EXCLUSIVE: California Gov. Gavin Newsom sees the state as mere days away from new guidelines to further open up from the coronavirus pandemic, but entertainment industry insiders are feeling broadsided by today’s announcement.
“WTF?” said one top cable executive to Newsom today announcning he would reveal plans on May 25 that could spur shuttered film and TV production back to work sooner rather than later. “Have they talked to the unions, because I don’t think that’s going to jive with them,” the exec added.
“We’ll look at the guidelines when they come out on Monday,” a spokesperson for the WGA West told Deadline of the upcoming Memorial Day plan from the governor to enter the latest phase of reopening the Golden State’s battered economy.
At the forefront of constructing COVID-19 safety standards, SAG-AFRTA had a blunt “no comment” on today’s announcement by Newsom.
Other unions and the Industry-Wide Safety Committee did not respond to Deadline’s request for reaction to Newsom’s confusing news made during a video conference Wednesday. He was online with the likes of Netflix boss Ted Sarandos, Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay, former Presidential candidate Tom Steyer, IATSE Local 80 member Danny Stephens, hair and make-up artist Stacey Morris, and This Is Us’ Jon Huertas in what was an often-circular conversation.
While officially Hollywood studios, streamers, agencies and corner offices were pretty much a wall of no comment on the governor’s anticipated proposals, the almost universal response off the record was one of astonishment. Additionally, despite weeks of work here in the Southland on putting together industry guidelines, almost all of the well positioned individuals Deadline spoke with asserted they had no idea such an announcement was coming from the Northern California-based Newsom
“We are over a month away at least from reopening sets,” said a seasoned producer with shows on both streamers and broadcasters. “I don’t care what Newsom says, I’m looking at July, at the earliest, to make sure everything is safe for my people.”
“There is no way we’re ready yet,” said a top agency executive who has been deep in the weeds on developing new safety polices for the industry. “There are too many cases here, too many deaths and too many unknowns. They can’t even get corner stores to stick with the rules of reopening, so sets and studio lots are a long way from being safe. A lot of change is going to be needed.”
Another industry player called Newsom’s guidelines and schedule “crazy.”
Since Hollywood shut its doors and sets in mid-March, hundreds of thousands of industry workers have been waiting for guidance about when they can get back to work and start seeing some money in their bank accounts. From the Industry-Wide Safety Committee featuring several agencies and companies, to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s entertainment industry COVID-19 task force to individual studios and production companies, efforts have been ongoing to put together safety-first protocols and procedures for sets and other workplaces.
Still, deaths and COVID-19 cases in the home of Hollywood and surrounding LA County continue to rise, with 1,324 new confirmed cases and 57 new fatalities announced Wednesday. That brings the total cases and deaths in the region to 40,850 and 1,970, respectively.
Newsom noted that fact after announcing his forthcoming guidelines.
“It remains a challenging part of the state for us still,” Newsom admitted of L.A. on the video conference, which showed the latest installment of his Economic Recovery & Reinvention Listening Tour with industry reps. “We are concerned it is a few weeks behind potentially everybody else,” he added on the Zoom call, throwing cold water on the fire that surged with his proclamation that production could start up as early as next week.
In fact, despite his big news, Newsom’s chief of staff Ann O’Leary said the still-deadly situation in L.A. is “the biggest hurdle” to Hollywood reopening anytime soon.
Working with the likes of Universal chair Donna Langley, county officials are looking at putting together plans for a step-by-step process that could begin by Independence Day. After almost two months under essentially shelter-in-place orders to halt the spread of the coronavirus, state, regional and city officials began loosening the restrictions on retailers and public spaces last week. While the Bay Area has largely rejected the phased reopening schemes, LA the city and the county have followed Newsom’s lead for the most part – that looks not to be the case here.
Garcetti is set to give his daily COVID-19 briefing soon tonight …guess what will likely be on the agenda?