Restarting Film Production: COVID-19 Guidelines By State | Wrapbook

Restarting Film Production: COVID-19 Guidelines By State

17 June 2020 | Loring Weisenberger

As film production ramps back up in the wake of COVID-19, producers everywhere have questions.

Rules and practices designed to protect the health of cast and crew alike are going to create necessary changes to production procedures across the board. From working with children, to best practices in renting studio space, to basic permitting, and even post-production workflows, no facet of filmmaking is likely to be unaffected in the new normal.

But what is the “new normal”? What does it look like?

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has been working hard to define exactly that with the recent release of an industry white paper containing comprehensive guidelines for maximizing safety and minimizing risk related to COVID-19.

It’s an excellent starting point, but, as always, production regulations can vary dramatically according to state and local regulations.

That’s why, in this post, we’re diving into a state-by-state list of all available COVID-19 production guidelines.

A QUICK NOTE:

Some states have not yet published any regulations, guidelines, or plans specific to the restarting of media production within their borders. Therefore, the current production climate in those states may not be reflected in this post.

If your desired state is not on the below list, check directly with local officials to determine whether film permitting is proceeding under any restrictions (or at all).

Alaska

Alaska has yet to release any state-specific guidelines for resuming production, but the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts is providing a website for information and resources related to the COVID-19 outbreak in Alaska.

Arizona

Arizona’s Stay At Home Order has been lifted, and the state is now open for filming and other business in accordance with Governor Doug Ducey’s Executive Order. The film office is primarily encouraging that production workers follow state and federal general COVID-19 safety recommendations.

However, they’re also maintaining restrictions on permitting within certain jurisdictions.

For more information, check out the official website of the Arizona Film Office.

California

Governor Gavin Newsom announced that counties throughout the state of California were clear to begin reopening to film production as of June 12th.

Of course, the seat of production in California remains in Los Angeles County, where the local Department of Health issued an extensive set of protocols for the industry to follow as production resumes. They’re following a staged approach, designed to expand safely over time.

Requiring cooperation with these guidelines, FilmLA began accepting new los angeles permit applications as of June 15th. However, significant restrictions on production size, complexity, and certain shooting locations are expected to stay in place through the near future.

For up-to-date information, visit FilmLA’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

Colorado

The Colorado Office of Film, Media, and Television maintains a helpful list of COVID-19 resources for its community. However, in terms of restarting production, they’re deferring to Colorado’s Safer At Home guidelines.

Film permitting in Colorado takes place at a local level, so check directly with local administrations and public health offices before planning your shoot. If you need assistance getting in touch with the right officials, the Colorado Office of Film, Media, and Television is happy to assist you online through their resources page or directly by phone at (303) 892-3840.

Delaware

Production-specific information is still scarce in Delaware, but the Delaware Division of the Arts is actively updating a COVID-19 Information Resources directory with links and general information, including outlines for each of the three phases of Delaware’s re-opening plan for industries associated with arts and culture.

Florida

The Florida Office of Film and Entertainment has compiled a comprehensive list of recommended best practices for resuming production within the state and encourages producers to seek guidance directly from local health offices.

For further resources, check out Film Florida’s Coronavirus Updates directory.

Georgia

Fully aware of the state’s status as an active production hub, the Georgia Department of Economic Development has taken the time to release a handy guide to best practices for film and television in advance of the state’s reopening to the film industry.

The guide is rooted in common sense safety measures and federal labor guidelines, but it also breaks down its recommendations by department, a feature bound to prove useful in the near future.

Hawaii

While the Hawaii Film Office is still suspending permits for state locations, film and television productions on the island of Oahu were allowed to resume as of June 5th.

To that end, the Honolulu Film Office has compiled a helpful list of COVID-19 resources, including a set of guidelines for the film industry intended to help producers and their crew safely navigate the recovery and restart phases of the state’s economic reopening.

On June 25th, the Hawaii Film Office offered an update by stating, “Once we receive the Governor’s approval to safely re-open filming across all islands and all counties, we will be able to let the industry know. As you all well know, the Film industry is poised to play a key role in the State of Hawaii’s economic recovery.”

Illinois

The Chicago Film Office stated that it would begin issuing new permits for filming starting on June 15th. For now, those permits will be reviewed on a case by case basis and only be issued for small productions, with a collective cast and crew comprised of ten or fewer people.

Within Chicago, all film activity must abide by the city’s Be Safe Film and Television Production Guidelines.

To ensure the safe expansion of the film industry as larger productions look to resume, the Chicago Film Office is working with other organizations, including the Illinois Film Office, who note that the Illinois Production Tax Credit Incentive program is “100% up and running.”

Indiana

The Indiana Film Commission states that film production may resume provided that state reopening guidelines are followed.

