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A Guide to Film Production Planning Under COVID-19 Restrictions

May 11, 2020Alerts

As the country begins the reopening process, production planning has also commenced. But the myriad of local laws compounded by the sheer logistics of filming present a host of challenges for production companies. We have compiled a list of considerations for production planning as well as the current status of filming in popular production states.

  • Assess what businesses are permitted to open in the cities and/or states where you seek to film. Ensure filming is permitted under the particular phase of opening.
  • Ensure appropriate permits are being issued or determine any delay or limitations in issuing such permits.
  • Check the inbound and outbound travel restrictions for your departure and arrival cities. Many states have self-quarantine obligations for visitors arriving from certain states that may make a quick shoot unfeasible.
  • Check the PPE and social distancing requirements for the shoot, if any, and determine whether filming can be accomplished under such guidelines.
  • Contact your workers’ compensation carrier to discuss any local or practical changes in workers’ compensation coverage. Certain jurisdictions are passing laws protecting employees with a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 is a work-related injury under particular circumstances.
  • Consider the risk to production employees, contractors and actors. Assumption of risk waivers may provide a degree of comfort for producers but are likely unenforceable against employee legal claims.

Below is information on the current state of play in select states: California, Florida, Georgia, New York and Texas.


California

Status: On-location film production is currently prohibited in California under state and local shelter-at-home orders.

Social Distancing: Many counties in California require people to wear masks in public.

Travel Restrictions: None

Links, Notes, Resources: California Film Commission: State Film Permits:, FilmLAFilm SF: Permit Application


Florida

Status: Filming is permitted in some areas of Florida. On-location film production is currently prohibited in Miami under state and local shelter-at-home orders. Although Florida has announced a phased reopening, Miami-Dade County is excluded — a clear sign that it will take longer to lift restrictions in Miami than other places in Florida.

Social Distancing: Face coverings are currently mandatory in Miami-Dade County “where social distancing measures are not possible[.]”

Travel Restrictions: Anyone traveling to Florida from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Louisiana must, upon entry to Florida, self-isolate or self-quarantine for 14 days, or for the duration of their presence in the state, whichever is shorter.

Links, Notes, Resources: Film Florida recently released a set of recommended industry guidelines for a safe return to film production. Although the guidelines are merely recommendations, they should be reviewed to determine if any would be easy to implement and improve safety on set.


Georgia

Status: Georgia’s stay-at-home order has expired, except for people over age 65 or with vulnerable health conditions. Filming can take place, subject to two restrictions: (1) the production must take steps to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 to its workforce; and (2) “gatherings of persons” — defined as more than 10 persons physically present at a single location if, to be present, persons are required to stand or be seated within six feet of any other person — are prohibited for businesses not deemed “critical infrastructure.”

Social Distancing: No requirement exists in Georgia to wear face masks.

Travel Restrictions: No requirement exists for quarantining upon arrival in Georgia.

Links, Notes, Resources: State of Georgia Film Permits


New York

Status: On-location film production is currently prohibited in New York under the state PAUSE program.

Social Distancing: Governor Cuomo has ordered face coverings in public when maintaining social distance is not possible

Travel Restrictions: None.

Links, Notes, Resources: Through at least May 31, 2020, no new film permits will be granted, with the exception of film permits for the news media. New York City Permits: Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.


Texas

Status: Texas is in the process of easing COVID-19 restrictions and reopening businesses statewide. So far, however, none of Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders or announcements have specifically addressed on-location film production. Accordingly, as of today, on-location film production is not permitted, but may be in the coming weeks.

Social Distancing: There is no statewide face covering mandate, and Gov. Abbott’s most recent executive order precludes local governments from imposing civil or criminal penalties on those who fail to wear a face covering. The City of Austin currently required people over age 10 to wear a face covering when in public (absent a few exceptions). In theory, the city could shut down filming if someone on set fails to wear a face covering.

Travel Restrictions: Currently, anyone who flies to Texas from any of the following states: California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey or Washington or cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit or Miami, must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into Texas or the duration of the person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.

Links, Notes, Resources: Guidance for filming in Austin may be found here.


If you have questions about this alert, contact Sahara Pynes at [email protected], Lee Szor at [email protected] or any member of the firm's national Labor & Employment or Entertainment & Sports Law departments.