News & InfoEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Newsroom Home

After the Coronavirus, the Race to Resume Film Production Goes Global

Countries compete for attention as production ramps up following extended shutdowns
May 18, 2020

As seen on Los Angeles Times

Ever since the coronavirus crisis put entertainment production in a deep freeze, Hollywood has been eager to get the cameras rolling again.

After all, box office revenue has sunk to virtually zero and more than 100,000 entertainment industry workers have lost their jobs.

With stay-at-home orders in place and domestic production at a standstill, filmmakers are starting to see a thaw abroad.

In recent weeks, several countries have raised their flags, vying for production. They tout their incentives, facilities and locations but also their low COVID-19 numbers, testing capabilities and measures to keep productions safe and minimize outbreaks.

“It’s about options,” said Joseph Chianese, executive vice president at Entertainment Partners, an industry consultancy based in Burbank. “Before it was who had the higher incentives, infrastructure and crew to support my production.” Now Chianese says, the formula has shifted, with people also asking: Is it safe and is it close?

The globe began spinning last month when Netflix’s content chief, Ted Sarandos, mentioned during an earnings call that the streaming giant was shooting in Iceland and South Korea.

With its vigilant COVID-19 testing, a Netflix endorsement and a plan for safe and secure production on the table, Iceland received an upsurge in interest from filmmakers.

Last week, Iceland announced it would open the country to foreign film crews beginning May 15 under strict testing and tracking measures. Those entering the country will be offered a variety of quarantine and testing options and will be asked to comply with stringent safety requirements on set. Further easing of restrictions is expected on June 15.

In recent weeks, as governments review border policies and airlines have limited travel, film commissions and producers have been establishing guidelines and protocols to get a jump on filming.

“We want to get that production out of suspended animation,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive at the British Film Commission, noting that film was one of the country’s fastest growing sectors.

Major players including Walt Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. have made substantial investments in the United Kingdom. Last year Disney signed a long-term lease at Pinewood Studios outside of London, while Netflix locked up 14 soundstages at Shepperton Studios. Warner Bros. has its own studios at Leavesden, near the capital.

Major U.S. studios “have got production that is suspended here that they want to start up again,” Wootton said.

The British Film Commission, which hopes to reopen this summer, has compiled a 26-page set of proposals to restart high-end TV and film production with feedback from unions and other industry groups.

The recommendations include requirements for coronavirus health and safety training for all crew members; the use of masks, gloves, hand-washing, cleaning and twice daily temperature checks; a dedicated COVID-19 health and safety supervisor; and quarantining of foreign crews.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Czech Republic was among the first countries to resume production. The country’s film commissioner has said international filming halted by the pandemic would begin this month. Before the shutdown, Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom were filming Amazon Studios’ second season of “Carnival Row,” and Disney’s Marvel Studios was filming “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”

The country has exempted actors and performers from wearing masks while working but requires testing proof every 14 days. Foreign actors and crew members must test negative for the virus before boarding a flight to the country, and within 72 hours of arrival, undergo a second test, and remain quarantined until they receive a negative result.

Neighboring Slovakia, meanwhile, touts the fact that it never closed for filming.

“Unlike in other countries, filming was not banned, as it is considered manufacturing and not a cultural event,“ said Zuzana Bieliková, head of the Slovak Film Commission.

However, she noted that most production outside of small-scale projects was halted until the country got the virus under control. Local films and TV shows are expected to begin again in June.

“We do have quite a few requests from international [mostly U.K., German, U.S.] film crews that would like to film in Slovakia in the summer and autumn,“ she said.

Bieliková said the commission offers online location scouting so international crews don’t have travel in person while searching for locations. Among the new protocols, anyone entering the country must first undergo a 14-day quarantine (except for those with proof they are COVID-19 negative).

In New Zealand, where Disney’s “Avatar” sequels were being filmed before the virus halted production, and where early and strict restrictions resulted in low infection rates and containment, the government has approved protocols for domestic filming, some of which are already underway.

