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State Production Guidelines for COVID: A Definitive Guide to Reopening Film and TV Production

Original publish date: May 28, 2020

Overview of State Production Guidelines

UPDATED JULY 20, 2020

State production guidelines for reopening film and TV work in the age of COVID-19 are anything but uniform. With no national guidance, states are setting their own pandemic production rules on a case-by-case basis. Film offices and local health officials often weigh in as well in setting the COVID production guidelines for filmmaking.

In fact, the closest thing we have to universal production guidelines is the AMPTP labor safety committee’s industry white paper on COVID-19 guidelines for reopening production. Many film offices are using the white paper as a starting point for their own state guidelines on reopening film and TV production.

More recently, a production union and guild task force from DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters put out their own joint report on COVID production guidelines called The Safe Way Forward.

A number of production companies have relocated shoots or entire production offices in order to film in states with fewer COVID-19 cases or looser state guidelines on reopening production. With that in mind, we built this hub as a guide to filming in the states that have released COVID production guidelines so far.

Which states have reopened for film production during COVID-19?

Here we’ll keep a running list of states that have reopened film production to some extent during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with links to any state production guidelines they have provided. Keep this page bookmarked to continue monitoring which states have reopened for filming.

Arizona

Arizona is open for film and TV production, with productions asked to follow the general state guidelines for the workplace put forth in the governor’s executive order lifting restrictions on all businesses.

You can find information on the state’s production guidelines in place for safety on set, and find resources from the film office on the Arizona commerce site.

California

California production was reopened by Governor Gavin Newsom on June 12, 2020. However, the state has since reverted many counties, including those in Southern California, back to Phase 1.

Production is “subject to approval by county public health officers within the jurisdictions of operations following their review of local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing,” according to the California Department of Public Health.

All eyes have been on L.A. County, whose Public Health Director confirmed that film production can indeed resume, provided certain protocols have been implemented – these L.A. County production protocols were released by the L.A. County Department of Public Health on June 11.

Film permits did begin flowing again as of Monday, June 15, though the California Film Commission made adjustments to the application process due to COVID-19.

Learn more at the CFC’s California Production Incentive page here, or view our recorded webinar on the newest California film tax incentive.

Colorado

The Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media is following the state Safer At Home guidelines from the Governor’s office. Filming and photography permits are issued at the local level, so productions should check in with local municipalities (usually the office of the city or county clerk or the office of special events, depending on where you are filming).

The film office also suggests productions contact the local public health office to ensure they are following all required health and safety protocols. They are happy to assist getting you in touch with the right office; give them a call at 720 618 5055.

Florida

It’s no surprise to find Florida on this list, with its limited official enforcement of stay-at-home orders overall. But it’s wonderful to see Film Florida has put out some sensible guidelines to opening up production in the state of Florida.

Those COVID-specific state production guidelines include multiple rules per department, such as the sound unit using boom-only recording when possible, labeling microphones for individual on-camera talent, and disinfecting all mics and transmitters before and after use. Self-service meals are eliminated, with crew encouraged to bring lunches and eat in their individual vehicles if possible.

Georgia

Georgia Film has released a guide to best practices for filming in Georgia during COVID-19. Already a popular production state due to its generous incentive program, Georgia has gotten renewed attention from filmmakers looking for a state with fewer restrictions on “non-essential businesses.”

Some of the state production guide’s common-sense proscriptions include sharing tools, devices and paper… the office instead recommends digital call sheets and other forms of paperless production solutions.

Need a way to onboard your crew, contact-free? Check out TiM Digital Onboarding.

Hawaii

While the state is not yet issuing film permits for state lands, the island of Oahu reopened for production as of June 5, 2020. This includes the city of Honolulu.

The Honolulu Film Office has reopened for production, issuing film permits for city and county jurisdictions, on both public and private lands, and has updated Honolulu production information here. That page is home to a PDF titled COVID-19 Guidelines for the Film Industry in Honolulu 2020.

The Big Island of Hawaii is also open for production. Similar to Oahu, the island can issue film permits for local jurisdictions, just not state lands yet.

Illinois

Illinois is easing back into reopening production in phases, with the goal that by June 26, the state will be able to accommodate up to 50 people on a set provided they’re able to follow safety precautions.

The state is largely taking the lead of the Labor Management Safety Committee’s industry white paper, but expects to release its own version of production guidelines as well. Stay tuned to the Chicago Film Office website for updated guidance and filmmaker resources.

Looking for a deep dive on every film incentive in the U.S.? Explore our production incentives section to get started.

Louisiana

Louisiana has reopened production, and though the state does not have specific production guidelines for COVID-19, Louisiana Entertainment, a division of Louisiana Economic Development, points to state-wide safety guidance for businesses.

Stay updated at the Louisiana Entertainment website or contact them directly at 225 342 5403.

The New Orleans film permitting office, Film New Orleans, has released its own PDF of COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines.

Maryland

Maryland is in Stage 2 of the state’s reopening plan, which allows film and TV production to resume.

The film office points to the industry white paper for best practices, but you can always find the most updated information on state production protocols at the Maryland Film Office website.

Missouri

Missouri is generally going by state guidelines for businesses choosing to reopen during the pandemic, but the film office is referring productions to the Kansas City Film Office, which has put out its own PDF Guidelines to COVID-Safe Production.

