NYC Film Commissioner Issues Industry Guidance As City Shutters COVID Red Zones; No Studios Affected So Far

As New York City television and film production is assessing the implication of new restrictions around recent clusters of COVID-19 hotspots, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) issued guidance related to what Governor Andrew Cuomo calls the state’s New Cluster Action Initiative.

“Our city is at a crucial moment in the fight against Covid-19, and we appreciate your ongoing efforts to support a safe recovery,” said MOME Commissioner Anne del Castillo.

Areas of rising infection in Central Queens, Southern Brooklyn and Far Rockaway have been divided into three zones: Red, Orange, and Yellow, with each under a different level of increased restrictions from the State of New York starting today, Thursday, October 8.  The Red zones are most restrictive with all schools and non-essential businesses, including production. closed, again. Concentric circles of Orange, then Yellow are less restrictive. The Red zones roll back closures to basically to where they stood in March and April. They will remain in effect for two week initially to see if the virus is contained.

Among the city’s biggest studio complexes, Steiner Studios in Brooklyn said it’s in a yellow zone, so okay. Kaufman Astoria in Queens is completely clear, several miles from the outbreak. Silver Cup in in Long Island City. But it’s not great news obviously. Production across the city just started ramping up in September and del Castillo anticipated the city will hit or surpass its number of pre-COVID productions by year end.

In a note, MOME said the new guidelines prohibit production indoor and outdoor in Red Zones. Indoor production only is allowed in Orange Zones, in accordance with state mandates. And indoor and outdoor production can continue in Yellow Zones, also following the mandates.

MOME extended the 100-person limit on cast and crew filming exterior on public property citywide to December 31. Restrictions on oversized vehicles will be lifted on November 1.

Infection rates in the hotspots are three to four times the rest of the city and state. They are clustered in and around ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods where that Cuomo said did not follow rules for masks, social distancing and mass gatherings. Cuomo has been regularly blaming and shaming the communities in press briefings, including today, for putting themselves and others at risk, leading to a rising tension. A journalist, Jacob Kornbluth of the Jewish Insider was roughed up by protestors overnight in Borough Park, Brooklyn. An ABC News crew also had to be escorted out by police.

“The laws were never enforced and now [it’s hard because] you want to enforce the laws that weren’t enforced months ago when they were first put in place. It’s no excuse for violence, especially against a reporter. This is a person who is just doing his job… We are talking about saving lives. Savings lives in their community. You see the increase of hospitalizations from those communities. You are a citizen of the state. You have an obligation one to the other,” Cuomo said at a press briefing today.

Letter from MOME to the NYC production community below:

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier today Mayor de Blasio announced the City and State’s plan to confront the rising rates of COVID-19 in certain parts of New York. The State of New York has divided areas where infections are rising into three zones: Red, Orange, and Yellow. Each zone is under a different level of increased restrictions from the State of New York. To find out where the zones are, and to see what restrictions apply to each zone, please visit www.nyc.gov/covidzone.

Accordingly, media production activity in these zones is restricted as follows:

  • Red: no media production activity indoors or outdoors
  • Orange: film production activity is allowed indoors at film production facilities (as defined in Tax Law 24) subject to NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Media Production Activity and Executive Order 202.68 of October 6, 2020; no film production activity outdoors or indoors at non-film-production facilities (e.g., private residence, restaurant)
  • Yellow: film production activity is allowed indoors and outdoors subject to NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Media Production Activity

Additionally, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment has extended the 100-person limit on cast/crew filming exterior on public property citywide to December 31, 2020. However, restrictions on oversized vehicles will be lifted as of November 1, 2020.

This guidance will be posted on the Film Permit website. Please be sure to check frequently for updates and review the guidelines and FAQ before submitting permit applications. If you have questions after reading these guidance documents, please call the Film Office at (212) 489-6710. Please keep in mind that the Film Office is still operating remotely so please allow additional time for Film Permit processing.

Our city is at a crucial moment in the fight against Covid-19, and we appreciate your ongoing efforts to support a safe recovery.

Stay safe,

Anne del Castillo, Commissioner
The City of New York
Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment

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