On June 5, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released statewide guidance for music, film, and television production to restart.  This guidance is the latest development in the reopening of the entertainment industry in California as the state continues to advance through its roadmap for reopening, following the submission to Governor Newsom on June 3 of a white paper with recommendations on this topic from representatives of producers and the unions of the motion picture and television industries (White Paper).

In this new guidance, the CDPH recommends that music, TV, and film production resume no sooner than June 12 and abide by safety protocols agreed upon by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers.  The CDPH also recommends that back-office staff and management adhere to the office workspace guidelines published by the CDPH and the California Department of Industrial Relations.

As mentioned in our blog post regarding the White Paper, the release of this guidance is a significant step for the revival of the entertainment industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Under California’s roadmap for reopening, a sector may not reopen anywhere in the state until statewide guidance for such sector’s reopening is released.  Now that the state has released this guidance, counties that meet certain criteria related to disease prevalence and preparedness (County Criteria) may allow production to resume.

Although this guidance is necessary for production to resume in California, it is not sufficient for localities.  Production may resume only in a county that has filed an attestation that it meets the County Criteria and separately determined that production may resume, subject to either the statewide guidance or stricter conditions, as determined by the county in its discretion.

Furthermore, though the White Paper sets forth general safety protocols agreed upon by labor and management as contemplated by the statewide guidance, it is not exhaustive.  The producers and unions are still in discussions over department-specific operational protocols, project-specific workflows, and other, more nuanced concerns relating to safe production in a pre-vaccine environment.  Each of the major unions has hired its own consultants to develop additional guidelines regarding its members’ return to work.  For example, the guild that represents cinematographers and camera crews, IATSE Local 600, released additional guidelines on June 4, outlining specifics for the camera department and a demand of general applicability on which the White Paper is silent: that none of its members be asked to sign liability waivers or assume liability in order to go back to work.

We will continue to monitor the safety protocols agreed upon by labor and management and other aspects of the reopening of the entertainment industry.

To access the California state website tracking each county’s reopening progress, click here.  As of the publication of this post, it is still unclear when production might resume in Los Angeles County, which has been slower to contain the virus than most other California counties.  It is also unclear when production may resume in New York state, the second-largest U.S. production hub after California.

Like California, New York is implementing a regional, sector-based reopening plan.  All regions of New York state are now in phase one or two of the state’s four-phase plan.  New York has not expressly stated in which phase production may resume, though the New York state reopening website lists “arts / entertainment / recreation” as a phase four industry.