Film permit applications rose 40% in August over July as location production restarts in the Los Angeles area amid COVID-19 restrictions, FilmLA reported Thursday.

Since it resumed operations in mid-June after the pandemic forced the film and television business to essentially shut down in March, FilmLA has received 1,127 film permit applications from 829 unique projects. Daily intake averages around 27 applications per business day and overall activity levels have stabilized at 44% of what FilmLA would expect under normal summer conditions.

The advertising industry (still photography and commercials) is dominating local activity with with a 52% share of local permit requests. Television content is a distant second with 18% and music video production accounts for 11% of permits. “S.W.A.T” has been in production in Los Angeles for about four weeks, according to Paul Audley, president of FilmLA

Thursday’s report showed that more than half of the August activity took place at outdoor locations, well above the pre-pandemic levels of about 25%. Presumably that’s due to the fact that outdoor activity is seen as less likely to result in the spread of coronavirus.

Audley told Variety that producers are indicating that Los Angeles TV production should see a major increase in the coming weeks. “What we are hearing is that we should expect a major comeback in late September and October,” he added.

Audley also said that a handful of low-budget feature film projects have been shooting in Los Angeles, recently including pandemic drama “Songbird,” starring K.J. Apa and Sofia Carson with Michael Bay producing. He noted a significant amount of feature film productions have been resuming in the U.K., where the government has allowed resumption of some film and TV productions — such as Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible 7 — in controlled environment.

Audley also praised productions for being mindful of health and safety and noted that only two of the 829 productions currently being shot have generated positive tests for COVID-19.

“As an essential contributor to the Greater Los Angeles economy, film production responsibly returning to our communities is a welcome sight,” he added. “Of course, as Governor Newsom and public health experts remind us, COVID-19 will be with us for a long time. We are therefore mindful of the public health orders governing current filming practices and grateful for filmmakers’ conscientious embrace of crew and community safety on all permitted productions.”

Audley also said that studios and producers have been opting generally to stay in Los Angeles rather than using other production centers such as Vancouver. “We are hearing that producers feel comfortable staying closer to home,” he added.

Half of FilmLA’s staff of 108 was furloughed in early April but Audley said significant numbers of those have been recalled as production resumes, since the agency’s operating revenues are derived from the permit fees.

All permits issued include Los Angeles County’s rules for production, dubbed Appendix J, that contain extensive instructions for shooting during the pandemic.  In mid-June, Hollywood’s major unions released extensive back-to-work guidelines for resuming production amid the pandemic, with a heavy emphasis on testing as they unveiled a 36-page report titled “The Safe Way Forward,” although overall agreements with the studios have not yet been hammered out yet.

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