Highlights include establishing an Infection Prevention Compliance Supervisor Role on each production, taking temperatures on set, providing personal protective equipment and staggering meals.

Montana

Montana is reopening for filming on a limited basis, provided filmmakers follow general state COVID guidelines for social distancing. Production permits are considered on a case-by-case basis, in particular for public lands and federal agencies. National park permits are discouraged at this time but will be considered, again case-by-case.

The state asks producers to be particularly cognizant of Native American communities that may be especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Production must get approval from tribal administrations for shooting in these communities.

The film office further discourages, as general state production guidelines:

State production guidelines, restrictions and information will be updated at the Montana Film Office’s COVID-19 production page.

Nebraska

According to the Nebraska Film Office, the state never closed for production, so reopening filming was not an issue. Nebraska even garnered some publicity for its claim to the first feature film shot entirely using Facetime, and directed remotely via Google Connection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film office does have a PDF of Nebraska state production guidelines, which are not rules per se but more a set of best practices during COVID which include establishing an Infection Prevention Compliance Supervisor and all set personnel wearing masks and other PPE.

Nevada

Nevada has reopened production and is providing permits in some areas of the states for productions of up to 50 persons on set.

In terms of production guidelines, you can get updated information on Nevada production during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

The Nevada Film Office also provides a PDF with some basic production safety guidelines, but advises that if the production is part of a larger company (HBO and Netflix are given as examples), and is operating under a film permit, then following the company’s established COVID-19 production guidelines is the best practice for Nevada production.

New Jersey

New Jersey is reopened for filming, and doesn’t have particular state production guidelines beyond appropriate state and local work protocols: “Social distancing, sanitizing of equipment, use of masks and gloves to the fullest degree possible, and limiting the amount of cast and crew members on the set to only those required. Anyone who can work remotely without coming into contact with other cast and crew members should do so.”

The New Jersey Film Office also reminds production companies that they must, obtain any required municipal or county permits, depending on where in the state they will be filming.

New York

New York has released its state production guidelines for reopening filming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York State is in Phase 2 of reopening production, which allows some film and production to resume, as well as set construction. The state is opening on a county- and industry-specific basis. Visit the film office page of the Empire State Development office for updated information.

The state has developed a unique lookup system to help you find out if film production is reopened in the particular New York county in which you’re looking to shoot. Also provided are business safety plan templates, which production companies are required to keep on premises for possible inspection by state health officials.

New York City itself entered Phase 4 on July 20, and began taking film permit applications for production beginning on or after July 27. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment offers updated NYC film production guidelines.

North Carolina

No film-specific state production guidelines as of yet, but North Carolina is in Phase 2 of its state-wide reopening plan, with hopes to move to Phase 3 by late July.

Per the film office, the Governor and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services will likely review and endorse the industry white paper when reopening production in the state.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Film and Music Office is moving in lockstep with a statewide phased reopening plan, setting up a page to specifically address reopening production in Oklahoma. A more detailed PDF guide to COVID production from the film office entitled Filming During COVID-19: Considerations for Oklahoma Filmmaking, and addresses special policies and procedures to reduce risk by film department, including: Art Department, Craft Services, Hair & Makeup, Casting, Location Scouting and Transpo… it even addresses considerations for minors.

Oregon

Reopened for production on May 11, 2020, the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA) has posted its protocols for safe production in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak on its website.

The state production guidelines were developed with the input of crew workers, actors, production companies, OMPA, Oregon Film and the Portland Film Office; they incorporate the industry white paper as a starting point. All Oregon productions are asked to have a written Health & Safety Plan that lays out specific procedures for adhering to the Oregon protocols and keeping crew and cast safe. The Oregon Protocols expressly do not override any “union, guild, government agency or local jurisdiction guidelines, or guidelines and regulations from insurance companies, production companies and studios & networks.”

You can click here for direct access to the detailed Oregon COVID state production protocols.

South Dakota

Reopened for production, but no specific state production guidelines in place or planned.

Per the film office, any restrictions or provisions are being decided at the local level, so production is encouraged to connect with local government officials for permitting and information.

Texas

The Lone Star State reopened for production as of June 3, 2020, provided productions can comply with state production guidelines for safety around COVID-19.

You can download a PDF of Texas state production guidelines here. Stay posted on the most up-to-date picture of production resources from the Texas Film Commission at the Texas Film Commission Coronavirus Advisory page.

Washington, DC (not yet)

The District of Columbia remains closed for non-essential business, which includes film production.

The best place to get territory production guidelines and stay on top of production reopening status is DC’s film permitting page.

Do you know of other states with published COVID-19 production guidelines?

We want to know about and post all state production guidelines, so the production community can have a complete picture of production reopening protocols in the age of COVID-19.

Please send any links or tips to clientservices@mediaservices.com.

Please put safety first on set, regardless of state guidelines.

Remember, there is no shot that is worth putting the lives or health of your fellow crew members in jeopardy. Regardless of any state production guidelines, let’s remember always to practice safe production procedures and incorporate common-sense safeguards against the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses when reopening production.

Questions about production payroll? Start with our Entertainment Payroll 101.


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