Newsroom Home

California productions to spend at least $90 million on COVID-19 safety measures

A new report has put a price tag COVID-19-related costs, according to data released from the California Film Commission
November 16, 2021
Los Angeles Times logo

As seen on Los Angeles Times

Kaley Cuoco, Michiel Huisman in “The Flight Attendant.” The TV show was one of five that relocated to California to take advantage of film tax credits. (PHIL CARUSO/HBO)

The COVID-19 pandemic halted productions and imposed costly new safety measures on film and TV projects.

A new report has put a price tag on the costs, at least for film and TV productions that received state tax credits.

About 50 film and television projects in the California tax incentive program are expected to spend more than $90 million on COVID-19-related costs, according to data released from the California Film Commission Tuesday. Those productions have a total budget of $1.9 billion.

The details were released as part of a broader progress report from the film commission on its film and TV tax credit program.

While the findings represent just a faction of overall film and TV industry in the state, they highlight the pandemic’s financial toll on Hollywood.

The report is based on budgets that producers submitted to the state for review, including COVID-related expenses which qualify for state film tax credits.

“Most countries and states are including COVID expenditures in their tax programs,” said Joe Chianase, senior vice president at Entertainment Partners, which advises producers on film tax incentives. “It has just become the cost of doing business.”

Feature films Feature films with budgets more than $20 million in the tax credit program are expected to spend 5% to 6.5% of their total budget on COVID-related costs, the film commission report said.

Lower budget film and TV shows are expected to allocate 4.5% of their total budget on COVID-related costs.

The commission found 60% of the costs were related to materials and 40% were tied to labor costs.

When the pandemic struck last year, most productions nationwide shut down mid-March.

Employment in the motion picture sector — much of it concentrated in Los Angeles County — fell to 98,000 jobs in August 2020, down 45% from February that year, according to data from the California Employment Development Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzed by Beacon Economics.

A coalition of entertainment industry unions and studios agreed to terms for cast and crew to return to work in September 2020. Those provisions included requirements for social distancing, testing, sick pay and other safety measures.

Film productions created new departments to enforce and implement safety measures, including the new role of the COVID compliance supervisor.

Producers also had to pay for tests, face shields and additional vehicles needed for social distancing.

Production has roared back in the past year as filming has resumed, with on location filming in the Los Angeles area outpacing pre-pandemic levels.

The state’s film tax credit program allows producers to receive 20%-25% credits on certain qualified expenses, such as money spent on building sets and hiring crew members.

California allocates $330 million annually in film tax credits. The legislature expanded the program this summer, providing a new $150-million fund for the construction of soundstages.

Topic: COVID-19

Related Content

actors on set

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

What productions should know as they head back to work
Topic: COVID-19
Supplemental COVID sick leave panel

California COVID-19-Related Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and Other Key Sick Leave Developments

Important changes in sick leave laws that Califonia employers and employees need to know

Film Festivals: Online or In-Person?

Producers weigh in on the state of festival season post-pandemic, featuring Divi Crockett and Mike Drake

How to solve a compounding problem?

The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...

New Terms Under Return-To-Work Agreement

RTW extension includes new two-part delineation, and the role of the vaccine
Topic: Legal

Entertainment Partners Launches New Production Incentive Tools

New Online Tools help Filmmakers and Producers to Identify their Best Global Tax Incentives
Sarah Westman-liu and Jennifer Liscio

Canadian Incentives and Legislation News

The latest updates on incentives, CRA guidance on COVID-19 related costs, and more!

Global Payroll Titan Award 2021

Davida Lara, CPP, named this year's Global Payroll Titan

COVID-19 and the Impact on State Unemployment Insurance

How high unemployment claims have led to increased SUI rates across the US
Producing through COVID women producers panel

Producing Through COVID-19: A Discussion with Six Prominent Women Producers

Stories of navigating the entertainment industry and producing during a pandemic

Returning to Production: Hair and Makeup Teams Apply COVID-19 Protocols to Life on Set

Getting back to work: a look inside set life during COVID-19

Profiles in Leadership: Martin Mazor, SVP and CISO, Entertainment Partners

Why Identity is at the Core of Every New Security and Business Initiative

The Beginner's Guide to Production Incentives

EP helps filmmakers navigate the complex world of film and television incentives

Entertainment Partners Launches COVID-19 Reopening Tracker

Digital solution to help productions comply with pandemic regulations
Pantea Ahmadi and Alan Wu

California & New York Employment and Privacy Legislation Changes in 2021

EP's Legal team breaks down important legislation changes impacting production hubs
Topic: Legal

How Television Crews Are Getting Back to Work

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU
Melissa Lintinger NBCU

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU

How television crews are getting back to work during COVID-19
Becky Harshberger and Neddy Alonso

Preparing for 2021 Payroll Tax Changes and the New Form 1099-NEC

EP's payroll tax experts walk through the 1099-NEC and other important changes
Paul Steinke

A Conversation with Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance at Walt Disney Studios

Mark Goldstein and Paul Steinke discuss the state of the industry, emerging technology and more!

FilmOntario Welcomes Four New Board Members at 2020 AGM

Andy Micallef appointed to the FilmOntario Board
Master Series Return to Work Agreement Panel

Understanding the COVID-19 Return-To-Work Labor Agreement

EP's Legal experts explain the entertainment industry's safety guidelines
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity