California Governor Promises Guidelines for Reopening Hollywood Productions

Cones block the entrance to a shuttered Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, Calif., on April 15. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom told Hollywood workers they can expect the state to unveil guidelines regarding film and television production on Monday, outlining a process for the entertainment industry to get back to work.

“We’re looking … to allow some work to be done and to allow some movement in your industry,” Newsom told a panel of filmmakers, producers and other industry workers during a roundtable on Wednesday afternoon.

The roundtable featured filmmaker Ava Duvernay, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, actor John Huertas, hair stylist Stacey Morris, and key grip and union representative Danny Stephens, among others.

Newsom did not shed much light on the specifics of the guidelines except to say that filming in Los Angeles will have to wait longer than projects looking to get off the ground in other counties where outbreaks are not as severe.

“It remains a challenging part of the state for us,” Newsom said in reference to Los Angeles, widely considered as the entertainment capital of the United States, if not the world.

Newsom mostly listened to the other participants, who all expressed a strain of concern for the health of workers with a growing need to get back to work.

“Not knowing what is happening tomorrow is all new,” Morris said. “We know this isn’t going to disappear overnight, so we are going to have to navigate through this virus as safely and as sanely as we possibly can.”

Huertas also stressed the need for safety protocols to make sure workers feel safe so they can go about their business.

“As much as we’d like to get back online, we are very concerned about our crew and the safety of our family is paramount,” Huertas said.

The actor noted that film production requires people to operate in close proximity to one another and further necessitates a large amount of people working together to produce the final product.

“We can’t film with PPE on,” Huertas said. “But of course we want to get back to work now because we have to work in order to sustain ourselves. At the same time, most people understand the virus is still spreading.”

Netflix content chief Sarandos provided some unique insight as his company is running production in Iceland, South Korea and other countries that have managed to quell their outbreaks.

In places like South Korea, if one person on the production shows symptoms, it gets shut down and everyone gets tested. Other countries have different protocols.

“Fast and dependable testing at scale is critical,” he said. “The workers have to feel safe to come and do the work of their lives.”

Duvernay, director of “Selma” and “A Wrinkle in Time,” said her position in Hollywood affords her the ability to weather short-term financial difficulties but worries about the many of the Hollywood workers who live a little more check to check.

“I have so many crewmembers just have to stop,” Duvernay said. “I am very eager to develop and design ways that we can get back safely.”

“We are trying to find that middle ground to keep everybody safe yet make it affordable for everybody to still come to work,” said Stephens, a union representative who works as a key grip.

Duvernay made the comment hours after Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said during a meeting that approximately 890,000 entertainment industry workers have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

Barger’s spokesperson later clarified that “many of whom are not working,” as there are only about 890,000 total in the industry and many people are still on the payroll as the industry has pressed pause on its business.

Nevertheless, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that about 270,000 people lost their jobs in the entertainment industry since California introduced its lockdown policies in mid-March.

Newsom said he would take the comments of the participants seriously as the state works to finalize the protocols to be released early next week.

The participants emphasized the need to balance worker safety with the economic considerations of the thousands of workers that comprise the industry.

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