No production-specific recommendations have yet been published. The Commission is instead deferring directly to the guidelines detailed in Governor Eric Holcomb’s Roadmap to Safely Reopen Indiana.

Iowa

Prioritizing health and safety, Iowa’s State Office of Media Production has taken the time to craft a set of safety recommendations in the form of a curated list of current regulations, guidelines and expectations for the film industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though Iowa does not require general permits to film there, productions may have to make additional safety arrangements with their specific production locations before principal photography begins.

Kentucky

The Kentucky Office of Film and Development has yet to make any official announcements, but, as of August 7th, they have publishing a statement that they’ll be releasing recommendations shaped by local film industry experts.

For further updates, keep checking their official site as the situation develops.

Louisiana

Film production in Louisiana is restarting.

In July, Louisiana Entertainment published an extensive set of official safety guidelines for shooting in the state. The document is subject to change based on any new COVID-19 protocols released by state or federal sources in the future.

Maine

The state of Maine has been reopened for film and photography as of June 1st.

The Maine Film Office is maintaining a coronavirus updates that details state-specific COVID-19 production guidelines and attempts to address most frequently asked questions.

Maryland

Having entered Stage 2 of Governor Larry Hogan’s Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery, film and television production in the State of Maryland is permitted in accordance with federal safety guidelines. The Maryland Film Office urges that productions should adhere to the practices outlined in the AMPTP’s industry white paper, but also notes that the outbreak of COVID-19 is still a rapidly evolving situation that will require flexibility through the near future.

In addition, the Maryland Film Office encourages prospective productions to carefully review local coronavirus regulations and procedures before any plans are constructed.

Mississippi

The Mississippi Film Office is asking that all productions not only review their Shoot Healthy: Best Practices for Production During COVID-19 handbook but also that they attain signed documents to that same effect from any individual associated with the production.

The Mississippi Film Office stresses that suggestions for COVID-19 health and safety are not limited to their guidelines. In recognition of the fact that this is an evolving situation, they encourage that productions double check their procedures with all relevant professional and governmental organizations.

Missouri

In Missouri, the Kansas City Film Office is taking the lead in laying out a plan to resume productions across the state.

To help ensure the safe reopening of their film industry, the office has issued a comprehensive handbook, A Safe Return to Production: Recommended Guidelines and Best Practices for the KC Film Industry During COVID-19, which emphasizes a coordinated reorganization of schedules and procedures to avoid coronavirus outbreaks.

You can also check out this page to register your project with the KC Film Office in advance of production.

Montana

With ample space and established infrastructure, the State of Montana may see a rise in the number of productions heading its way in the coming months.

The state is in the second of three phases in its reopening plan, which means that productions can resume in Montana as long as they adhere to best practices recommended at the federal level.

To help ease the restarting process, the Montana Film Office has released a guide to filming in Montana during its phased reopening, which emphasizes that local officials are still proceeding cautiously, particularly with the issuing of permits.

The Film Office is now also updating a Coronavirus Information page to help filmmakers navigate changes in the process.

Nebraska

Nebraska never officially closed to filming during the pandemic, but the State of Nebraska is rapidly reopening businesses and public gatherings of all kinds across the board, with the encouragement of mask wearing and social distancing phasing out as early as June 22nd in most counties.

To that end, the Nebraska Film Office is deferring its best practices recommendations to those of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

However, the Film Office also suggests that productions consider adherence to the production-specific guidelines recently issued by the joint efforts of SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Teamsters, and the DGA.

Nevada

The State of Nevada opened up to productions with a combined cast and crew of 50 people or less as of May 28th, with the situation set to be closely monitored by officials through at least June 30th.

For a complete list of jurisdictions that are currently issuing filming permits, visit the official website of the Nevada Film Office.

The site also provides general information, COVID-19 updates, and a helpful PDF detailing Nevada’s production safety guidelines.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission has announced that the state is currently open to productions. The commission states that productions are subject to statewide regulations for business operations, but has yet to outline any best practices specific to local film production.

If you’re thinking of shooting in New Jersey, be sure to check with local jurisdictions to make sure permitting is proceeding as usual. For further information on specific city or county offices, e-mail njfilm@sos.nj.gov.

New Mexico

According to the New Mexico Film Office, the state is now open for filming.

All productions must adhere to several sets of state-mandated and professional guidelines: state COVID-Safe Practices for Individuals and Employers, state COVID-Safe Practices for Office and Call Centers, state COVID-Safe Practices for Construction and Field Operations, as well as the guidelines suggest by AMPTP’s White Paper.

Additionally, the New Mexico Film Office has also released “Back2One, their own set of principles, general recommendations, and resources for film and television productions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further information, be sure to keep tabs on the New Mexico Film Office’s COVID-19 Information Directory.

