How the Film & TV Industry Plans on Reopening During the Pandemic
A few days ago, Governor Gavin Newson announced that film and television production may resume on June 12, 2020, after being shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. While all unions still have to weigh in on when they will allow their members to go back to work and many studios plan to hold off, a new document of protocols has been released.
The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, which is composed of unions like AMPTP, SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild, IATSE and the Teamsters, as well as a number of studios like Disney, Netflix, and HBO, submitted a 22-page document to several state governments across the country, including California and New York. This document includes recommended protocols for restarting production to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
I recommend everyone take a look at this document linked here. Below is a quick breakdown of what is in it and a glimpse of what the industry will look like once it begins to open back up.
Following CDC and Other Recommendations
It starts off by saying that they will follow all CDC, state, and federal recommendations and that each specific department will need to develop its own set of protocols that will be created by that department's union and the employers later on.
They note that things will probably change and need to be amended as they begin opening to stay up to par with CDC and government recommendations.
Managing Anxiety and Mental Health
They acknowledge that returning to work will be stressful and can affect people’s mental health, so they plan on providing resources, hotlines, and tools and training to help people cope with the stress and anxiety it may cause.
I think this is really great to include because acknowledging people’s mental health is really important and will probably help many people that are anxious about joining the workforce again. I’m interested to see how different employers implement this since it's up to each employer on how they want to implement those tools.
It also says paid leave policies will be flexible to allow people that are sick and quarantining to stay home. Everyone wants to continue to encourage people to stay home if they are sick or could be sick, and offering paid leave solutions is a great way to encourage that sick people don’t come to work because many people that feel like they can’t afford to stay home, may decide to ignore precautions in order to get a paycheck and it’s important to acknowledge that and address it.
Cast and crew will be subject to regular testing as a condition of their employment and of continued employment. I think that speaks for itself, they want to make sure that even asymptomatic people are tested and that they aren’t spreading it.
It also says that all cast and crew will be required to participate in daily symptom monitoring prior to arriving on set or at their workspace. Which could be an online form or self-screening.
Wearing Masks & Social Distancing
Whenever possible, face coverings are recommended to be used and the employer should provide them to the cast and crew at no cost to them and the face covers need to meet the regulatory guidelines.
It notes that it won’t be possible to social distance and to wear masks all the time, for example with make-up artists and actors, wardrobe, sound department, and actors acting in a scene. But they recommend limiting those interactions whenever necessary and to wear masks and social distance as soon as you can whenever you complete the task at hand. So obviously some jobs will require you to not wear a mask like acting, which is probably why they didn’t require masks, but highly recommend them.
Social distancing is required and Visible physical indicators like cones, duct tape, or signage marking 6 feet of distance should be in areas where people gather like, crafts service, meal areas, make-up, and costume trailers.
Meals need to be staggered to ensure that large groups of people aren’t gathering together and that the seating allows people to practice social distancing. Meals and snacks should be individually wrapped, which means no communal bowls or utensils for lunch or crafty, no buffet-style meals, and only disposable utensils and condiments.
Because of social distancing, It does not recommend live audiences, unless they also follow strictly social distancing guidelines and wear masks. But in my opinion, that sounds really unsafe and we probably and hopefully won’t see shows implementing live audiences for a while.
Working with Actors
The document encourages minimizing or amending scenes where actors have to be in close proximity, by rewriting the scenes or using digital effects. And to possibly adjust shooting schedules to minimize the amount of back-and-forth travel needed by performers.
It recommends casting only be done by self-tapes or through video conferencing, and if that’s not possible, to be in a space where plexiglass is in between the person auditioning and the casting team, or enough space to safely social distance.
Working in Shared Spaces
Video conferencing is also recommended for writing rooms and meetings, But if it’s not possible, 6ft distancing with face covers is a must.
The 22-page document emphasizes the importance of cleaning and sanitizing everything from common areas, to your own personal equipment. Everything will be sanitized every day essentially before and after anyone uses it.
It specifically says that walkie-talkies will be assigned to a specific person for the entire production so you're not intermingling walkie-talkies. That’s usually common, but just in case the production doesn’t already do that, that is now the new protocol. If you work in production and use walkie talkies, please buy your own personal earpiece. A lot of times productions offer earpieces but it is way better to use your own.
Paper use and touching need to be limited, from switching to petty cash to P-cards to an electronic crew list instead of a printed copy. Whenever possible, limiting the use of paper or making sure your hand washing before and after using paper. I never thought about paper, but obviously you can’t wipe down paper and wash it so being super clean when handling paper scripts, documents, binders, and all that is very important.
Covid-19 Compliance Officer
The last thing I’m going to mention is that there will be a designated Covid-19 Compliance Officer, which sounds like there will be someone on the cast & crew that will be trained and given authority to oversee that the guidelines and protocols are being followed. Everyone on the cast & crew will know who they are and be able to ask questions or voice concerns to them. I’m not sure if this is a new person who’s sole job is to oversee these guidelines or if it’ll be a producer or AD or someone like that that will be also tasked with that role. Whoever that is, they will probably be very very stressed.
There is a lot more that I did not cover that is in the document but overall, it continued to emphasize the need to social distance, wash your hands, sanitize anything you touch, to wear masks, and to stay home if you have symptoms. Obviously going back to work in production will not be the same as it was, but it seems like it will be a gradual process to get to something similar to how it was.
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