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New Mexico film industry to resume some production work

SANTA FE – New Mexico officials approved the start of production work by film crews in a sign the industry could soon be back in business after a suspension because of the coronavirus.

Film companies will follow specific guidelines created by a industry task force as they resume, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Saturday.

The companies will also be required to adhere to public health rules for all businesses in the state, including a face mask mandate, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.

“You’re going to start to see some activity” at studios statewide, said Liz Pecos, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480.

Pecos said “several hundred” of the 1,500 crew members in the film workers union have returned to work.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not yet announced when public health restrictions will be eased to allow filmmaking to fully resume.

“It may be a matter of weeks. It may be a matter of months,” Pecos said, noting the union supports the governor’s health mandates.

The New Mexico Film Office adopted guidelines for film production companies and workers that were drafted by members of the industry. All cast and crew members are expected to wear masks as often as possible while submitting to regular virus testing. The rules also require the presence of a COVID-19 compliance officer.

Each company must draft a plan to ensure worker safety, Pecos said.

The state Economic Development Department said about 80 film productions were shot in New Mexico in fiscal year 2020, bringing nearly $400 million into the state economy.

The figure was a decrease from fiscal year 2019, when the state received $525 million in direct spending by film productions.

“Aspects of the film and television industry are already back to work, including pre-production work, set construction, location scouting, etc., with required COVID-safe practices in place,” Economic Development Department spokesman Bruce Krasnow said in an email.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.