State Production Guidelines in the Age of COVID-19


By Media Services Payroll 

With California production reopening today, June 12, including in Los Angeles County, filmmakers are eager to know where and when production can begin all over the country. Comprehensive COVID-19 production guidelines are highly sought after for every conceivable filming location in the U.S.

State-by-State Production Reopening  Guidelines During COVID-19

As we close in on three months of stay-at-home orders in some places, many states have reopened for film production, with certain limitations and safety precautions in place. Others never closed for filming.

Production companies have even relocated offices or entire film shoots to areas of the country with lower infection rates or less stringent restrictions on production in the age of COVID-19. However, it should be noted that not a single state or municipality appears to be entirely without COVID-19 production guidelines, at least in voluntary form.

Seeking a Production Guidelines Standard for COVID-19

While Media Services Payroll provides a comprehensive hub for state production guidelines in the age of COVID-19, the biggest movement to date has been the establishment of an industry white paper on reopening production safely, put out by the AMPTP’s Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee in consultation with several union offices, film officials and medical professionals. 

Film offices without state production guidelines of their own largely point to the white paper as their recommended “best practices.”

Guidelines from the 22-page white paper include standard hygiene and social distancing practices, as well as industry-specific recommendations for such areas as casting, working with performers, transportation and meals – no more communal grazing at the craft services table!

You can find that industry white paper on the Media Services hub, as well as a running list of states that have opened up film production to some extent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Updated links to all available state production guidelines are available there as well.

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

A number of production companies are even re-locating shoots or entire production offices in order to film in locations with fewer COVID-19 cases or looser restrictions. With the production picture coming into a little sharper focus, we thought it’d be helpful to provide a guide to filming in the states that have released production guidelines so far.

Which states are allowing 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 (June 12)

While California pandemic re-opening production guidelines haven’t been posted yet, Governor Gavin Newsom says the state generally will allow production beginning as early as June 12

Production will be “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 Friday, provided certain protocols have been implemented, which are expected to be announced June 11. 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

The Hawaii Film Office states that the island of Oahu reopened for production as of June 5, 2020. This includes the city of Honolulu. No other Hawaii islands were open for film permitting at the time of this writing.

The Honolulu Film Office is issuing film permits, 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.

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.

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.

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 guidelines for safe production in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak on its website. The office says it borrowed its voluntary but essential production guidelines from the AMPTP, IATSE, BECTU, Nordic Film Guide, the EU and others… and is quick to point out that the state guidelines should 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.



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