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Back to Work: CDC Relaxes Masking Guidelines for Vaccinated, Added Costs Still an Issue for Indies


There’s definitely been some good news-bad news playing out in the world of film and television production over the past few days.

KN95 Mask
KN95 Mask

The good news is that on Tuesday morning, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention aka the CDC has issued new mask guidelines that will be welcome to anyone who has already been vaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated will be allowed to have small outdoor gatherings without needing to wear masks. Masks would still need to be worn during larger gatherings, such as concerts, etc.

This is especially great news for production where on-camera talent can’t be wearing masks at all times, especially when cameras are rolling. It’s led to a lot of added protocols including extra testing, the crew separated into zones with only those that need direct contact with on-camera talent able to do so… always wearing masks, PPE, and taking extra testing precautions.

For outdoor productions, this is huge, because maybe it can reduce some of the tension on set from those who ever so often have to take their masks off to breathe or take a drink of water without wanting to have to leave the filming area entirely.

Even so, the CDC also warns that even for the vaccinated, this new guideline precludes, “activities that involve behaviors such as singing, shouting, physical exertion or heavy breathing, inability to wear a mask, or inability to maintain physical distancing.”

UPDATE: Both California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Public Health both said they would comply and follow the CDC’s new COVID-19 guidelines, Newsom writing, “After reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking recommendations, and with science and data as our guide, we are moving to align California’s guidance with these common-sense updates.” Los Angeles public health officials have yet to weigh in, but they generally agree with the state.”

A few hours later, Los Angeles Public Health confirmed its own standing, “Los Angeles County will be adjusting our Health Officer Order shortly to align with the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on when and where people need to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.” The County will modify the Health Officer Order accordingly to reflect these changes and provide guidance on additional activities and settings this week.

This does give production a little more leeway in terms of on-set COVID protocols, although every production will probably ease up on current protocols slowly rather than just throwing masks away. Also, most TV and film productions still need to follow the industry protocols put in place last fall by a group of guilds and unions to protect all members of the cast and crew.

The… let’s call it semi-bad news… is that Deadline just released a report that even with the vaccine being readily available in the United States and production picking up all over the world, smaller productions are still having a hard time getting insurance and affording the added testing protocols put in place by the industry.

This report includes quotes from Solstice Studios CEO Mark Gill, who released one of the first new movies during the pandemic — Russell Crowe‘s Unhinged — and hopes to start production on Robert Rodriguez‘s Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck, in September.

Linda McDonough, head of AGC Studios, who produces movies that have budgets between $5 million and $75 million says that places, where COVID is under control like Australia, are viable options, but that “it feels like for the next six months things won’t change until data emerges from a post-vaccine world.”

We’ll have to see how the CDC’s new guidelines start to affect production, especially in California, which has had more than its share of problems with COVID shutdowns, and whether being able to enjoy some summer sunshine — and more importantly, air — will allow the country to de-stress a bit after over a year of fear and anxiety.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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