TV's Back-to-Work Plan Takes Shape: L.A. Sets Rules for Pandemic-Era Love Scenes, Studio Audiences and More

TV Starts Production Pandemic

Three months after the coronavirus outbreak forced TV and film productions to abruptly shut down, we are starting to get a sense of how they will, as safely as possible, start back up.

Though we are still very much a ways away from any widespread restart — the assorted unions and guilds need to weigh in, especially when it comes to areas where they may be asked to trim headcount — L.A. County on Thursday issued its “Reopening Protocol for Music, Television and Film Production,” which lays out policies designed to protect employee health, measures to ensure physical distancing, and more.

The most salient safety measures, including those that stand to affect what you eventually see on-screen, include:

😷 All employees are required to wear cloth face coverings whenever they are in contact with others, unless — as in the case with actors — the production activity does not allow for the wearing of a face covering. Any latter such instances “should be of short duration and with as much physical distancing as possible,” though ideally “a minimum of 8 feet … during rehearsal or performance.”

😷 Any scenes requiring cast or crew to be closer than 6 feet must be as brief as possible and cast must be as silent as possible to avoid spreading droplets through talking. Scenes with direct prolonged physical contact between cast (intimate scenes, fight scenes) are discouraged at this time.

😷 All cast shall wash or sanitize hands when beginning the filming of a scene and not touch their face during the filming session.

😷 Large crowd scenes should be avoided.

😷 Hair and makeup services “should be limited only to cast that require it and cannot do it themselves.”

😷 Symptom checks are conducted before employees may enter the workspace.

😷 Studio audience members can include paid staff, and must be seated at least 6 feet from each other and wear face coverings whenever feasible. Audiences should be limited to 100 people or 25 percent of the maximum occupancy of the space (whichever is smaller).

😷 There must be regular, periodic testing of the cast and crew on a given production to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19, especially for those cast and crew that are involved in high risk scenes requiring close contact without face coverings for extended periods of time.

😷 Each production must assign a COVID-19 Compliance Officer or Officers, responsible for establishing and enforcing safety protocols.

Once again, L.A. County’s announced protocols are but among the first steps toward TV resuming production. It’s going to be a marathon more than a sprint, as the guilds weigh in and then as the studios adapt to accommodate the safety measures and any resulting slowdowns in production. Thus far, CBS’ fall schedule at least is kinda counting on returning shows being ready in time, while Fox and The CW announced largely “pandemic-proof” schedules that rely on already-produced or acquired programming. (ABC and NBC thus far are mum on their fall plans.)