In light of the capacity crisis facing Southern California hospitals due to the COVID pandemic and an anticipated post-holiday surge of COVID cases, SAG-AFTRA and organizations representing commercial advertisers and advertising agencies and independent film and television producers have reached agreement on recommending a temporary hold on in-person production in Southern California. The major studios and streamers are already on production hiatus in Southern California until mid-January.
The Joint Policy Committee, LLC (JPC) -- the multiemployer bargaining group that represents commercial advertisers and advertising agencies -- has agreed to recommend that Southern California-area in-person commercial production be paused until more hospital beds become available. The Producers' Guild of America (PGA) is also encouraging its members to delay production, issuing its own statement today.
"Southern California hospitals are facing a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. Patients are dying in ambulances waiting for treatment because hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed. This is not a safe environment for in-person production right now," said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.
"Even putting aside the risk of acquiring COVID on set -- a risk that we have done a great deal to mitigate through our safety protocols -- on set production always poses some risk of injury, whether because of a stunt gone wrong, an equipment failure or a garden-variety fall. Right now, with few if any hospital beds available, it is hard to understand how a worker injured on set is supposed to seek treatment," said David White, SAG-AFTRA's National Executive Director. "I would like to thank the JPC and the PGA for their efforts to reinforce safety measures for all, and we acknowledge and appreciate the major studios and other producers who have proactively stepped up and postponed their production during this emergency."
SAG-AFTRA members in Southern California are encouraged to stay home and refrain from accepting on-set employment for the next several weeks. In the event that a Southern California-area SAG-AFTRA member is required to work during the next few weeks and has concerns about their safety on set, they are encouraged to reach out to the union.
Stacy Marcus, Chief Negotiator for the JPC, agrees that the risks of production in Southern California are just too great right now: "Commercial producers are strongly encouraged to reschedule their Southern California-area productions to a later date when the hospital capacity crisis has eased. It is simply too great a risk to performers, crew, and industry personnel to continue production knowing that hospitals are in crisis mode and the number of cases continues to rise."
The call to delay production has also been endorsed by the Producers Guild of America, which has released its own statement asking producers to avoid production work in the Southern California-area until more hospital beds become available: "Independent producers can help hold the line in this crisis by taking the difficult but responsible step of postponing production for now. We can and will do what it takes to protect our cast and crew, and our community," said Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher, PGA's Presidents.
SAG-AFTRA, the JPC, and the PGA will remain in communication with members and the industry as the situation develops. According to David White, "It is too hard to say right now when the situation may improve, but we are monitoring closely and will make sure that our members have the information they need to make the best decisions they can to protect themselves and our community."