As vaccine distribution has ramped up in 2021, some businesses have begun the transition toward business as usual. But will business really be “usual” again? The film industry has had to work under extreme precautions during the COVID crisis. They include holding entire casts and crews under quarantine before filming and then maintaining a lockdown until the end of the filming.
With the slow reopening of businesses and venues, we may be tempted to return to the way things were. Aside from general construction site safety measures, each industry may have its own safety measures. Our ever-evolving understanding of the coronavirus makes clear that we need special protocols and safety measures that protect film industry workers while on site. It is important to maintain certain essential facilities and procedures to provide the highest level of protection to on-set workers.
Employers are required to develop a COVID-19 safety protocol and to have the procedures clearly posted in the filming area. As part of this system, all filming areas should have safety stations. These stations include immediate set areas, hair and makeup stations, craft services facilities, dressing rooms, and waiting areas.
Safety stations should include sanitation equipment, such as wipes, disinfectant sprays, and other cleaning materials necessary for specific equipment. They should also provide personal protection such as hand washing areas, hand sanitizer, and masks. All employees need to know the location of these stations and the proper procedures for disinfecting surfaces and equipment and for maintaining proper personal hygiene.
Only essential personnel should have access to the actual stage set for the scene at hand. Also, the area of filming should be clearly marked so that only required personnel are within its bounds. Having a check-in station where necessary personnel must provide credentials is a good way of ensuring on-site safety.
As such, workers who are not needed immediately but who must be available should be provided open areas with adequate seating to maintain social distancing. Such an area is best established outside where ventilation is sufficient. If waiting periods are longer, it is better to retire workers to their personal areas and wait for on-call to return to the set area.
Because of the time involved in shooting, it is sometimes unavoidable to provide meals on set. In such situations, craft service facilities should eliminate buffet-style services and should instead pre-package and label meals for pickup. In the case of large crews, you may want to establish time-slot rotations for meals and clearly mark pickup areas with tape or cones that encourage proper social distancing while waiting.
There should be limitations on any seating areas to no more than six people per table and a minimum of two meters of space between tables. The dining space would preferably be established in an outdoor area and because the duration of exposure is a factor in COVID transmission, you may want to limit the time each group can spend in the eating area.
Areas revolving around filming are most often the areas where most intimate contact must occur and are thus to be given a high level of precaution attention. Hair and makeup, for example, should be confined as much as possible to individual trailers when possible. Artists should also work on one performer at a time. Disinfecting equipment and persons before attending to the next performer is a must.
Where individual areas are not possible, large open areas should be used for makeup. Also, hair and dividers should be installed between each space. Workers should wear personal protective equipment. They should provide makeup and equipment for each performance, and keep it clearly labeled and separate from others. They should also disinfect them between each performance.
A Changing Scene
The new usual is likely to be unusual. With the slow process of vaccination and the development of variants of the virus, our way of business should change. Now is the time to think about the most effective ways for securing the safety of workers in the film industry. As they say, the show must go on.