New York

Phase Four of New York’s “New York Forward” reopening plans allows media production to resume.

The state-issued industry specific guidance includes documents for Summary Guidance, Detailed Guidance, and a Business Safety Plan Template.

North Carolina

2019 was a banner year for film production in North Carolina, and professionals in the state are hoping that 2020 still has a chance to bounce back and continue the upward trend.

The North Carolina Film Office is officially open for production, provided it is done in a safe manner that includes social distancing and efforts to reduce transmission.

The film commission strongly recommends adhering to the restrictions found in the Industry Safety White Paper.

For more details, check out the North Carolina Film Office’s directory of COVID-19 Information.

Ohio

While there are no statewide protocols, central Ohio’s Film Columbus organization has established their own set of local COVID Film Production Guidelines in addition to a mor general reference to the standard AMPTP guidelines.

Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Film + Music Office is providing an actively updated COVID-19 production resource through its Reopening Oklahoma webpage, containing a host of information, links, and contact details to help producers get what they need.

In conjunction with the state’s three-phase reopening plan, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office has also published a comprehensive best practices booklet, Filming During COVID-19: Considerations for Oklahoma Filmmaking.

Oregon

The Oregon Media Production Association’s General Production Protocols for COVID-19 represents the state’s most comprehensive review of best practices for filmmaking during the coronavirus pandemic.

The OMPA refers to these guidelines as “voluntary but essential” and continues to update them regularly. As Oregon continues its gradual reopening, keep an eye out for safety developments directly from the state government

Pennsylvania

While no state-wide procedures have been released to guide production in Pennsylvania, both the Pittsburgh Film Office and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office are maintaining COVID-19 resource directories.

Both organizations state that they will continue to update their directories as more information becomes available.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Film & Television Office maintains a directory of COVID-19 Information to guide productions.

Current protocols mostly reflect those determined by the health department as part of the state’s Reopening RI plan, but the Film & Television office has also updated their permitting process with an important COVID addendum.

South Carolina

The Carolina Film Alliance has issued no production guidelines for the state. However, they do refer their members to recommendations set by Local 600.

Download Local 600’s guidelines here.

Tennessee

The Tennessee Entertainment Commission highlights their COVID-19 Resources directory.

Their TN Pledge Media Production Guidelines provide general safety protocols designed to cover a broad spectrum of media-based production.

You can download a .pdf version of those guidelines here.

Texas

The Texas Film Commission states that, as of June 3rd, productions may resume operation provided they comply with the state safety guidelines within their Open Texas Checklist for Media Production.

For a full list of COVID-19 production resources, check out the Texas Film Commission’s Coronavirus & Open Texas webpage.

Utah

The Utah Film Commission notes that film production in the state may commence on a limited, case-by-case basis. As best practices evolve over time, the Film Commission intends to keep filmmakers informed via their COVID-19 Updates page.

The Utah Film Commission has also taken the time to craft their own Recommendations for Healthy & Safe Production Sets, to be used in tandem with the AMPTP’s Industry White Page.

Virginia

As of June 1st, Virginia is “currently open to all safe, responsible production”, provided that productions adhere to the recommendations laid out by the Virginia Department of Health and Governor Ralph Northam’s Guidelines for All Business Sectors.

As the situation in the state continues to evolve, the Virginia Film Office promises to keep community members updated with further best practices and guidelines.

Washington

On July 8th, the Washington State Governor’s Office and Department of Health and Labor & Industries has cleared the motion picture industry to “resume safe operations in any county currently in Phase 2 or 3 of the Governor’s Safe Start Plan”. To aid the resumption of production, the Governor’s Office released an official document of mandatory set safety protocols document that you can find here.

Additionally, Washington Filmworks has created a thorough directory of COVID-19 Resources for Film Production that their office will be updating as the situation surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve.

West Virginia

The West Virginia Film Office offers no official guidelines specific to film production in the state. However, their website has issued a health and safety alert that ultimately defers to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 information directory.

For further questions, the West Virginia Film Office can be reached directly by calling (866) 6WV-FILM or e-mailing wvfilm@wv.gov.

Wrapping Up

Cast and crew safety should always come first, even when we’re not dealing with a global pandemic.

Just like a successful film production, fighting the outbreak of COVID-19 requires the coordinated effort of countless individuals. Do your part by following all health and safety recommendations on set.

If you don’t know where to start, try the AMPTP’s Industry White Paper.

And if you’re aware of any production guidelines not listed above, we want to hear about them. Drop us a line.

Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a writer, director and graduate of Chapman University’s MFA program in film production. Loring earned his production chops as an independent producer and assistant director, working across multiple formats for companies as diverse as Issa Rae’s Color Creative TV, Blackpills, Havas Worldwide, BuzzFeed and many more.

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