“We also look forward to welcoming back international productions that were shooting here and those that had planned to shoot here and want to create a safe environment for that,” said Annabelle Sheehan, chief executive of the New Zealand Film Commission. “I think every country will create effective [health and safety plans] that account for COVID issues as they move toward resuming production in their countries.”

While Australia’s borders remain closed to international filming, the country has been opening up its domestic production. In March, Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced they’d both tested positive for the coronavirus while Hanks was in Australia filming the untitled Baz Luhrmann Elvis Presley biopic.

The longstanding Australian soap opera “Neighbors” resumed production this month under strict health and sanitation protocols, including no kissing or hand holding. Cast and crew isolated into three groups and deployed camera tricks to make actors appear more intimate on screen then they are on set.

Back in the U.S., some enterprising film executives are urging producers to look closer to home.

Lynn-Wood Fields, the marketing producer at Montana Studios in Hamilton, suggests Montana.

“It is in the U.S., there are direct fights, we have unbelievable resources, including testing, and we’re open,” she said. “We have a joke here: ‘Six feet, that seems a little close.’”

Fields said that the 12,000 square feet of operational soundstage space in Hamilton and its post-production space in Butte can compete with any country. As well, she said it has partnered with a primary care doctor to test crews weekly and cast daily and a manufacturing partnership producing antiviral masks.

Last year, the state passed a competitive production rebate of up to 35%

“We have progressive COVID-19 testing,” Fields said, also noting: “Our numbers are so much lower than New Zealand.” (As of Thursday, the state had 16 total deaths and 462 confirmed cases.)

In part, the appeal of filming abroad is because the U.S. has yet to contain the virus or provide adequate testing, and safety and health measures on set have yet to be established, let alone implemented.

Another hurdle: Insurance companies that have long protected studios from a multitude of circumstances that could hamper or delay filming are reluctant to underwrite productions, regardless of geography.

Locally, film officials are working with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to establish criteria for filming on set and on location. Despite progress, no date has been set for the start of filming, said Paul Audley, president of FilmLA.

“I see no reason why we shouldn’t have production back in the next few months,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday.

Attorney Dan Stone, a partner in the litigation and entertainment and media groups of Greenberg Glusker, says the lack of a unified approach could further delay the return of domestic production. “Ultimately the industry will need some form of uniform guidelines,” he said.

Hollywood unions, including SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America, are playing a key role.

“Companies and studios are putting out their thoughts and recommendations on how production will work,” Chianese said. “But if you look at the U.S., it’s the unions and guilds that will dictate what they need to make sure their members are safe.”

IATSE International President Matthew Loeb has said the union and its locals, whose 150,000 members work behind the scenes of productions in the U.S. and Canada, will negotiate with studios to establish a “uniform set of terms and conditions so that there’s no differences based on where a given production may take place.” This week the union announced it had hired three epidemiologists to consult on reopening procedures.

Film industry officials north of the border are also proceeding cautiously. Lisa Beare, British Columbia’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, said earlier this month, “We are confident that the motion picture industry will be able to restart under enhanced protocols” in June and July.

In Ontario this week, post-production and animation teams will be allowed to return to their studios under strict set sanitation requirements, said Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries.

When will actual filming restart? “It’s tough to say simply because we are waiting for the spread of COVID-19 to really slow,” MacLeod said.

For an industry that operates under constant uncertainty, COVID-19 presents a complex, possibly intractable set of unknowns.

Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute’s Center for Regional Economics, said, “I think some productions are absolutely looking at other countries and saying, ‘We’ve got an option here; let’s go ahead and jump on this. We are going to film somewhere else, especially if it makes a difference in being able to keep going and keep our financing.’”

But, he cautions, “What do you do if there is simply a breakout on set? Long-term, coronavirus is a problem everywhere, even if places like New Zealand or South Korea have done a better job of managing it.”

