How the Film & TV Industry Can Make a Safe Comeback During COVID-19

When the announcement came that production was shutting down, most crew members and talent were just about to get ready for the next scene.  Most were told that this would be a two week hiatus, with a wait-and-see approach. Two weeks turned into three. Then, a month.  There’s now a sense that productions won’t be back until June or July at the earliest. If even at all.

This has completely devastated the industry, with many living their lives in complete limbo.  It has also caused tremendous financial devastation for many. Those who could, applied for support from the government. But that support is very limited and the skills of those working in the audio-visual industry are rather specific to that field.   And it’s not like many employers are hiring anyways.

So many have begun asking… If we come back before a vaccine is developed, what will a film/TV set look like?  This is my hypothesis of what can be done to continue creating art and entertainment (that so many have turned to in these uncertain times!) whilst ensuring safety:

QUARANTINE

- All actors and directors will be fully quarantined for 2-3 weeks (likely on a dedicated hotel floor) prior to shooting, with groceries and food delivered and sanitized by staff.

- There will be a mandatory self-quarantine for anyone in close contact with talent (eg. hair/makeup artists) as well as those needing to work in close proximity to other crew members. Possibly all crew.

MASKS

- All crew members will be required to wear masks to help prevent spread.   A new kind of mask will likely need to be created which would allow for some facial visibility (to create a better social environment) and be comfortable for breathing since crews will need to spend long days in these masks.

VIDEO VILLAGE

- A traditional video village tends to have many people inside in close quarters. This will likely be reserved for the DOP and director only.

- A large number of additional monitors will be added throughout the set to allow those crew members who need to see the monitor to do so whilst maintaining a safe distance.  The VUER app can also be used on iPads or phones to access the monitor — though a special set up will be necessary to accommodate the larger number of people who will need access.

BACKGROUND

- For the time being, it is unlikely that scenes requiring background performers will be allowed to continue.
- For scenes that absolutely require background, there might be a possibility of using a green screen behind talent which will later be replaced with background.  Filming background performers individually against a green screen may also be an option, compositing shots together later.

SICK PAY

- This has been an issue within the industry for quite some time.  If a crew member was sick (before they came to set), they do not get any sick pay which would make people reluctant to stay home.   It would make sense to introduce sick pay which allows for an X number of days allowed at full pay and additional days, if needed, at a % of pay.  Beyond a certain period would be considered disability leave.  This would encourage people to stay home if they are feeling unwell without worrying about paying their bills.

- Most people would not want to take advantage of such a system without actual need. Not only would it be unethical, doing so continuously without actual need would eventually catch up to them and they won’t be hired in the future.

TESTING

- Beyond taking someone’s temperature in the morning, it’s unlikely that productions will be able to test specifically for COVID-19 every morning. Test kits are scarce and needed for those who are sick, essential workers, and health care workers.

- Not 100% accurate (and even less so than swab test) rapid antigen tests may be the best option, pending availability, which is a big IF right now.

FOOD AND HYGiENE

- Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer everywhere

- Most likely only single-use cups will be allowed and will need to be thrown out immediately after use.

- Crafty food will be entirely pre-packaged.

- Absolutely no self-serve for lunch.

- Crew will be required to maintain a distance from each other during lunch. Ideally, 6 feet, but it may prove difficult with limited space.  It’s likely that they will have to take lunch in their vehicles.

- To avoid unnecessary contact with the outside world, crews will need to avoid even trips to the grocery store and production may arrange for food/essentials orders to be taken on set and organized by production.

- Sets will be disinfected each day, and common surfaces throughout the day.

INSURANCE

- Getting insurance is a major hurdle during COVID-19.  It is likely that companies will provide production insurance, but will not cover COVID-19 related claims.   The only exception might be if all cast and crew are fully quarantined for three weeks prior to shoot and throughout the shoot (eg. They would all be housed in a hotel that’s exclusive for quarantined cast and crew with strict protocols in place).

MORALE

- In an industry that’s so social and tight-knit, it’s not going to be an easy process to follow all these protocols, but in difficult times, creative people tend to get…creative. And there’s no doubt that people will find new ways of interacting, and introducing some much needed humor into the work environment. At the end of the day, we can only do our best in a difficult time. Hopefully we can find our way forward because telling stories helps us all connect.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Leave a Comment Below.

Connect with me on Twitter: @mysteriouskat

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One Response to How the Film & TV Industry Can Make a Safe Comeback During COVID-19

  1. Anonymous says:

    Loads of issues…when was the last time you worked on set?

    “Redesigned masks”…who’s going to the design and make these masks since suppliers of current masks are buried…are these N95’s(used to be available on set for “ smoke on set days”)…but even after things calm down, probably hard to get for non medical purposes.

    Hair/make up etc (or “ all set crew”)in “ mandatory self quarantine? On a 22 eps series, that’s 9 months…they only do to work and home for 9 months? What about family members? Kids stay home? Spouses don’t work? Impractical.

    That IPad Vuer app is Useless…bad reception, massive audio/video delay. Tried it for 3 eps on last show…discarded.

    The catering/Crafty changes already went in to effect on Warner shows before lockdown…obviously not enough for studio “ Risk Management” departments.

    The actor 2 week quarantine has been suggested…works for regular cast up here for months…probably not for one off guest cast.

    Production schedules will need to expand … smaller crews( no more “4 camera days”), 12 hour days not 14 ( a tired crew gets sick so much easier), more remote camera systems ( (cranes/repeat pass camera systems etc…a Russian action movie completed recently by going to all remote camera systems/minimal set crew), less distant shoot days (in zone), no “crew overnights at motel”..or 90 minute drives to and from set.

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