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SAG-AFTRA Board Approves New Three-Year Deal with Producers

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The SAG-AFTRA national board of directors met by videoconference yesterday and approved the tentative three-year agreement reached earlier this month with the AMPTP. With the board’s approval, the deal covering film, TV and new media production now goes to the performers guild membership for ratification.

Though not quite a slam dunk, the 67.61% to 32.39% SAG-AFTRA board vote constitutes a “super majority,” avoiding the requisite inclusion of a minority report in the recommendation to ratify – though one will still be included, the guild said.

Increased SAG-AFTRA scale wages and residuals

The tentative deal includes a 2.5% wage increase in the first year, and 3% increase in the second and third years of the agreement, according to SAG-AFTRA. Those increases will be subject to retroactive payments back to July 1 if the membership ratifies the agreement, and are in keeping with entertainment payroll increases secured by other above the line guilds.

Additional wins for guild members touted by SAG-AFTRA include a 26% increase in residuals for fixed streaming residuals over the first three years of availability for high-budget programs on subscription platforms, along with a sizable increase in health plan funding over the course of the agreement with the AMPTP, increased performer protections for nudity and simulated sex scenes, and a move from fixed to revenue-based residuals on syndication deals.

The guild also negotiated for improved formulas for foreign streaming residuals in year two of the agreement, as well as a more lucrative overtime calculation for weekly Schedule H-II stunt performers on episodic TV series, one additional covered background position for West Coast episodic production, and increases to money and schedule breaks.

“We achieved unprecedented increases in residuals in the fastest-growing category, we secured ground-breaking protections for members in the areas of nudity, simulated sex and sexual harassment, and we strengthened our benefit plans,” said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator David White.

Historic protections for SAG-AFTRA performers in scenes of nudity and simulated sex

According to SAG-AFTRA, the new protections for its guild performers (both principal and background for most) include clarity on the authorized use of digital doubles and digitization, stricter safeguards at auditions and interviews; a 48-hour review period for riders; better “closed set” definitions, prohibitions on digital device recordings and access to a “cover up, such as a bathrobe.”

Residuals formula update on syndicated TV product

For the new residuals formula on syndicated programs, SAG-AFTRA clarified that any product on an existing license will continue to pay residuals under the current fixed residual formula through both the duration of the license and any extensions, while for new licenses, the fixed residual will be replaced with a revenue-based residuals model.

The guild said the tentative deal also eliminates the advance payment of residuals for future syndication for performer contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2020… a significant financial protection for performers.

SAG-AFTRA ratification vote next

The ratification vote will be conducted online per an earlier board resolution, though paper ballots are available to eligible SAG-AFTRA voting members on request. The deadline for voting is July 22 at 5pm PT.

If ratified by the guild membership, the new SAG-AFTRA contract will be effective retroactively from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023.

Need SAG-AFTRA scale rates? Visit our FREE Showbiz Labor Guide.

Pandemic Production Guidelines by State: A Definitive Guide for Film and TV Reopening

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UPDATED JUNE 25, 2020

The film and TV industry is eager to know when and where production is going to be coming back full force. As we know, there is no single answer for this, as COVID-19 reopening production guidelines are being set case-by-case, per state and local government film offices.

However, the AMPTP’s Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee for the Motion Picture and Television Industry has released a comprehensive industry white paper on reopening production guidelines that many film offices are pointing to as a starting point.

More recently, a production union and guild task force from DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters put their own joint report on production guidelines called The Safe Way Forward – you can download that here.

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

Which states are open for film production?

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

Arizona

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

You can find information on the production protocols in place for safety on set, and find resources from the film office here.

California

California production was reopened by Governor Gavin Newsom on June 12, 2020.

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 are expected to begin flowing again as of Monday, June 15. Stay updated at FilmLA or right here on our page.

Meanwhile, the California Film Commission has made some adjustments to the application process for their production incentive program 3.0.

While normally the CFC would hold the initial allocation period in May and issue tax credit allocation letters on July 1, they have pushed back those dates and shortened the application periods to three days each due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in the state.

Applications for Recurring and Relocating TV Series will now be taken June 22-24, and for Feature/Independent Films July 13-15. Credit allocation letter dates will be July 20 and August 17, respectively. Note no new TV projects are being accepted right now, as recurring series are oversubscribed. Learn more at the CFC’s California Production Incentive page here.

Colorado

The Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media is following the statewide 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 Florida.

Those 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 on production to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia. 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 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 is 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 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 here.

Louisiana

Louisiana is open for 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, which you can find here.

