The world is slowly, but surely beginning to open back up as COVID-19 (respiratory disease) health and safety measures are created and implemented in every type of industry one can imagine. The film industry has presented a special kind of challenge as many unions (DGA, IATSE, SAG, etc) have spent decades carefully crafting regulations to ensure their members are not taken advantage of by wearing too many hats and smudging the lines between positions. With sets now drastically limiting their cast and crew to fit within the COVID reopening guidelines and every set now required to be a closed set, we’re entering into a world of “new normal”.
COVID-19 guidelines for opening Hollywood sets
The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force – made up of members such as Walt Disney, Netflix, CBS, major Hollywood unions, producers and studios, submitted its recommendations to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and other government agencies across the country on Monday. California’s guidelines for COVID-19 safe sets is a 22-page document you can read in full by following the link. Every aspect of filmmaking will be altered as the goal is infection prevention and control. They even recommend the possibility of editing scripts to reduce scenes with close contact between performers or using camera tricks or digital effects to accomplish these scenes. A few other key changes, compliant with CDC guidelines, will include:
COVID-19 compliance officers will be required on set to ensure proper protocols are in place and provide interim guidance.
Social distancing practices include staggered meal times, staggered call times, minimizing lines and, whenever possible, remaining 6 feet apart, protecting workers.
Wearing cloth face coverings for everyone on set.
Avoid touching nose and mouth with hands
Use protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
Regular, periodic testing: "Employers should advise cast and crew that they will be subject to testing as a condition of employment and of continued employment."
Buffet style eating should be eliminated to prevent workers from standing too close to one another and potential contamination risks.
The use of live audiences is discouraged at this time.
Cleaning and disinfecting regularly.
The practice of virtual casting by use of recorded video auditions or video conference apps such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or Google Meet is highly recommended whenever possible. Whenever not possible, scheduled, staggered, socially distanced in-person auditions may be allowed.
Avoid paper/pen as much as possible.
“Paper • Whenever possible, the use of paper should be minimized. Alternatives such as electronic scripts and electronic sign-in/out should be explored. • Consider alternatives to petty cash to minimize the need to handle paper money, such as purchase cards. • When paper scripts are unavoidable, they should be assigned to a specific individual, clearly labeled with their name, and not shared between others. • Crew lists, call sheets, production reports, and other similar documents should be electronic whenever possible. • When the use of shared paperwork is required, such as blueprints or editing binders, hand hygiene before and after handling is recommended.
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Education for cast and crew on proper handwashing hygiene using soap and water is also recommended.
Don’t come to work if you are presenting symptoms of COVID-19 such as: fever, cough, shortness of breath, or if you are generally feeling ill.
Adequately preparing workplaces such as writing offices, production offices, restroom facilities, hand washing stations post production offices, according to the CDC recommendations such as; disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap.
Opt for virtual meetings rather than meeting in an office building.
Crew and cast member should avoid ridesharing as much as possible and use individual vehicles or production provided vehicles to get from place to place.
Discussions are currently taking place among scientists and health departments across the country as to whether or not antibody testing will aid in the prevention and spread of disease.
COVID-19 guidelines for safe tv and film sets in other US cities
Florida- Earlier this month Film Florida laid out a detailed plan to reopen film sets in their state. This plan includes general recommendations like:
- Limiting personnel on set
- Educational training multiple times a day for each start time
- Requiring frequent hand washing
- Maintaining social distancing basics including the 6-foot gap in all possible scenarios
- And limiting physical contact as much as possible.
Production Personnel safety strategies:
- The use of large air-conditioned tents that are well ventilated where staff can maintain plenty of space to move around,
- No more than 5 people in a trailer at a time (with windows kept open),
- Hand sanitizer near all highly touched surfaces like printers, etc.
- Regularly disinfecting light switches, door handles, counters, and other common areas.
- Use video streaming services like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, etc to casting whenever possible,
- Schedule callbacks and auditions further apart to allow for social distancing,
- Encourage actors to wait in their vehicles rather than in waiting areas in the facility,
- Have actors check-in using their mobile devices,
- Use real families when casting family parts whenever possible,
- Departments should sequester in department pods
- Eliminate crossing pods as much as possible,
- Each department should individually set up the filming area and leave sequentially, so as not to cross-contaminate personnel crew.
For more information on Florida specific COVID-19 health and safety regulations, follow this link to Film Florida.
Georgia’s 11-page guide to COVID-19 safe film sets details recommended practices for every step from production offices to shooting locations, casting to final wrap. Additionally, the Georgia Film Academy is offering COVID-19 safety training courses at no cost to Georgia productions.
- Frequent handwashing
- No sharing of devices/objects such as phones, computers, pens, other work tools
- Use digital call sheets
- Avoid physical contact
- Wear masks when not on camera
- Consider using a clear barrier when establishing marks and positions, removing them at the last moment
- Use camera and editing tricks to make the actors appear closer than they are
- Consider using members of the same household in a scene
- Scouting should be done virtually as much as possible
- Find a larger, more open area than what would have previously been necessary to ensure the ability to properly socially distance while on location
- Try to maximize space and airflow when designing the space
For more information on Georgia’s COVID-19 film set safety guidelines, click here.
