California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will issue guidelines next Monday that would allow film and TV production to start up in some counties in the state, perhaps even as soon as next week.
Newsom hosted a virtual roundtable on Wednesday with industry leaders, including Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and director Ava DuVernay.
Sarandos reported that production is already underway in South Korea, Sweden and Iceland, and that protocols in those areas can be transferred to other places once production resumes.
“The choices that we have to make today are not staying home or not, it really is how do we get back to work safely,” Sarandos said. “It can definitely be figured out. We have the smartest people in the world working on it.”
Production is not expected to be allowed to resume until the state reaches “Stage 3” of its reopening plan. However, the state is allowing some counties where the virus is more controlled to start up sooner than others.
Newsom said that Los Angeles County continues to represent a disproportionate share of the state’s cases, however.
“It remains a challenging part of the state for us still,” he said. “We are concerned they will be a few weeks behind everybody else.”
Ann O’Leary, the governor’s chief of staff, said the situation in Los Angeles poses the biggest hurdle to restarting production.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat that,” she said. “We have increasing cases in the L.A. area, and so because of that it is going to have some delays in the Los Angeles region… I don’t want to say that it is going to be a switch on as quickly as it might be in other areas.”
Newsom asked Sarandos how California is faring compared to other states, particularly Georgia. Sarandos said that while no one in the U.S. is filming yet, there has been “a lot more talk about moving faster” in other states.
Danny Stephens, representing IATSE Local 80, noted that the new protocols will come at a cost, and said he worries that if restrictions are too aggressive, productions might move elsewhere.
“The last thing we want to do is price ourselves out of business,” he said, and made a pitch for further state tax incentives for production.
Newsom seemed at least open to the idea, while he did not make any commitments.
“I appreciate the need for this state to be more competitive in this space,” Newsom said. “We cannot rest on our laurels.”
DuVernay said she appreciated that California has been strict about imposing measures to control the virus, in contrast with other states that have opened sooner. She also said it was important to keep the victims of the virus in mind.
“There are too many lives lost, and too much we have to learn so those deaths aren’t in vain,” DuVernay said.
As much as the conversation was about getting back to work soon, actor Jon Huertas, from NBC’s “This Is Us,” spoke of safety over speed.
“When we talk about the protocols and the guidelines that we may be following when we go back into production, it’s really kind of daunting to all of us,” Huertas said.
Huertas said that he had just talked with “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman about how production on the show may be delayed.
“We may not go into production until January, depending on whether or not there’s a second wave,” Huertas said. “So as much as we’d like to get back online, we are very concerned about our crew as a family — the safety of our crew, the safety of the actors is paramount.”
On Instagram on Thursday, May 21, Huertas posted a link to a Deadline story about his comments about “This Is Us” possibly not starting until January:
“Hey peeps! #dontbelievethehype @nbcthisisus is prepping to begin shooting this fall! Our writers are already working and the only reason we’d delay until January is if a bad 2nd wave of #covid19 were to hit hard…safety of our cast & crew is very important to us. Don’t worry, #thisisus is raring to go!”
Kate Aurthur contributed to this story. This story has been updated with Jon Huertas’s clarification.