While it is undeniable that the entertainment industry is a cornerstone of California's economy, it appears unlikely that Los Angeles County will offer exemptions from the mandatory closure/work-from-home directive, which is likely to continue through July.
When May Production Resume in Los Angeles County?
On May 3, 2020, Los Angeles County revised once again its "Safer at Home" order to further clarify their definition of an "Essential Business." Whereas the prior version of the "Safer at Home" order defined "Essential Businesses" as "Newspapers, television, radio, magazine, podcast and journalism," the new Addendum changed the definition to "Newspapers, television news, radio, magazine, podcast and journalism." (Emphasis added.)
Read in context with earlier changes referenced, this further clarifies that the County does not consider entertainment-related content production (or videogame development) to be essential. The order will stay in place over the next few months, with the intention that the restrictions be gradually lifted.
When Will We See More Guidance From the City of Los Angeles?
On May 8, 2020, the City of Los Angeles revised its public order to allow some businesses and industries but not the entertainment industry to reopen. The County of Los Angeles Public Health released a 5 Stage Roadmap to Recovery; production falls into the Stage 3 category of higher-risk businesses. Unfortunately, "Stage 3 is still several weeks away," said Los Angeles City Council member Mitch O'Farrell, who supported establishing a dedicated task force to reopen Hollywood two weeks ago.
The motion introduced by O'Farrell requests the Office of Citywide Filming and FilmLA to prepare reports and recommendations in conjunction with experts throughout the creative industry. The "Bringing Back Hollywood Task Force" will report within 30 days of its creation to the City Council's Health, Education, Neighborhoods, Parks, Arts, and River Committee.
It is likely that the entertainment industry will receive updates from the government task force near the end of May, but it seems productions will not be able to safely resume filming until the end of June/July at the earliest. It is unclear whether productions may safely or legally relocate to other counties in California with more expedited timelines.
What to Expect Moving Forward
The fallout from COVID-19 will pose challenges to the content-production industry and have ripple effects across California. According to the 2020 Otis Report on the Creative Economy, the creative industries account for 16.3 percent of the total employment in Los Angeles County alone, with the entertainment and digital media sector in California as a whole employing 258,000 wage and salary workers in 2018.
While COVID-19 has created much uncertainty for the future of productions, the hope is that future legislative action brings more clarity, along with comprehensive public health guidelines to help guide the speedy reopening of Hollywood. Productions might look much different in the near future, but the show must go on.
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