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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🎬 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.


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😊🚘 Rivian's $5 Billion Lifeline

🔦 Spotlight

Volkswagen announced on Tuesday a significant investment of up to $5 billion in Rivian, a struggling electric truck manufacturer known for its vehicles' distinctive smiley-face design reminiscent of Volkswagen's iconic Beetle. This partnership marks a unique collaboration between the world's second-largest automaker and a startup grappling with profitability challenges akin to those faced by Tesla. Volkswagen's infusion of $1 billion initially, potentially rising to $5 billion pending regulatory approval, underscores its strategic pivot towards enhancing its electric vehicle (EV) software capabilities, an area where analysts believe the company has lagged.

For Rivian, which has received acclaim for its electric trucks and SUVs but struggles with production ramp-up and financial losses, the investment offers crucial financial backing. The company plans to utilize Volkswagen's expertise in manufacturing, leveraging the German automaker's annual production of nearly 10 million vehicles. This alliance aims to bolster Rivian's efforts to launch new models like the R2 midsize SUV and complete its Georgia factory, paused earlier this year to conserve funds. Rivian's stock surged upwards of 40% following the announcement, reflecting investor optimism in the company's future prospects.

Despite their differing corporate cultures—Volkswagen's traditional, structured approach contrasted with Rivian's agile tech startup ethos—the CEOs of both companies expressed mutual admiration and shared goals during the partnership announcement. The collaboration is expected to yield EV software solutions benefiting Volkswagen's various brands, potentially including Audi and Porsche, while allowing Rivian to maintain its brand identity and separate vehicle marketing strategies. This strategic partnership between Volkswagen and Rivian not only promises to revolutionize the electric vehicle market but also highlights the potential for collaboration between established automakers and innovative startups in Southern California, where Rivian is based. Here’s to hoping these smiling cars will balance out some of the inevitable LA road rage.

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  • Pomerium, a startup that provides a secure access platform that dynamically verifies user identities to ensure authorized access to applications and services, raised a $13.8M Series A round led by Benchmark and including previous investors Bain Capital, Haystack, and SNR. - learn more
  • Etched, a maker of transformer-specialized AI chips, raised a $120M Funding Round. - learn more
  • Rocketlane, a customer onboarding platform, raised a $24M Series B co-led by 8VC, Matrix Partners India, and Nexus Venture Partners. - learn more
  • Sift, a developer of unified observability solutions for hardware sensor data, raised a $17.5M Series A led by GV. - learn more
  • LOST iN, a travel media brand, raised a $4M Seed Round led by MaC Venture Capital. - learn more

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