" Audley says studios are worried about.

In an effort to set their own protocols, Hollywood entertainment unions passed a set of guidelines around testing which includes protections like paid sick leave and "quarantine pay" if state laws send employees back home.

Meanwhile some studios and production companies, like other industries across the country, have created their own safety procedures that involve partnering with pop-up testing labs.

"They're now beginning an outreach to their employees to remind them that when they're not at work, they have a responsibility to follow pretty much the same rules," he said.

Santa Monica-based Quantgene, a biotech startup that builds on-site lab pods for business, said it has been running tests for two months for one A-list feature film project in Los Angeles. And there's even more demand, said account manager Rachel Strohmeyer.

The company built two mobile labs for unnamed studios in L.A. and will deliver one to a client out of state.

In the meantime, feature film work is picking up.

Last month, local studios started work on films "Soggy Bottom" starring Bradley Cooper and "King Richard" with Will Smith and Dylan McDermott.

But commercials and TV account for the majority of in-person shoots across the city. Ads that filmed locally in October came from brands like Instagram and Uber and retailers including Walmart and Starbucks. Campaigns like Vote Safe California and Get Out the Vote 2020 also shot ads.

"We all need to recognize it's more expensive and takes a lot more time now to produce," Audley said.

He expects the earliest FilmLA would see a return to normal production levels would be late March or early April. But that return is most likely to come in July.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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