Two Months After Restarting, Film Production is Still Mostly Paused

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.

Two Months After Restarting, Film Production is Still Mostly Paused
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Film and television production is still largely at a standstill in Los Angeles, two months after the county lifted production restrictions.

FilmLA, a nonprofit that issues film permits for Los Angeles, reported Wednesday that daily film permit applications have grown from 14 shoots a day in late June to 18 per day in late July. That's just a third of the number of permits usually granted.

Commercial and advertising production have dominated permit applications since June 15, when filming was allowed to restart. They now make up nearly 65% of all production in Los Angeles, FilmLA president Paul Audley told dot.LA.


Unlike TV and film, which require large crews and often more elaborate staging, commercials are relatively quick projects. Many advertisers had been anxious about coming back after the lockdown. "The advertising community nationwide has been sort of held back from advertising their product."

Producers were given the green light to restart when both L.A. County and commercial producers organization released public health guidelines for filming. Those included mask wearing, social distancing and protocols for scaling back the size of cast and crew.

"Traditionally on a film set, everybody would gather around the monitors and watch what was going on or see the playback," Audley said, adding that production teams have been slimmed to about 25 to 30 people. "All of that is not happening anymore. They're really reducing the number of people present at any one time."

Audley says many unions and guilds are looking to institute testing requirements for upcoming shoots. Fears that production could be shut down again have also eased among unions, he added. FilmLA is not affiliated with any local union.

"Right now, what we're hearing and seeing is that there's confidence about not shutting down filming again at least in the nearer term," Audley said. "Numbers are looking better in California and public health and the state both say they don't intend to go back on filming permissions."

In a few instances, COVID infections among employees on set have shut down production. But thanks to prescreening, this isn't too common, Audley said.

"Our hope is that people will continue to welcome filming in their communities, recognizing the extraordinary methods being used to make sure not only the cast and crew but also the community is safe as filming returns," Audley said.

In their statement, FilmLA said it expects most scripted television and movie projects to pick back up in early September, once unions and guilds have worked out arrangements to ensure safety on set.

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