While travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic are playing a massive role in how and where production is restarting, the safety protocols on set are equally as important, and in some cases a requirement, for continued production.
Depending on which sector of the industry your production is taking place, from reality to commercial, there have been guidelines set out by numerous organizations to ensure the safety of all personnel involved. In the United States, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) released an updated COVID-19 Workplace Guidelines and Considerations guide on September 7, 2020, having initially released it in June. This guide includes limits on the number of crew members allowed on set, HR considerations, surface and touchpoint safety and more. The guidelines also include new agency and client considerations for both virtual and in-person productions, including cyber liability insurance details and maintaining contingencies.
FilmLA, an organization for film permits and production planning for the city and county of Los Angeles, has a dedicated page for all COVID-related queries for production, including the current filming status by city. At present, all 16 of the city and county jurisdictions served by FilmLA are open for production. Since FilmLA received the go-ahead from local authorities back in June, over 500 permit applications for filming have been submitted. Aside from updates on locations that are currently open, FilmLA has a guide dedicated for hiring managers, workers and personnel that includes government resource links, FAQs, community questions and external resources from industry-affiliated businesses.
The Producers Guild of America released an excellent resource for producing independent productions called the COVID Safety Protocols. This safety guide requires all productions to create an infectious disease safety plan and conduct a risk assessment test that will address the ways COVID-19 will be mitigated on set before production begins. New COVID-related on-set jargon, including terms like PPE (personal protective equipment) and UTM (uncleared team member, a team member who tests positive for COVID-19), are listed in this guide as well.
Outside of the United States, production requirements vary depending on location. Canada’s borders have been closed due to COVID-19 with only business-related travel allowed, so strict protocols have been put in place to anyone traveling to this region. Actors or crew members entering Canada from abroad will be required to self-isolate for two weeks, as well as obtain a letter confirming production protocols have been approved. Numerous productions following these protocols, from “The Good Doctor” to “Riverdale” have resumed production safely. Additionally, productions in British Columbia are required to follow the additional Pandemic Production Guide.
Although there are productions currently filming in Australia, the country’s borders have closed for non-Australian citizens since March. Anyone that wishes to film in Australia must follow the Australian Screen Production Industry COVID-Safe Guidelines published in May 2020. This guide provides details on preparing a COVID-safe risk mitigation plan prior to commencing production.
The British Film Commission has provided a COVID-19 Guidance resource that works in conjunction with the latest UK Government orders. It was specifically created for Great Britain, and advises Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to refer to their local government, as the guidelines and protocols may differ for each province. This guide touches on all aspects of filming and includes additional requirements for safe working post-production and VFX, resources for financial support and mental health, training and personal hygiene and limiting in-person meetings.
On Monday, September 21, Hollywood unions including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Directors Guild of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Basic Crafts and SAG-AFTRA with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers signed a return-to-work agreement with major studios.
The new agreement requires testing for all cast and crew members prior to the start of production as well as testing throughout production, which could result in at least three tests per week for some members on set. New specialized “Zones” within the production environment must be implemented, including barriers that help designate each zone for specific members of the cast and crew depending on your role, level of physical distancing when cameras are rolling and much more. Additionally, COVID-19 compliance supervisors are now required on set during production. This supervisor will be responsible for enforcing new rules and regulations during the production’s working hours.
Although guidelines and restrictions vary based on production location, it is clear that as a whole, the industry is dedicated to helping production resume as quickly and as safely as possible. Check back for further international production guidelines as they are released.