A halt on filming TV shows and movies leaves about 5,000 unemployed in the Pittsburgh area.By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The pandemic shut down all filming of movies and TV series in Western Pennsylvania and around the world, but it’s slowly starting to begin again.

In Western Pa., people are used to seeing the Haddad trucks around the region and maybe even a movie star around town. They’re signs a movie or TV series is filming.

But when the pandemic hit in March, filming came to a screeching halt. Pittsburgh Film Office CEO Dawn Keezer says, “It’s amazing how quickly it all had to stop and go away. Here in Pittsburgh, we’re looking at at least 5,000 people that are unemployed due to the shutdown.”

Keezer says Netflix, which has set up shop at an office park in Warrendale, is in pre-production for a new series called “Archive.. They’re planning to begin filming in November.

Keezer hopes this will begin to get more people back to work — not just the actors and those who work on the set, but the small businesses that support the productions.

“What really powers the film industry is a lot of small businesses — construction companies, it’s an Enterprise car rental, for example, it’s all the hotels. They all had pieces of this. Everybody shut down,” she says.

The new protocols are laid out in a joint agreement between many unions called “The Safe Way Forward.” It includes creating a dedicated “Health and Safety Supervisor” and department, dividing staff into “zones” that don’t physically interact, testing performers three times a week and even rapid testing if needed to protect actors who cannot be masked and socially distanced at all times.

Here in Pittsburgh, only commercials have begun filming again, using performers who are related to avoid coronavirus concerns between actors.

“You probably can get something done on a smaller commercial of 25 people, so it’s easier to physically distance, wear the masks, take the temperatures, do all the necessary safety protocols,” Keezer explains.

The $70 million in state tax credits for filming for the fiscal year that ends June is already allocated. Keezer hopes many more of those productions will resume filming in early 2021.

Kristine Sorensen