Louisianna is eager to get their filmmaking industry back up and running with a projected start date in July. As Hollywood sets the standard in many ways for the film industry, it seems Louisiana is anticipating adopting Hollywood’s strategies for reopening COVID-19 safe sets as well. At this time, the general consensus is that sound stages will be part of stage one reopening while location shoots will begin later on because sound stages are easier to regulate.
Washington- Seattle, Washington’s high end filmmaking and music industry appears to be waiting on the California film industry to set the standard. At this time, their website has not been updated on their specific reopening strategies for the film and television industry. As the information comes available, we will update. But it’s likely to follow suit with the Hollywood COVID-19 safe set guidelines.
Minnesota, at this time, does not have film industry-specific guidelines. However, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has a list of COVID-19 workplace safe practices on their website.
Illinois- The city of Chicago is another major hub for highend film and entertainment. Though there isn’t a detailed list of requirements specifically for the Chicago film industry, the City of Chicago highly encourages employers to complete a self-certification process to ensure that businesses are meeting or exceeding requirements of the "Be Safe. Chicago" guidelines. If Illinois filmmakers follow the Hollywood COVID-19 safe set guidelines, they should easily be able to meet the “Be Safe. Chicago” guidelines.
Colorado Film recommends following local, state and federal guidelines for COVID-19 safe practices. Such practices include hand hygiene, social distancing, and staying home if you aren’t feeling well.
New Mexico has not yet included film industry-specific guidelines in their New Mexico COVID-19 safe practices document.
COVID-19 guidelines for film sets in other countries
Australia has out-paced Hollywood in getting their reopening guidelines for film sets in place. This 41-page document details what COVID-19 is and how it spreads, duties under WHS laws and mandatory control measures. Some of the details include:
- There will be a nurse (healthcare professional) on set, and everyone entering the site will have their temperatures checked for disease control and prevention.
- As an extra precaution, male actors will have no make-up, female actors will not be touched up.
- There will be no physical contact between actors including kissing, holding hands or intimate scenes.
- Actors will also practice social distancing, with camera trickery used to make them look closer together.
- There will be no outside extras, with crew members already on set doubling as background performers.
New Zealand Film Commission is following closely with the New Zealand national government’s protocols. Details of the evolving practices can be found here.
UK production guidelines can be read in full here.
The British film commission has created an in-depth 34-page set of guidelines for every aspect of the filmmaking and tv production process. Some of those details include:
- COVID-19 symptom checks must be conducted daily with cast and crew, and daily temperature taking should be considered for health and safety.
- Social distancing must be applied “whenever possible” on set in accordance with government guidelines.
- Costuming, whenever possible should be done by the cast members themselves. And whenever not possible, avoid being face-to-face.
- COVID-19 Safer Working’ induction training must be undertaken online by all cast and crew prior to work. Supervision staff and first aiders must take further training.
- Crowd scenes where social distancing cannot be observed should be avoided.
- The use of personal protection equipment, PPEs, recommended whenever possible.
Czech Republic was one of the first countries to reopen filming on May 7. Some of the Czech Republic’s COVID-19 safe set guidelines are listed below.
- Each production company should prepare risk assessment documentation and require it from all suppliers.
- The production company should have a contract in place with an accredited laboratory to be able to test operationally any crewmember or performer at any time, anywhere as well as a detailed response plan in place in the event someone test positive for COVID-19.
- Creating a completely healthy environment on set and in the base camp Controlled approach to these places
- Protective face mask – for every 12 hours of working time, count on 4 masks per crew member. This applies to all people on the shoot, including external suppliers.
France is ready to go with their guidelines. Filming in Paris opened up on May 11th. Follow the link to review their guidelines.
Iceland opened their filmmaking doors to professionals outside their country on May 15 and will incrementally modify their international guests quarantine restrictions over time. No later than June 15, 2020 further easing of restrictions is planned. International travelers are then expected to be given a choice between a two-week quarantine or being tested for the virus upon arrival, or otherwise proving that they are free of coronavirus infection.
Poland’s film and tv industry is back up and running as of May 18. Over time, restrictions will ease. Poland is implementing the basic social distancing protocols, hygiene, sanitization, temperature taking, and other measures to reduce exposure to the virus.
Portugal has very recently reopened its film and tv production industry. Some of their recommendations are as follows: The minimum physical distance that you should always try to ensure between people at the filming location is 2 (two) meters (approximately- 6,5 ft.) and other safety protocols.
- When filming indoors, the maximum number of team members allowed on the premises must always be based on the available space and the need to ensure proper physical distance.
- The number of people present simultaneously, whether from the crew, cast, other professionals necessary to the scenes, etc., should be reduced to the minimum necessary for the operation to be carried out.
Spain reopened sections of the country on May 11 for high end tv and film shoots. One of Spain’s COVID-19 safety protocols include:
A requirement for producers to designate a person or team who will record all actions carried out during filming — including a list of people who access the set, disinfection protocols, etc. — and provide this information to authorities as required for contact tracing.