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Showbiz forges plan for new fire-safety regs

After more than a year of negotiations, reps from several major studios and the state fire marshal’s film task force have agreed to modify fire safety regulations on sound stages, warehouses and film sets — a move that is estimated to save the industry thousands of dollars a day.

The agreement comes as the city is in negotiations with fire officials to reduce fire inspection costs on location filming (Daily Variety, Feb. 1).

This new agreement is broader, affecting every sound stage within California. It basically eases regulations that have mandated the presence of $ 600-per-day fire safety advisors for most sound stage/warehouse filming, especially if a live audience is present.

With the increase of three-camera half-hour sitcoms, filmed in front of audiences, this pact could substantially reduce networks’ production costs. The agreement also calls for a streamlining of permits.

“We think this is a real step forward,” noted Cody Cluff, L.A. City assistant deputy mayor and entertainment liaison.

For years, the industry has charged that the state’s fire safety standards on sound stages were over-regulated, costly and inconsistent. For example, if a production crew were to use a sound stage in the city of L.A., the standards and fees would be different than for one in the county or in another city, such as Burbank.

The agreement now brings all of the cities and counties within California under one common safety requirement. That, in turn, eases regulations mandating that every film set have a fire safety advisor present, putting it on a case by case basis — an area where much of the cost savings will be found.

Manny Chavez, deputy state fire marshal, chaired the task force. Among the studios involved in the negotiations were Warner Bros., MCA/Universal and Paramount Pictures.

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