HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — For many television show tapings, props and even cardboard cutouts have taken the place of live audiences, but real, human spectators are returning for some in-studio productions.

What You Need To Know

  • Standing Room Only is a local company supplying live studio audiences

  • Their work halted in March, but now it's slowly returning

  • Audience members must get a COVID-19 test 72 hours before filming

  • Audience members make $15 per hour

Bia Barnett will get a COVID-19 test 72 hours before filming. That’s one of the new rules spelled out in the Screen Actors Guild-approved state guidelines for studio audience members. This is for a paid gig ($15 per hour) as an audience member at Real Time with Bill Maher.

For several months, most of Barnett’s work in entertainment disappeared.

“People need to get back to work. People need to make money. People need to eat. People need to pay their bills,“ said Barnett.

Barnett didn’t take the choice to come back to work lightly. She has severe asthma.

“When COVID first started, trust me I was the first one in quarantine because I already know what it’s like not to be able to breathe,” said Barnett.

All audience members get a cheek swab test from a van in a parking lot the Tuesday before filming.

Standing Room Only is the company supplying live audiences to shows like Real Time. Owner Lisa Garr changed a lot to keep her business afloat since the industry halted on a dime in March.
“I’ve never seen anything shutter the entertainment industry like this pandemic has. We’ve been through writers strikes, recessions, depressions, everything, and this took us to our knees. We’re a very powerful, strong industry and we didn’t know what to do,” said Garr.

Theses days, the in studio audiences are much smaller than they used to be, around 25 people.

Hollywood runs on creativity. Staying creative will also likely be the key to its surviving the pandemic.