Your Ultimate Film Resource Center!
As many state stay-at-home orders begin to expire and employers weigh the pros and cons of returning to the workplace, understanding how to safely navigate the transition is more important than ever, especially for entertainment professionals resuming on-set and in-office production work.
The entertainment industry is, after all, highly collaborative. While returning to work (and escaping remote video conferencing limbo) may come as a relief, it’ll be short-lived if your production experiences a viral outbreak.
That’s why we put together this guide of some of the best resources in the industry along with tips and tricks that will help you keep your production safe.
The most important thing you can do to ensure the health, safety, and security of your cast and crew is limit exposure to both shared spaces and shared equipment.
When it's necessary for cast and crew to work in shared spaces, it is crucial to maintain adequate distancing and provide personal protective equipment (PPE). When the use of shared equipment is necessary, limit the number of people in direct contact with the equipment and sanitize regularly.
In order to furnish all relevant and up-to-date information, employers should monitor country, state, and local ordinances for disease control and implement local and national regulations before and during production.
Employers should also familiarize themselves with the US Equal Opportunity Commission Rules in order to tailor company policy and procedures for each work environment.
It's certainly easier said than done, but a little extra forethought in pre-pro will go much further than usual in preventing headaches down the road.
By scheduling your pre-production meeting as early as possible, you can leave more time for planning — extra time that will be all important as you anticipate additional challenges COVID-19 might pose for your production. If you can conference with your team remotely, this might be a prime opportunity to stick with Zoom.
Production studios like Versatile Studios can also help guide your production from pre- to post- while ensuring safe practices in response to COVID-19.
For each department, there are specific health considerations to take into account. We'll walk through them below.
Casting departments should aim to work remotely whenever possible. For the time being, relying on self tapes is a good idea.
When in-person auditions and callbacks are a necessity, schedule them further apart and require that actors honor their specified appointment time. Small changes like this will help maintain social distancing.
If you haven't already, ditch printed scripts and distribute resources digitally. Softwares like WriterDuet allow your production team to collaborate on and share pre-production materials like scripts and sides.
It might also be a good time to look into non-traditional casting services. Services like Cast Partner can not only help your production navigate the challenges of casting in the time of COVID, they can also help you cast individuals with a specific aesthetic, attitude or skill not available through traditional model and talent agencies.
The locations department shoulders a great deal of responsibility for providing a clean, safe, and compliant work environment — it's important to start implementing best practices here.
When scouting locations, do so virtually whenever possible. If it's essential to scout locations in-person, limit the number of locations and utilize locations repped by agents or a service. Many studios have put in place COVID-19 specific policies, like Quixote's Safe Set program, that aim to ensure the health and safety of their clients during the pandemic.
You'll also want to plan far in advance by applying for filming permits and executing location contracts as early as possible.
From call to wrap, your cast and crew will be working together in close quarters. In order to maintain the health and safety of all, you'll want to give careful consideration to how you'll manage these potentially long hours on set.
In their Comprehensive Production Guidelines, Versatile Studios outlines the new normal of production in the age of coronavirus. In general, you'll want to maintain social distance as much as possible. On set, stagger call times as much as possible to stop large groups of people from populating. When your cast and crew arrive, conduct temperature checks and ensure that everyone has proper PPE.
Because we'll be navigating through new guidelines together, it's wise to appoint a compliance officer on set, who can assure your production is following your own rules. Signage becomes ever important on your set, so everyone knows where you've implemented sanitation stations.
While every production will adopt their own regulations for dealing with COVID-19, when it comes to unions there's little wiggle room. If you're employing creatives from the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, and/or Teamsters, you should read their Joint Union Guidelines.
If you're renting equipment, go with a trusted source.
Quixote's Safe Set program extends to their rental equipment. Many other rental houses should have similar COVID-19 guidelines and policies in place. If you're renting from a peer-to-peer service like Sharegrid, make sure you are familiar with their policies surrounding COVID-19.
On set, strictly limit the handling of camera, G&E, and other equipment to only the most essential members of each department. As always, proper PPE should be worn while handling gear and equipment should be sanitized as necessary.
Buses and airplanes have instituted social distancing, and so should your transportation vehicles.
In general, be sure to limit vehicle capacity and maintain distance between riders. Between rides, disinfect all surfaces. If the weather permits, open the windows for maximum ventilation. In their detailed transpo COVID-19 guidelines, Versatile Studios also recommends assigning only one driver to each vehicle to further cut back on germ spread.
Because less capacity means more net trips to and from set, it's important to keep your vehicle emissions in mind.
Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus in these regions and maybe across the whole world. By replacing diesel engines with electric ones, you can ensure your production is both eco-friendly and COVID-intolerant.
While it's unlikely COVID-19 will spread through food and beverage, catering and craft services present new risks during the pandemic.
Individuals preparing food should wash hands thoroughly and wear PPE while handling food. By providing a washing station in close proximity to the meal area, cast and crew will be able to wash their hands before entering the catering or craft service area.
As it's impossible for your cast and crew to wear mouth coverings while eating, it is important to maintain social distancing by physically distancing tables and staggering meal times.
And, as always, keep it green and recycle. By reducing waste and your production's carbon footprint with the help of services like Earth Angel, you'll help make the world a better place for the next generation of filmmakers.
For certain departments like hair and makeup and wardrobe, it will be impossible for individuals to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others. An Art Department HMUA consulted with Versatile Studios to create this quick glam guide to help.
When person-to-person contact is necessary, everyone involved — both talent and crew — should wear appropriate PPE for the entire duration.
Once made up, actors may consider a face shield (as opposed to a mask) to not disturb completed make-up. Or better yet, consult with your hair and make-up team about having talent arrive with their own hair and make-up already done.
The business of keeping your talent looking pretty can get… messy. Now, more than ever, it's important to thoroughly clean brushes, sponges, makeup palettes, and other tools of the trade.
Follow specific care instructions for all application tools to clean them. Use single-use brushes and applicators when disinfectant is not possible, and recycle them with a service such as Terracycle.
With production limited by the pandemic, post-production will become more important than ever. It's also one of the few parts of the filmmaking process that can be done remotely without any significant change. There are, however, some important precautions to take that, while not health-specific, will get you to picture lock faster and less painfully.
When working from home, it’s possible you won’t have access to the same powerful workstations you might otherwise have. Thankfully, there are software workarounds. Tools like Remote Graphics Software can allow you to stream and remotely drive work from within a more powerful device.
Whether you're a studio or a freelancer working for a client, it's extremely important to exercise discretion and ensure the security of your work when handling post-production assets.
If your post-production team is working remotely, enabling digital communication and collaboration will be crucial in supporting an efficient workflow.
You'll want editors to be able to keep track of locked sequences and share work freely. There are many softwares that enable cloud-based multimedia collaboration and will allow you to do this, including Wipster and Frame.io.
Your shoot is wrapped, you've got a final cut — now it's time to pay the people that helped make it happen. By taking steps to enable efficient payroll processing and by reviewing your insurance coverage, you can ensure all your workers are paid on time and help maintain the health, safety, and security of your production during the coronavirus pandemic.
The best practice is to handle all start paperwork before anyone gets to set. It's also a good idea to process everything digitally, if you can.
If you can do most or all onboarding remotely before the shoot, you'll minimize unnecessary time on set, allowing your cast and crew to limit their risk of exposure.
On set, aim to keep all documentation readily at-hand on an iPad or other digital device. As with all electronic devices, both on-set and in the office, you'll want to limit access to only those for whom it's essential to use the device and sanitize regularly.
Additionally, encourage all employees to switch over to direct deposit payments via ACH. In these challenging times, it's more important than ever to pay your workers as quickly as possible.
Do you know if your production insurance policy includes coverage for a global pandemic? If you haven't already, now is a good time to check. With the situation changing all the time, it's crucial your production has adequate insurance coverage and that you are familiar with what your policy covers.
Given the uncertainty around work and potential for more temporary shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, providing unemployment insurance is more important than ever. While it won't protect your production, it will protect your cast and crew should production need to halt again due to the virus.
Some states, including California, have allowed contractors to claim unemployment and access relief funds through state unemployment offices. If you are employed as a contractor and have lost work due to COVID-19, you'll want to check with your state's unemployment program to determine if you're eligible for benefits.
While workers compensation insurance often covers medical costs to treat injuries and illness, COVID-19 is not covered by workers comp insurance.
On set, aim to keep digital copies of all certificates of insurance on devices like an iPad to limit exposure and prevent unnecessary delays that might put your cast and crew at increased risk.
As the situation continually evolves, it's crucial to check for updates from not only the CDC but also trades like Deadline as new state and federal insurance initiatives are changing every day.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic did not arise as an isolated public health crisis. It's interrelated with a number of other public health emergencies, including climate change. And so, now more than ever, it is important to find ways to make your production more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Almost a century's worth of global trends confirm that zoonotic disease outbreaks are occurring more frequently (UNEP). Zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 are transmitted between animals and humans, and a significant threat to human health. Due to our destruction of natural habitats, reducing overall space for wildlife and degrading natural buffers between humans and animals, humans are the primary cause for the COVID-19 pandemic (IPBES).
To protect ourselves and prevent future pandemics, we must prevent destruction of nature.
Reducing demand on new materials and reusing what is local whenever possible will not only greatly reduce costs, but reinvestment in local communities will also support your local economy.
Reuse materials like utensils, packaging, and applicators whenever possible. Single-use items often create a false sense of security — as they move from manufacturer to application, they can come into contact with a number of people.
But reusable items can be sterilized before each use. And sterilization, believe it or not, requires less energy, water, and labor than it takes to make single-use products.
If you have to use single-use utensils, look for non-bioplastic compostable products like Ecoware. For water bottles, encouraging your cast and crew to use the same refillable water bottles is always the most sustainable practice. When providing bottled water, consider switching to aluminum packaged water bottles like Open Water or Ever and Ever — they're far more sustainable than plastic water bottles and a better alternative to paper-carton containers, too.
Finally, if you must use plastic disposable materials, recycle responsibly.
While sterilizing and reusing utensils and other equipment is advisable, doing the same with PPE is not.
The weeks and months to follow, as many return to the workplace and production is allowed to resume across the industry, require us all to be vigilant in ensuring the health and safety of everyone against COVID-19.
With the information and resources above, you can be prepared as you get back to work.