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

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 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 open for filming on a limited basis, provided filmmakers follow general statewide guidelines for social distancing. 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:

  • Shoots with large numbers of extras, elderly participants.
  • Shoots where adequate sanitation measures cannot be taken.
  • Shoots where social distancing measures would be ineffective

Production restrictions, guidelines 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, even garnering some publicity for its claim to the first feature film shot entirely using Facetime, and directed remotely via Google Connection.

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

Nevada

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

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 production guidelines is the best practice for Nevada production.

New Jersey

New Jersey is open for filming, and doesn’t have particular 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 they will be filming.

New York

New York has released its state production guidelines for COVID-19 filming here.

New York State is in Phase 2 of reopening, 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 allowed in the particular New York county in which you’re looking to shoot. Also provided are business safety plan templates, which all New York businesses are required to keep on premises for possible inspection by state health officials.

New York City has begun offering permits for production beginning July 1 or later. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment offers updated NYC film production guidelines here.

North Carolina

No film-specific provisions as of yet, but the state is in Phase 2 of its state-wide reopening plan, with hopes to move to Phase 3 by late June.

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.

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 Oklahoma production here. A more detailed guide from the film office entitled Filming During COVID-19: Considerations for Oklahoma Filmmaking is available as a PDF download, and addresses special policies and procedures to reduce risk by department, including: Art Department, Craft Services, Hair & Makeup, Casting, Location Scouting and Transpo… it even addresses considerations for minors.

Oregon

Re-opened 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 production protocols.

South Dakota

Open for production, but no statewide 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 opened for production as of June 3, 2020, provided productions can comply with state-recommended safety guidelines.

You can download a PDF of Texas 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 production guidelines and stay on top of opening 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 them, so the production community can have a complete picture of production guidelines by state in the age of COVID-19.

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

Please put safety first on set.

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

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

CARES Act: What’s in It for Production Companies

Below are our summaries of some of the relevant sections of the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed into law March 24. As always, consult with your legal counsel and financial advisors as to best options for your company’s particular situation.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program has given the Small Business Administration authority to provide small business loans with special properties, backed by the federal government.

The program is for employers who maintain their payroll during the COVID-19 emergency. If employers generally maintain their payroll, the loan would be eligible for forgiveness of up to 8 weeks of payroll plus utility and rent/mortgage interest costs, based on employee retention and salary level continuity.

Loans will also have no SBA fees, and at least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year. Small businesses and other eligible entities will be able to apply if they were harmed by COVID-19 between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

This program would be retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls; loans are available through June 30, 2020.

The program and its eligibility requirements can be broken into two distinct parts: the loan itself, and the forgivable part of it (what the government will pay off for you).

The loan itself

  • The types of businesses and entities eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program are businesses with fewer than 500 employees, sole proprietors, nonprofits, independent contractors, tribal entities, and eligible self-employed individuals. To be eligible the business must have been in operation on February 15, 2020.
  • The maximum loan amount is the lesser of: $10 million or 250% of average monthly payroll costs through December 31, 2020 and the maximum maturity is 10 years after application for forgiveness.
  • Business loans may be used for payroll support, such as employee salaries, commission, regular paid leave (not COVID-19 leave, which is covered under a different provision), insurance premiums, mortgage, rent and utility payments. The loan must include a “good faith certificate” to use funds for this purpose.
  • Limitation on loans – CANNOT use to compensate employees at an annual rate of pay above $100,000 (prorated to the eight weeks) or to pay for emergency sick and family leave.
  • Any canceled debt under the program is excluded from borrower’s gross income for tax purposes.

Loan forgiveness

Borrowers may be eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the amount spent during an 8 week period after the origination date of the loan on: payroll costs; interest payment on any mortgage incurred prior to February 15, 2020; payment of rent for lease in force prior to February 15, 2020; payment of utility services that were begun prior to February 15, 2020.

  • Amounts forgiven of course may not exceed the principal amount of the loan.
  • Forgiveness is equal to the sum of payroll costs incurred during covered 8 week period compared to the previous year or time period, proportionate to maintaining employees and wages:
  • Formula: Payroll costs PLUS any payment of interest on any covered mortgage obligation (not including any prepayment of or payment of principal on a covered mortgage obligation) PLUS any payment on any covered rent obligation and any covered utility payment
  • Forgiveness Reduction: Amount forgiven is reduced proportionately by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and reduced by the reduction in pay of any employee beyond 25 percent of their prior year compensation.

