The study is the first to precisely quantify the costs of COVID compliance, including COVID testing and distancing and isolation measures. Producers have previously given anecdotal figures ranging from 10-15%.
The new data comes in a progress report issued Tuesday on the California film and TV tax credit. It uses production budgets submitted by applicants for the state credit. The report finds that big budget feature films (larger than $20 million) spend between 5% to 6.5% of their budgets on COVID compliance.
For low budget films and TV shows, the costs are lower, averaging 4.25%, according to the report.
About 40% of those costs go to labor — COVID safety officers, testers, drivers, location assistants, and medical personnel. The remaining 60% goes to “materials,” which includes outside testing vendors and stipends for quarantining, as well as things like masks, face shields and sanitation materials.
The major Hollywood unions issued extensive back-to-work guidelines in June 2020, and later reached an agreement with the studios on COVID safety practices. Those rules have been repeatedly extended, though they were relaxed slightly in July.
Productions now have COVID departments, which consist of perhaps two or three people on lower budget productions, but as many as 15 people on big budget projects, according to the film commission report.
The report also provides an update on the $335 million allocated under the tax credit program in the most recent fiscal year, saying it went to 48 film and TV projects.
“Amid all the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, today’s report affirms that California’s Film & TV Tax Credit Program has continued to work as intended to create jobs and opportunity across our state,” Colleen Bell, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement.