Reopening Hollywood in a COVID World

Latest Update: December 23, 2020

In today’s world of COVID-19, restarting television and film production is a topic facing close analysis worldwide. From logistics to craft service to wardrobe and even director’s chairs, everything about production is being scrutinized. Lee Roth and Roth Stock Pictures have been following the topic closely since mid-April, when Lee began sharing articles on Facebook that are important bellwethers to how things might or are progressing.

One interview with a prominent director made these points. With a normal mid-sized set, you will have anywhere from 75 to 200 people on set each day. Even with typical 16-hour days, common in film production, there are only so many hours in each day. If you have to line everyone up 6 feet apart to take their temperature each morning, then line them up 6 feet apart to get a bottle of water, then line them up 6 feet apart to get their boxed or prepackaged meals, then figure in two acres of tables to seat them properly with social distancing, as you can see, things can quickly become a logistics nightmare.

The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force has been in existence for quite a while, and has spearheaded the policy-making in cooperation with the guilds, state and local governments, health officials, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From a practical standpoint, insurance seems to be the biggest stumbling block. For feature films with a budget of $2M or greater, completion bonds from capital financiers require insurance for production in order to secure financing. Directors and talent will not usually sign contracts unless funding has been secured, financiers are unwilling to fund a project without a completion bond., and nsurance companies are unwilling to issue new policies until there is either a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

This means, for new projects that do not yet have their completion bonds, they may hopefully go into pre-production in the winter to begin shooting in the spring, or pre-pro in the spring and shoot in summer 2021 …. hopefully!

Update: September 16, 2020 – It is beginning to appear that widespread vaccine distribution may not happen until late 2nd quarter or early 3rd quarter 2021.

Earlier on Wednesday, the CDC outlined a sweeping plan to make vaccines for Covid-19 free to all Americans. Even then, [CDC Director, Dr. Robert] Redfield predicted that it will take “six to nine” months to get every American vaccinated, saying the U.S. should have enough doses to return to “regular life” by the third quarter of next year.  — Noah Higgins-Dunn, NBC News, September 16, 2020

For productions that were already in progress when everything shut down in mid-March, they already have their bonds, so they may restart when safety protocols have been satisfied. For new projects, insurance companies are unwilling to cover Covid-19, now a known risk factor.

For all projects, the most likely to start first involve small cast and crew with few locations, ideally on sound stages. These small productions will not have producers or writers on set, and initially, may not even have hair stylists and makeup artists on set. Cast will likely need to do their own hair and makeup. It’s also possible that still photographers may not be allowed on set, creating difficulties for PR and marketing.

Some insights to just a few of the complications.

  • No more canvas director’s chairs. They can’t be sanitized each night. Switch to plastic lawn furniture.
  • No more buffets (that’s true in general … Souplantation restaurants have already closed because of this). Only prepackaged meals may be served that either each person stands in line for (6 feet apart as mentioned above), or have PA’s take them to each table, while wearing masks of course.
  • Consider having different departments have lunch at different times.
  • In fact, consider having your departments separate completely. Set dressers and props come in, do what they need, then leave the set. Same for lighting. When it comes time to shoot … talent, camera crew, director, and minimum sound crew. That’s likely to be all that will be allowed initially.
  • Craft service in general? Cancel it, other than meals. No snack tables for grazing.
  • Wardrobe must be sanitized each evening. If using period costumes that can’t take that kind of maintenance, then they must be quarantined for 14 days before being worn again.
  • All of this comes accompanied by the requirements not just for a medical team to be on set, but a properly trained Coronavirus medical team, with more than just a certificate from a one-hour online course!
  • Red carpet premieres and awards shows will never be the same either. Wondering why we selected such a dated photo from the 2004 Primetime Emmys as the Featured Photo for this article? See May 7 below!

For more detailed information, let’s review the articles that have proven the most insightful. Articles below are in chronological order, newest on top. The title of each article is linked and will open a new tab when clicked, as are the Additional Resources at the bottom of the page.

There is a comprehensive list at the bottom of this page of all the organizations mentioned in these articles under Additional Resources which includes: Health & Safety Organizations, Trade Publications, The Guilds, Film Offices, Film & Television Academies, and Networks, Studios & Exhibitors.

We will continue to add relevant articles to this page as they are published.

December 23, 2020
Fear Takes Center Stage as Productions Become COVID Hotbeds

As vaccines begin to roll out in the U.S., independent union projects are still pretty much on hold awaiting insurance companies to break the logjam. At Roth Stock Pictures, we have a bonding company and financiers waiting in the wings. But until the vaccines prove effective and insurance companies are ready to issue policies at reasonable fees, development on our projects continues, but making the move into pre-production is still at least a few months away. Spring or summer 2021? We are hoping!

Understandably, nerves are rattled, tempers are flaring and emotions are running high as the number of COVID-19 cases erupting on the shoots of movie and TV productions continues to climb. — Claudia Eller, Variety

November 11, 2020
Lionsgate Exits Gerard Butler Action Movie ‘The Plane’ Over COVID-19 Insurance Concerns

It ain’t over ’till it’s over! I’ve been talking about insurance being the big stumbling block to putting union projects into production. — Lee Roth / Roth Stock Pictures

Lionsgate has dropped out of distributing the Gerard Butler action movie “The Plane” because producers were unable to obtain production insurance that would cover a COVID-19 outbreak, Variety has confirmed.
Buyers and sellers at the online AFM, which opened Nov. 9, have said that the uncertainty over obtaining insurance is a pervasive challenge, making completed films more desirable. — by Dave McNary / Variety

September 21, 2020
Hollywood Labor Unions & Management Finalize Return-To-Work Agreement

After a long six months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Hollywood unions have finally issued back to work safety protocols so that production on new projects may resume. Of course, this still required insurance coverage so that financiers will be willing to issue completion bonds, which are required for projects with budgets in excess of $2M, but the roadmap has been set out now so that the industry may begin making plans. — Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures, LLC

Hollywood’s unions and management’s AMPTP finally have an agreement to return to work in the coronavirus era. Union sources say the deal took much longer to reach than they would have liked or expected.

The agreement means that the studios, networks, major companies and independent producers alike are cleared to resume production. — David Robb, Deadline Hollywood, September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020
Hollywood Unions Reach Deal With Studios on Safety Protocols for Restarting Production

Here’s more on the Union agreement …

“Guiding principles include strictly enforced testing regimens and safety protocols, a zone-based system, and diligent use of personal protective equipment,” the unions said. “The new measures will be implemented by employers in order to minimize the risk of transmission. To ensure workers’ livelihoods are not burdened with added uncertainty during the pandemic, the agreement also includes COVID-19 sick leave and quarantine pay.” — Dave McNary, Variety, September 21, 2020

September 16, 2020
Cynthia Nixon on HBO’s ‘The Gilded Age’ Resuming Production: Daily COVID Tests for Actors, Wardrobe Department ‘Greatly Scaled Down’

Planning on a shoot during COVID? As projects begin to ramp back up, cast and crew are finding there are LOTS of changes and longer shoot schedules as a result. — Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures, LLC

COVID safety protocols will add an “enormous amount of time” to the shooting schedule, [Cynthia] Nixon said. — Mark Malkin, Variety, September 16, 2020

September 13, 2020
‘Tenet’ Earns $6.7 Million, Total Box Office Is Under $15 Million: Theaters Are in a World of Hurt

After all the hype of being the first blockbuster feature to open in theaters since the start of the pandemic, even with the box office appeal of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”, it seems theaters are not making enough to pay for having their doors open. — Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures

And sadly, that might be as good as it gets from now until at least late October. Forget about any comparisons to normal times (which these certainly are not): The domestic theater total gross this weekend will fall short of $15 million. Roughly, that suggests perhaps $5,000 per theater — not enough to cover operating expenses. — Tom Brueggemann, IndieWire, September 13, 2020

September 10, 2020
A Day on a Film Set in the Time of Coronavirus

If you have a film or television show in development, here’s what to anticipate once you actually get into production. Not just budget increases for safety, but an increase in shooting days too. — Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures

It’s a slog, the business of keeping people protected in a highly tactile and collaborative environment, especially for independent filmmakers. The producers estimated that safety measures cost as much as 10% of their production budget, and resulted in additional shooting days. — Matt Donnelly, Variety, September 10, 2020

#makingmovies #independentfilm #filmdevelopment #developmentexecutive #producer #artsandentertainment #entertainment #setlife #filmmaking #filmmaker #leeroth #rothstock

July 23, 2020
Drip, Drip, Drip — ‘Mulan,’ ‘Quiet Place 2,’ ‘Top Gun,’ and Other Signs of a Fragile Theatrical Future

It seems like the summer 2020 movie season is all but over as more studios announce delayed release dates, or simply remove their films from their release schedules. And while some films are being shifted to streaming platforms, the large tentpole films with budgets of $100M to $200M, plus marketing and distribution costs, will not be able to recoup their production costs by doing so. Hence the pull of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and others from the schedule. Disney announced yesterday the delays of all “Avatar” and “Star Wars” films by a year. — Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures, LLC

Like “Tenet” before it, “A Quiet Place Part II” (dated for September 4, after delaying its March release) and “Top Gun: Maverick” (dated for December 23) have been pushed back by Paramount Pictures to 2021. Likewise, Sony has set a new date for its “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sequel in December 2021. And “Mulan” has also joined the land of the undated blockbuster. So has Wes Anderson’s would-be Oscar title, “The French Dispatch, and the long-delayed “Woman In the Window,” while all of the upcoming installments of “Star Wars” and “Avatar” will see their releases delayed by a year.

… Disney dropped its long list of changes today [July 23] at 5pm Eastern, after stock markets closed, and for good reason. These new dates — or the lack thereof — are unsettling, like most paradigm shifts.

… As the last four months have shown, studios are resilient when it comes to seeking alternatives. Exhibitors — both individual companies, and as a class — are edging closer to panic. And while studios value theaters, are they first among their own list of impending priorities? Probably not.

… It’s like no one wants to be first — and that alone speaks to how worried studios are about committing to theaters. — by Tom Brueggemann, IndieWire, July 23, 2020

reopeninghollywood #makingmovies #independentfilm #televisionproduction #filmdevelopment #developmentexecutive #producer #filmmaker #filmmaking #artsandentertainment #entertainment #leeroth #rothstock

July 23, 2020
AT&T Chief Sees More Warner Bros. Movies Heading to Streaming Amid Pandemic Shutdown

I have mentioned that I don’t think theatrical distribution is going to go away, but I do believe it will downsize. AT&T’s CEO John Stankey announced a major shift in that direction this morning.

As the Coronavirus pandemic stretches beyond the immediate future, Warner Bros. embraces its HBO Max streaming platform for a number of feature films that were destined originally for theaters. — Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures

Warner Bros. is adjusting its movie production and distribution plans in light of the prolonged shutdown of theaters driven by the coronavirus pandemic, AT&T CEO John Stankey told investors Thursday.

Stankey emphasized that the studio still “believes in the theatrical experience” but said it is inevitable that some titles planned for a traditional theatrical will have to shift to streaming platforms including WarnerMedia’s newly launched HBO Max. — Cynthia Littleton, Variety, July 23, 2020

July 22, 2020
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (IMDb)

Time to lighten the mood a bit! 😁

A recent post of mine on Facebook about a COVID-themed comedy show started quite the discussion, because I said … too soon … and blocked the inexperienced writer who had a really bad idea (after 18 months of submitting bad ideas!).

Then my friend Sinbad chimed in that, “Sometimes comedy is exactly what is needed!” Coming from him, I respect that very much, primarily because … Sinbad is funny! 🙏❤️

In fact, Apple+ TV has a show called “Mythic Quest”, about a game development company. “The owner of a successful video game design company and his troubled staff struggle to keep their hit game ‘Mythic Quest’ on top.” — Logline from IMDb

In a recent episode of Variety Streaming Room, they interviewed the cast and creators who filmed a quarantine episode about game developers having a meeting on Zoom (link to the 30-minute Streaming Room interview is above).

So … while it is a quarantine story … IMHO … it is most definitely NOT a COVID comedy … but it IS very, very funny! 😂🤣🤣

“Mythic Quest Cast & Crew need 1 more episode to finish the first season, but because of the COVID19 Quarantine 2020 they come up with a fun & creative way to make it happen.”

The best 5 minutes of the episode is on YouTube (embedded below) and I think all of us that have been having multiple Zoom meetings almost every day since mid-March can relate …

#mythicquest #appletv #gamedevelopers #rubegoldberg #zoommeetings #zoom #zoomers

July 20, 2020
‘Tenet’ Taken Off Release Calendar and Won’t Have a ‘Traditional’ Global Theatrical Release

Stunning news from Warner Bros. just now! Christopher Nolan’s tentpole movie “Tenet” has been pulled from release. This signals a prolonged fear of a lasting theatrical shutdown. — Lee Roth​, Roth Stock Pictures, LLC

“Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to proliferate, causing us to reevaluate our release dates,” [Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby] Emmerich continued. “Amidst all this continued uncertainty, we have decided to vacate the current dates for our next two releases. We will share a new 2020 release date imminently for ‘Tenet,’ Christopher Nolan’s wholly original and mind-blowing feature. We are not treating ‘Tenet’ like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that. Additionally, we will be moving the next installment from our most-successful horror franchise, ‘The Conjuring 3’ to June 4, 2021.” — Zack Sharf, IndieWire​, July 20, 2020


July 17, 2020
Don’t Expect to See Concerts Before 2022, Top Touring Exec Marc Geiger Says

The music industry is facing the same insurance problems as the film and television industry … insurance! — Lee Roth

Marc Geiger, until recently the head of music at WME, and one of the founders of Lollapalooza, sounds like he’s not expecting to be attending any festivals in 2021.

Asked on “The Bob Lefsetz Podcast” when he expects concerts to return, Geiger said, “My guess is late ‘21, more likely ‘22.” And he told Lefsetz that the problem of insurance going forward is “a biggie” when it comes to reasons for that long a delay, although “there are probably 20.” — Chris Willman, Variety, July 17, 2020

July 13, 2020
‘Tenet’ Likely to Be Delayed Again Because of Coronavirus Surge, Analyst Predicts

This will be the third delay for “Tenet” due to the Coronavirus. — Lee Roth

If movie theaters are banking on Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” to ride to their rescue, they may have to wait a lot longer for help.

That’s the takeaway from a new note by Eric Handler, a leading exhibition industry analyst with MKM Partners, who predicts that there’s a “low likelihood” that “Tenet” will open on Aug. 12 as planned because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in such major markets as Texas, Florida, and California. — Brent Lang, Variety, July 13, 2020

July 13, 2020

Another film festival moves online. — Lee Roth

The American Film Market (AFM®) will bring its 2020 edition online, the Independent Film & Television Alliance® (IFTA®) announced today. AFM 2020 Online will run over five days, Monday, November 9 – Friday, November 13, shifting one week later than originally scheduled, so as not to overlap with Election Day in the United States. This year will be the 41st market. — American Film Market, July 3, 2020

July 9, 2020
Lack of insurance threatens supply of Hollywood films, TV shows in 2021

As we have been highlighting since April, insurance is going to be the key to reopening Hollywood — Lee Roth

Now as filmmakers try to get back to work they are finding insurers have largely stopped providing the COVID-19 coverage they need to secure financing.

Some insurers are even adding exclusions for COVID-19 or communicable diseases to existing policies when cast members get medical exams, insurance lawyer Kirk Pasich told Reuters.

Without coverage, many producers cannot get the completion bond, or guarantee, that banks require to lend to productions. — Alwyn Scott, Reuters, July 9, 2020

July 9, 2020
Soap opera’s kisses outwit virus with tests, spouses, dolls

While a few television shows are not back on set in Los Angeles, it’s taking the creativity of the industry to find solutions to working with today’s safety protocols. — Lee Roth

Hollywood’s technical expertise can awe us with monsters and imaginary worlds. But is it capable of delivering a simple screen kiss during a pandemic marked by masks and social distancing?
There’s also ingenuity involved, which includes employing actors’ real-life partners as smooching stand-ins and, for more limited purposes, using a mannequin to eliminate the risk of breaching a co-star’s infection safety zone.
[On the show “The Bold and The Beautiful] One of the stand-ins is a mannequin relegated to the prop room some 15 years ago after starring in a cemetery scene about the faked death of character Taylor Hayes (Hunter Tylo). The other is a life-sized doll with no known TV credits. — by Lynn Elber, Associated Press, July 9, 2020

#reopeninghollywood #televisionproduction #TheBoldAndTheBeautiful #makingmovies #fimproduction #movies #tv #filmdevelopment #developmentexecutive #producer #filmmaker #filmmaking #producer #artsandentertainment #entertainment #leeroth #rothstock

July 8, 2020
Los Angeles Location Filming Plunges to Record Lows Amid Pandemic

While commercials and television managed to get some production days in between late-March to mid-June, filming in Los Angeles has been close to nothing. — Lee Roth

On-location film in Los Angeles plunged to its lowest levels on record for the second quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic, the FilmLA permitting agency reported Wednesday.

Television slid 98.2% percent to 52 shoot days; commercials were off 95.5% to 58 days and feature film production was close to non-existent with three days.– by Dave McNary, Variety, July 8, 2020

July 7, 2020
Will Coronavirus Create a Debt Crisis for Movie Theaters?

The movie theater business is in trouble. With shutdowns and reduced capacity, the exhibition industry is undergoing major stress. Will the the big theater chains be able to weather the Coronavirus storm? It’s a major question. — Lee Roth

After initially hoping to open the bulk of their screens in early July, many of the major chains pushed back that launch date to the end of the month.

They’ve invested in new ventilation systems and vacuums, are pushing customers to buy tickets online while ramping up their cleaning schedules, and, after a public fracas, will mandate that guests wear masks. And yet, all it takes is for a few people to get sick after going to the cinema to raise public doubts about whether going to the movies is a fun form of escapism or a risky proposition. — by Brent Lang and Elaine Low, Variety, July 7, 2020

July 5, 2020
U.K. Government to Offer New Quarantine Rules Exemption for Leading Hollywood Actors, Productions

Want to produce your film or television project in England? That might just be possible now. It might also help if Tom Cruise is starring in your movie! 😝 — Lee Roth

The exemption only applies to cast and crew coming into England, as other parts of the U.K. have their own set of rules working on film and television productions that qualify as British, according to the British Film Institute. Cast and crew who earn this particular exemption will be required to live and work in controlled “bubble” environments, which will include accommodation and production locations. — LaToya Ferguson, IndieWire, July 5, 2020


#reopeninghollywood #England #makingmovies #fimproduction #televisionproduction #movies #tv #filmdevelopment #developmentexecutive #producer #filmmaker #filmmaking #producer #artsandentertainment #entertainment #leeroth #rothstock

July 1, 2020:
Coronavirus Spike Puts Hollywood’s Back-to-Work Plans in Serious Jeopardy

With California rolling back reopening, studio executives are getting worried about their ability to resume production. With other popular filming states following suit, some projects are looking at moving to Europe. Fine, if you have the budget to do it, and then arrange for special consideration upon entering countries within the EU, now that Americans have been barred from entry. — Lee Roth​

On Monday and Tuesday, California hit record numbers of daily confirmed cases, led by Los Angeles county, which has hit over 103,000 total cases of the over 230,000 total cases statewide. Cases are similarly skyrocketing in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, while the popular production hubs of Louisiana, Georgia and New Mexico are seeing a precipitous rise as well.

As Christopher Miller, co-founder of the production company Lord Miller with Phil Lord, tweeted on June 25, “There are a bunch of movies and shows that are hoping to start production soon (including some of ours) but they won’t be able to go if the Covid numbers keep rising. So if you want fresh new content please wear a damn mask and help stop the spread!” — by Adam B. Vary, Variety​, July 1, 2020

#reopeninghollywood #makingmovies #fimproduction #televisionproduction #movies #tv #filmdevelopment #developmentexecutive #producer #filmmaker #filmmaking #producer #artsandentertainment #entertainment #leeroth #rothstock #wearamask #wearyourmask #wearadamnmask

June 29, 2020:

At Roth Stock Pictures, we have been asked more than once if the theatrical distribution model is going to go away. In my opinion, the answer is no. The major studios depend upon theatrical distribution in order to make a profit on their tentpole features. It’s the only way they may recoup their investments on $100M+ projects.

Will things change? Most undoubtedly.

I believe there will be fewer theaters, and the small art house independents are the most in jeopardy.

I believe people will still want the communal experience of watching feature films in a dedicated large room with other audience members. However, I believe that it will take some time for people’s comfort level to return to a point where that is economically feasible for the studios, myself included.

I also believe it is the tech companies that will become the next media giants, like Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Microsoft. They have the disposable cash to do so.

Studios like Sony Pictures and Lionsgate are possible takeover candidates. Even Walt Disney Studios, once separated from the theme parks, cruise and resort businesses, could become a takeover target. As mentioned above, the tech companies have the cash to do so. Walt Disney Studios becomes a viable target because all of the business sectors in the Disney conglomerate are shut down due to the pandemic, and likely to remain that way for quite some time. So cruise lines, resorts and theme parks drag the studios down with them as a combined entity.

While AMC Theaters seeks bankruptcy protection, that makes them a takeover target too. What if Jeff Bezos decides to purchase them as well, along with a studio? That makes a seismic change that the industry will likely not be able to undo once that trend actually happens.

Just my $.02! — Lee Roth, June 29, 2020

June 17, 2020:
‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ Production ‘Paused’ to Expand COVID-19 Testing

Eager to restart production and get back on set?
Not so fast!

Lessons to be learned related to the post-Covid era of production. Just one day after returning to set, the first television series to do so, “The Bold and The Beautiful” halted production on Wednesday this week. — Lee Roth

Production on the long-running CBS soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” has been “paused” after just one day back on set, Variety has learned exclusively.

The show returned to production today [6/17/2020] in Television City Studios, however, production has been halted to “better accommodate the large volume of testing needed,” per a spokesperson for the show’s producer Bell-Phillip Television. — by Will Thorne, Variety, June 17, 2020

June 16, 2020:
Worldwide COVID-19 Film Production Guidelines

Thinking about restarting production? American Film Market (AFM) has compiled a worldwide list of Covid-19 production guidelines and has committed to keeping it updated. (as of this writing, updated June 16, 2020)

June 15, 2020:
Universal’s ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ On Course To Be First Major Studio Movie Back Underway In UK, Detailed Safety Protocols Revealed

“Jurassic World: Dominion” is the first major film to restart production. Already back in pre-production, Universal Studios Entertainment is spending $5M on safety training, staff and protocols. — Lee Roth

The studio is understood to be spending around $5M on its protocols, which will see the production carry out thousands of tests during the remainder of filming. All cast and crew will be tested before returning to set and then again multiple times during filming.

The safety measures will include the commission of a private medical facility called Your Doctor to manage the entire production’s medical needs; Covid training for all cast and crew; on-site doctors, nurses and isolation booths; 150 hand sanitizer stations; nightly anti-viral ‘fogs’; more than 1,800 safety signs put up around Pinewood [Studios UK]; and ‘Green Zones’ for shooting cast and crew. Masks will be obligatory other than for actors while performing. Scroll down for more detail on the studio’s protocols.

Unlike many productions, Universal’s previous insurance policy will remain in place without exclusions, which is part of the reason the studio is able to return to production so swiftly. — by Andreas Wiseman, Deadline Hollywood, June 15, 2020

June 11, 2020:
Los Angeles Sets Strict Rules for TV and Film Production Restart

Insurance and finance … These are the two biggest hurdles for independent filmmaking going forward, at least until there is a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. Without insurance, financing will be extremely difficult to secure. Without finance, directors and lead cast members will be difficult to secure. It’s a snowball effect.– Lee Roth

But any new productions — that had not obtained insurance by early March — are going to find it difficult or impossible to obtain coverage for future COVID-19 shutdowns. That could make it difficult especially for independent filmmakers to get bank financing, and could impede production even at some of the smaller studios.

SAG-AFTRA has advised its members that some productions have asked employees to sign waivers, releasing them of liability for COVID-19 infection. The union instructed its members not to sign. — by Gene Maddaus, Variety, June 11, 2020

June 11, 2020:
TV Execs, Writers Grapple With COVID-19 Era Scripts: “We’re Not Going to Be Able to Shoot It, So Don’t Write It”

Does your script have crowds, fights or love scenes? It’s probably time to reconsider what will be possible in the post-COVID world and start thinking now about rewriting.

As a development executive and producer, I’ve already begun reading differently. As a writer, are you writing differently? — Lee Roth

Showrunners are being asked to cut extras, reconsider sex and fight scenes and, in some cases, shorten page counts.

“What we’re telling our writers is ‘Don’t be dumb,’ ” says one studio executive, who suggests that an elaborate crowd scene with dozens of extras would surely qualify. “We’re not going to be able to shoot it, so don’t write it.” — by Lacey Rose, The Hollywood Reporter, June 11, 2020

June 10, 2020:
L.A. County Allows TV, Film Production to Resume June 12

County health officials have approved film and television production to recommence on Friday, June 12, in line with state guidelines, amid COVID-19.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Department of Public Health made the announcement on Wednesday, with L.A. Department of Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer adding that the County Department of Public Health would also release safety guidelines on Thursday for film productions. Gyms, movie theaters, campgrounds, hotels and museums will also receive guidelines on Thursday and be allowed to open Friday.  — by Katie Kilkenny and Lexy Perez, The Hollywood Reporter, June 10, 2020

June 8, 2020:
Hollywood Has a Responsibility to Change the Stories We Are Telling

It’s time for change …

For our projects at Roth Stock Pictures, from our Submission Form (published in 2018):

· Our search is open to all genres. We like to focus on well-developed characters and a diverse cast.

· Projects with strong female leads are well-received.

→ Preference is given to original stories with a socially conscious message. ←
Lee Roth, Roth Stock Pictures

Writers, creators, and executives: The Trump administration has already decided what story it will tell — now it’s time for you to decide yours. Protests and social media posts are creating a pressure moment. Now it’s time to change the narrative and build the demand and vision for change into our culture.

The entertainment industry collectively has a responsibility to stop taking the easy way out. We have a responsibility to tell more Black stories and recount the events of the 2020 uprisings. — by Noelle S. Lindsay-Stewart, Variety, June 8, 2020

June 5, 2020:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Reveals TV, Film Production Can Restart June 12

“Music, TV and film production may resume in California, recommended no sooner than June 12, 2020, and subject to approval by county public health officers within the jurisdictions of operations following their review of local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement via the Governor’s Office on Friday. “To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers. Back office staff and management should adhere to Office Workspace guidelines published by the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Industrial Relations, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.” — by Evan Real, The Hollywood Reporter, June 5, 2020

June 5, 2020:
California Governor Gavin Newsom Announces Guidelines For Restarting Film & TV Production On June 12, If Local Conditions Permit

This is why we said earlier that the Governor is punting this back to producers and the guilds. — Lee Roth

The California Department of Public Health guidance released Friday notably says that, while there are benchmarks related to testing, tracing and hospitalization, “productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers.” That puts establishment of the actual protocols in the hands or producers and guilds and, possibly local health officials. — by Tom Tapp, Deadline Hollywood, June 5, 2020

June 3, 2020:
Studios Debate When to Sell Movies to Streaming Services During Coronavirus

With theaters closed due to the pandemic, distribution methods are in a state of flux.

Studios are increasingly concerned about the logjam of films expected in 2021. All that competition will cut into potential profit margins, and it’s making it difficult to find attractive slots on the calendar to launch a film. — by Justin Kroll and Brent Lang, Variety, June 3, 2020

June 1, 2020:
Unions, Studios Release Back-to-Work Guidelines Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Finally … News the filmmaking industry has been awaiting! — Lee Roth

“The task force of around 50 participants was put together by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee (PDF), a long-established entity that deals with safety and training concerns related to production. The committee includes by[SIC] safety, physical production and labor relations executives from the major studios and union reps from SAG-AFTRA, DGA, the Teamsters [Motion Picture and Theatrical Trade Division] and IATSE. It was organized through the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMTP).”

“This document is an initial set of principles and guidelines that we all agree form a relevant and realistic first step to protecting cast and crew in the reopening of the entertainment and media industry in its two largest markets,” SAG-AFTRA said. — by Dave McNary, Variety, June 1, 2020

May 27, 2020:
‘Tenet’ on July 17? 6 Reasons Why That’s Far from Certain

Warner Bros. Pictures is gambling BIG on Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”, set for theatrical release on July 17. With a budget north of $200M and another marketing hit potentially in the $100M to $150M range, they are betting on pent up demand with the summer’s first wide release.

Will enough theaters be open to justify the release? Will moviegoers be ready to go back to the theater? — Lee Roth

Theaters are now open in some smaller markets; for many others, July is the goal. Based on the tentative dates, Warner Bros. hopes that most theaters in most countries will be open by July 23 (France, Argentina, Belgium just behind others). That’s an incredible gamble when each country has its own timetable, including when they give the go-ahead. — by Tom Brueggemann at IndieWire, May 27, 2020

UPDATE: “Tenet” is now slated for release on August 12, 2020. — Lee Roth, June 29, 2020

May 21, 2020:
Industry Infighting, Union Turf Battles Slow Development of Back-to-Work Plan

More info about Hollywood’s safety white paper, and just how difficult it is to get a universal plan, which will obviously need to be adapted to the particular circumstances encountered by each shoot. — Lee Roth

Whether each union will release its own separate plan, causing further confusion, remains to be seen. What’s clear now is that the industry is not speaking with one voice on the billion-dollar question of getting back to work. — by Cynthia Littleton and Kate Aurthur, Variety, May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020:
A First Glimpse at the 30-Page Hollywood Safety White Paper Being Drafted for Governors

It seems Governor Newsom may have jumped the gun with his statement that he will announce guidelines for the resumption of production in California next Monday [May 25, 2020]. He’ll be doing so in advance of guidelines from the industry, which have a 30-page draft that is being negotiated by the guilds. — Lee Roth

However, Newsom’s protocols won’t include guidance from an industry-wide joint task force (PDF) that’s quietly worked over the last three weeks on its own plan for how film and TV production can safely resume. They have prepared a 30-page white paper, currently in an early draft, written by representatives of major guilds (IATSE, DGA, SAG-AFTRA) and the studios (via the Association of Movie Producers and TV Producers) [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)] in conjunction with advice from medical professionals.

As for the guidelines currently drafted in the white paper, these include: virtual location scouts; fewer minor performers; set visitors and live audiences discouraged; one-time COVID-19 testing; and eliminating large groups of background performers.

No matter what guidelines Gov. Newsom brings before cameras on Monday, the path to understanding how Hollywood will resume production remains long, bumpy and, for now, unclear. — by Chris O’Falt, IndieWire, May 21, 2020

May 20, 2020:
Productions Need Insurance to Start Rolling — but Actuaries Don’t Want to Take the Risk

We’ve been talking about completion bonds and insurance concerns as being barriers to the reopening of Hollywood. Here’s more info on the topic. — Lee Roth

Insurance carriers have already decided that they will not cover pandemic-related losses on any new policies. That means producers will either have to take that risk themselves — or stay idle.

“If you’re not fully covered, you’re going to have difficulty getting it bonded and difficulty getting it financed,” [Jean] Prewitt says. — Jean Prewitt, CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA). — by Gene Maddus, Variety, May 20, 2020

May 20, 2020:
California Governor Gavin Newsom Says Production Could Restart Next Week, But Not In L.A.; Guidelines To Be Released Monday

“We’re in realtime drafting guidelines” for specific sectors, including the entertainment industry, said the governor.

Those guidelines will be released on Monday and will allow some counties to move deeper into the governor’s four-phase plan for reopening. Newsom made clear that this includes film and TV production. But it will not likely include Los Angeles. — by Tom Tapp, Deadline Hollywood, May 20, 2020

UPDATE: California opened back up for production on June 12, 2020

May 20, 2020:
Extras on $et: Inside Hollywood’s Pricey Plans to Restart Production

Continuing our focus on restarting production, published this morning, this article is a long read, but one of the most well-rounded analysis I’ve encountered recently.

FYI: Tyler Perry Studios is ready to start shooting on July 8. Pinewood Atlanta Studios hopes to restart production on June 1. Below are excerpts about the associated costs of having a pandemic-ready set. — Lee Roth

As he ramps up production, [Tyler] Perry will be among the very first in the business to put into action a profusion of untested ideas that have preoccupied the entertainment industry on how to get back to work in the age of COVID-19.

When asked how much all of these preventive measures will add to the price tag of production, the self-made mogul acknowledges, “It’s an enormous undertaking and an enormous cost to the budget.”

What’s emerged is a moving target that no one quite has a full grasp of but everyone understands is heading in only one direction: The costs of production, already sky-high, are going to get even higher. — by Kate Aurthur and Adam B. Vary at Variety – May 20, 2020

May 11, 2020:
Korean Cinemas Test Contact-Free Tech for the Post-Coronavirus Era

Wonder what going to a movie theater might look like once they open in the U.S.? South Korea has an idea in already reopened cinemas. — Lee Roth

The country’s number one exhibition player CJ-CGV turned its Yeouido branch into a completely contactless, “untact” in local jargon, theater in April.

To accommodate local audiences’ growing fear of physical contact with strangers, including cinema staff, the exhibitor giant replaced its human staff with AI robots, automated kiosks and mobile app services. Cinemagoers no longer need to encounter a human staff member to reserve, pick up, or scan their tickets. Snack bars have been replaced with LED-controlled pick-up boxes which deliver food items ordered through CGV’s app. — by Sonia Kil, Variety, May 11, 2020

May 7, 2020:
Plastic Shields, Interview Pods, No More Entourages: Red Carpets’ New Normal?

Working the red carpet, whether you are talent, a publicist, or a member of the press, will likely be forever transformed by the Coronavirus. It will never again look like the featured photo at the top of this page, from the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2004, back in my red carpet press photographer days.

While parts of this article are a little dated (published in early May), it still raises valid questions on what red carpets will be like in the future. — Lee Roth

[Entertainment Tonight veteran Kevin] Frazier, who cut his teeth as a camera man and sports reporter before segueing to ET — skills that are paying off now during in-home shoots — says social distancing guidelines will change the look and landscape of red carpet events. “Imagine if you have a big premiere and you have a star like Harrison Ford, a national treasure. You can’t afford to get Harrison Ford sick walking down the carpet. You’ll have to check everyone, stand six to eight feet apart,” he explains. “What you’ll never see is the way the Oscars carpet is packed with outlets stacked back-to-back for five, six hours, even longer, all bumping in to one another. What celebrity will want to walk and talk in that close of proximity and what workers will want to be in there?” — by Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, May 7, 2020

May 6, 2020:
Leaked: British Film Commission Draft Safety Protocols Reveal How UK Shoots Will Be Kept Coronavirus-Proof

The draft Film And TV Production Codes Of Practice runs to 30 pages and breaks down the production process into 27 areas, offering detailed guidance on how to make sure cast and crew are protected from an outbreak of COVID-19.

The BFC’s Film And TV Production Codes of Practice has been drawn together using input from key industry players, including Netflix, BAFTA, Disney, HBO and Bectu, and aims to provide the government with a “comprehensive and realistic vision” for how big-budget productions can return to work safely.

The document seen by Deadline is dated May 5 and is not the final version of the protocols. It will be subject to a period of industry consultation over the next 10 days, meaning it is very likely to change before being written in stone. — Jake Kanter, Deadline Hollywood – May 6, 2020

British Film Commission’s Coronavirus COVID-19 Guidance

May 1, 2020:
Editors Guild Chief Cathy Repola Sees “A Long Way To Go” Before Industry Can Reopen Safely

Continuing our focus on reopening Hollywood, here’s input from Cathy Repola, national executive director of the Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700, regarding how post-production is being analyzed for new workflows and working conditions focused on safety. — Lee Roth

She also poo-poohed any notion that the unions will allow their members to sign “riders” or waivers that would give employers liability protection from unsafe working conditions. “That’s just completely outrageous in my mind,” she said. “It is absolutely an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees. It is mandated by laws; it is in our collective bargaining agreements; it is not the employees’ responsibility; it is the employers’ responsibility. And safety is a mandatory subject of bargaining, which means that much of what gets put in place eventually will have to be bargained about…between the employers and the unions and agreed upon.” — by David Robb, Deadline Hollywood, May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020:
Leaked Film & TV Safety Documents Lay Bare The Enormous Complexities Of Re-Starting Drama Shoots

In comparison to Florida’s 6-page guidelines, the 50-page document from the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union – London, UK (Bectu) seems much more well thought out!

Bectu’s paper added that writers, producers and network executives should keep away from the set. — Lee Roth

“Chief among the recommendations in the Bectu paper is that every production set up a coronavirus safety department. This unit, it said, should be staffed with trained professionals capable of monitoring the health of workers, while it should also contain professional set and equipment cleaners, and marshals for monitoring communal areas.” — by Jake Kanter, Deadline Hollywood, May 1, 2020

April 30, 2020:
Film Florida Releases Detailed Recommendations For Safe Sets In Era Of COVID-19: No Director’s Chairs, No Trailers, Clear Barriers For Actors & More

“Even if Florida got out first with a comprehensive set of protocols and the state is reopening for business, Hollywood productions are not likely to flock there right away as studios take a cautious approach, following recommendations from health officials when it would be safe to restart production. So far, that appears to still be months away.” — by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, April 30, 2020

Film Florida:
Recommendations for Clean & Healthy Production Sets (PDF)

April 27, 2020:
Reopening Hollywood: Tyler Perry Lays Out Plan To Safely Restart Production At His Atlanta Studio

For studios with backlots and accommodations, Tyler Perry‘s plans for reopening his studios in Atlanta may just offer some solutions. — Lee Roth

“I was writing those shows at the time when this was all going on, so I was thinking about how do I contain it and make it smaller,” he [Tyler Perry] said. “I have not written any big scenes with many extras. If it would be 10, that would be the most.”

His shows film entirely on the lot, which feature elaborate exteriors and interiors, including a replica of the White House. And it includes ample housing on the premises. — by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, April 27, 2020

April 27, 2020:
As Hollywood Maps Out Its Return, New On-Set Protocols Take Center Stage

“There will be new production procedures and protocols that are rooted in safeguarding health, but what exactly they’ll end up being will look different for, say, a small production company compared to a large studio.” — Colleen Bell, California Film Commissioner

“What we’re hearing is that when production begins to reopen, it’ll be done in phases,” confirms FilmLA president Paul Audley. “And the first phase most likely will include a numbers restriction and social distancing measures, so that would mean that any film permits will only be issued for very small productions.” — by Elise Sandberg and Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, April 27, 2020

April 24, 2020:
The Cruel Ageism Of COVID-19 Threatens To Temporarily Purge Older Actors From The Screen

Not good news for senior actors. Read the story. While some younger people may dismiss this from the headline, you will see a number of very popular TV shows that will be impacted by this. — Lee Roth

“As a result, a whole generation could be virtually wiped out onscreen for the next year or two, limiting the stories about older Americans that shows can tell.” — by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, April 24, 2020

For movies and television, think of Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Betty White, Jane Fonda, and so many more great talents. All could be banned from #setlife until a vaccine is found. Insurance companies will not indemnify the production companies. Without a completion bond for budgets over $2M, #fuhgeddabouditLee Roth

April 22, 2020:
Post-Pandemic Hollywood: Inside Plans to Make Movie and TV Sets Safe Again

At Roth Stock Pictures, we’re closely following the reopening of Hollywood as it affects everyone involved in #setlife and we will continue to share key articles that address who is talking and how plans are being made.

Share your thoughts in the comments! — Lee Roth

“It’s a massive problem,” says Matt Baer, the producer of 2014 film “Unbroken.” “There’s plenty of precedent in movie history for what you do if a hurricane hits your set or an actor dies in production, but there’s no rule book for what you do in a pandemic.” — by Brent Lang and Justin Kroll, Deadline Hollywood, April 22, 2020

April 15, 2020:
Reopening Hollywood: From Insurance To Testing, Crowd Scenes & Craft Services, Here Are The Pandemic Problems Studios Are Trying To Solve Before The Restart

Hmmmm … Not encouraging news … Will you be willing to sign a waiver before returning to set? — Lee Roth

“… the big challenges a return poses — from keeping everyone safe to securing an insurance policy, filming crowds and exteriors, and determining what content is appropriate to show in a society changed by the coronavirus.”

“For one thing, insurers are unlikely to cover productions for COVID-19 cases when business resumes, according to multiple sources in the know.” — Nellie Andreeva and Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline Hollywood, April 15, 2020

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>UPDATE:</strong> June 28, 2020 … The Guilds have flatly stated their members will not be signing waivers. If you're producing a union project … <em>no waivers!</em>UPDATE: June 28, 2020 … The Guilds have flatly stated their members will not be signing waivers. If you’re producing a union project … no waivers!

Additional Resources:

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