Emergency EIDL grants & loans

These grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

The advance is intended to provide immediate assistance for eligible expenses such as keeping employees on payroll, paying for sick leave or to pay business obligations including debts, rent and mortgage payments. The advance does not need to be repaid… in other words, it just comes off the top of the loan.

Entities that can apply for an EIDL have been expanded to include tribal business, cooperatives and ESOP’s with fewer than 500 employees or any individual operating as a sole proprietor or independent contractor between January 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

The loan maximum is $2 million… with the emergency advance on that loan set at maximum $10,000.

Payroll Tax Credit

A refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of qualified wages paid to certain employees during the COVID-19 crisis is available to employers, including non-profits, whose operations have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings.

The credit is also provided to employers who have experienced a greater than 50 percent reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year basis. The credit is for wages paid between March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

  • For eligible employers with greater than 100 full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services due to the COVID-19 related circumstances described above.
  • For eligible employers with fewer than 100 full time employees, all employee wages qualify for the payroll tax credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order
  • Credit will be capped after the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee.
  • Employers participating in the Paycheck Prevention Program are NOT eligible for the payroll tax credits.

Deferred Employer Payroll Taxes

Employers and self-employed individuals can defer 50% of the employer share of the Social Security tax otherwise owed to the federal government. Payment of the deferred tax is due over two years with 50% due December 31, 2021 and the remaining half by December 31, 2022.
• Employers taking part in Paycheck Prevention Program are NOT eligible for deferment of employer payroll taxes.

A word about Employer of Record (EOR) / Statutory Payroll

As you may know, the employment structure under which “Employer-of-Record” entertainment payroll service companies and their clients operate is different from a direct, single employer structure.

In the EOR model, the production company is what’s known as the “common law employer” for hiring, wage-and-hour compliance, working conditions, safety, etc…. while the payroll company is the “statutory employer,” responsible for tax withholdings/ contributions, unemployment and workers’ comp claims. The payroll company statutory employer is known colloquially as “Employer of Record.”

Under this model, the EOR payroll company submits all employer payroll taxes (Social Security, Disability, State Unemployment and Federal Unemployment) under its own Employer Information Number (EIN). This can present an additional layer of complexity when it comes to claiming a payroll tax credit.

Current guidance from the Department of Treasury and the IRS do not address this particular case, so we do not have complete information yet. As for the PPP small business loan, we are in discussions with lenders as to what they can accept as backing documentation for payroll.

For current payroll clients: we currently have payroll reporting available which may meet your needs for some of the above programs. Please get in touch at clientservices@mediaservices.com to request.

How Production Crews Come To Embrace the W2

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While smaller productions in the past may have paid their production crew as independent contractors and issued a 1099 at the end of the year, more and more producers are getting on the W2 train and paying crew and cast members properly: as employees. Our own Anthony Lopez recently wrote about this very topic on ProductionHub, letting crew members know what to expect when switching from 1099 to W2 payroll. (Hint: there are a lot of good things about it!)

Some of the topics the article covers are:

  • What’s the difference between a W2 and 1099?
  • Why is production making me switch to W2s?
  • How W2 employment is actually good for crew members

Crew members making the switch to being paid as W2 employees instead of 1099 independent contractors will be happy to learn about some of the benefits of W2 employment. The article considers the upside of the production employee categorization, for the crew member. These include:

  • Unemployment benefits. Production crew members paid as employees are able to file for unemployment when the job ends. This is a perk not afforded to independent contractors, who are expected to participate in the profit and loss of their business. Losses include not being able to find work!
  • Workers’ Compensation coverage. In a proper employment scenario, the production company is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover crew employees who sustain injuries on the job that keep them from working. Workers’ comp is often provided by an employer-of-record payroll service hired by production.
  • Overtime and meal penalties. Film set employees who are hourly must be paid proper overtime, as well as meal penalties when breaks are not provided per state and federal law. When the production works with a reputable payroll service, those situations are flagged and required.
  • Social Security and taxes. Film crew workers paid as W2 employees have Social Security contributions withheld from their checks, as well as state and federal income tax and other fringes. While it might seem like less pay up front, it ends up helping the crew member not get caught short at tax time, as well as shoring up their Social Security funds for retirement.

Conclusion: W2 employment for crew members is not only the right thing to do, but actually in the crew’s best interest. See the full article here.

Questions about W2s vs 1099s for production crews?

Anthony Lopez is a senior payroll consultant who specializes in crew hiring best practices. He can be reached at 917 305 8322 or anthonyl@mediaservices.com .

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