Topic: COVID-19

Related Content

AMPTP and  Unions Update  the Industry  Return-to-Work  Agreement

AMPTP and Unions Update the Industry Return-to-Work Agreement

AMPTP and industry unions revised the Return-to-Work Agreement, effective May 1, 2022
Topic: COVID-19

Special Report: Entertainment – Soundstage Gold Rush

Hollywood is experiencing an ongoing boom that fills its Los Angeles production hub to overflow levels.
California Extends Emergency COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for 3 More Months

California Extends Emergency COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for 3 More Months

The most recent extension expires on December 31, 2022.
Topic: Alerts

Film Industry Booms in Buffalo

Western New York draws top filmmakers with expanded tax incentives, new soundstages, and architectural...
Master Series Square Thumbnail-Film Financing-Crowdfunding

Film Financing Explained: Crowdfunding

Emily Best (Seed&Spark), Stacy Bradford (Indiegogo), and producer Zach Fineblum join us to discuss the ins...
EP Blog_SQUARE_1st AC Matt Sanderson

Meet the First Assistant Camera

A conversation with 1st AC Matt Sanderson ('Everything Everywhere All At Once')
EP-Newsroom-Below the Line-Thumbnail-480

Union Roundup: Production Incentives Experts Gather, Hoping Hollywood Can Bring Economic Recovery As We Learn to Live With Covid

Entertainment Partners offered an update on U.S. Production Incentives for 2022. The seminar focused on...
EP Blog_SQUARE_US Expanded Incentives 2022-2

A Record Number of US States Expand Filmmaking Incentives in 2022

Your guide to the latest news in production incentives and film programs to come from the 2022 legislative...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New US Incentives 2022

New US Film Incentives Introduced in Arizona, Indiana, Florida, and West Virginia

As production continues to boom, new tax credits and other programs welcome industry to new locations...
EP Webinar Panelists - US Production Incentives Update

US Production Incentives Update: New and Expanded Programs in 2022

Film commissioners Colleen Bell and Sandy Lighterman, and production executives Jay Roewe and Ashley Rice,...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Atlantic Canada Expands Incentives

Atlantic Canada Expands Film Incentives in 2022

Enhanced production incentive programs attract industry to Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and...
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Explaining Hollywood: How to get a job as a production accountant

Mark Goldstein speaks to the LA Times about the high demand for production accountants
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...

Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Festival 2022 Winners Include ‘Please Baby Please,’ ‘Mars One’

‘Please Baby Please’ and ‘Mars One’ among winners of the 40th Anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
Master Series Panelists-World Revenues, Foreign Sales, Senior Debt

Film Financing Explained: World Revenues, Foreign Sales, and Senior Debt

Learn how working with agents, international distributors, and gap financiers can all factor into...

Producing with Purpose

Creative Producer, Kimberly Goodman ('Selling Sunset', 'Project Runway') shares insights on creating...
EP Blog_The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

Film and television studios are embracing the green movement in a big way. Here’s what you can expect to...
Master Series Panel-Solving the crew shortage

Solving the Crew Shortage

Learn how EP Academy, the Georgia Film Academy, Reel Works, the New Mexico Film Office, and others, are...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-480-the olympian

More Movies Could Soon be Filmed in WA as Inslee OKs Film Incentives Passed by Legislature

The law will provide tax breaks for filmmakers looking to make movies in Washington

Georgia Proposes Capping and Prohibiting Sale of Film Tax Credits

The changes, if signed into law, would cap the amount Georgia hands out in film and TV tax credits at $900...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-Portland Business Journal

How Oregon’s updated film incentive law could boost the local economy

A new Oregon film and media incentive law could draw more movie productions to the state.
EP Blog_Marge Dean

Opening Career Doors

How WIA President, Marge Dean, is shaping the future of animation and empowering underrepresented genders
EP Blog-proud to support-square

Proud to Support: Celebrating Client Nominations at the 94th Academy Awards

A look at the evolution of the Oscars and the notable films powered by Entertainment Partners technology.

Russian Invasion Hits Ukrainian Production Industry Just Starting to Go International

"Ukraine was just starting to open up to the world, now everything has closed up again."
Site Selection Magazine logo-sq

The Stage is Set

Puerto Rico Beckons to Film & TV Production Industry

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.