Filmmaking Declines Sharply in Los Angeles After Covid Spike

The number of new applications to shoot movies, TV shows and commercials in Los Angeles dropped sharply in December, reflecting a spike in Covid-19 cases that has filled up hospitals and left thousands dead.

Only 613 new film-permit applications were submitted to FilmLA, the nonprofit that oversees productions in the U.S. entertainment capital. That’s a 25% decline from November, when Hollywood was still slower than normal but crawling back from a total suspension of filming between March and June.

The permitting office expects productions to continue their extended holiday hiatus, based on the volume of queries for new projects. While filmmaking is considered an “essential” activity in Los Angeles, and is allowed to continue with precautions, most studios voluntarilyextended the normal hiatus they take around the holidays.

Asurge in Covid cases in Southern California is crushing industries trying to recover from the brutal slowdown. TV and movie sets are particularly risky, because they require people to gather and physically interact. Though Hollywood trade unions and studios have come up with lengthy and strict guidelines to prevent Covid breakouts on set, there have still been coronavirus cases that have halted activity.

SAG-AFTRA, the powerful entertainment-workers union, said earlier this month it recommends its members halt work until the outbreak eases. With hospitals full and ambulances unavailable, even small medical issues on set can become extremely risky, union Executive Director David White said in a statement on Jan. 3.

Even so, some productions are looking to move forward. Of the 588 permits granted, 27% of them were for TV shows and 6% were for feature films. The remaining applications related to advertisements or other types of work, FilmLA said. Some projects on hiatus said they might come back in mid-January, though SAG-AFTRA warned in December that the industry might not fully restart until the end of January or later.

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