Hollywood is inching closer to getting back to work, with the entertainment industry’s guilds and unions signing off on a 22-page guideline document designed to establish safety protocols for producing movies and TV in the age of coronavirus.
The agreement comes after a protracted period of negotiation among the various constituencies — including actors, directors and crews — and relies on extensive testing, temperature checks, cleaning measures and physical distancing when possible. The parties also acknowledge that revisions might be necessary going forward.
Certain activities, such as writing and casting, are still encouraged to be conducted virtually whenever possible. At the same time, other parts of production — including live studio audiences — are being discouraged, with restrictions like social-distancing measures when used.
Actors and other performers, the report notes, are “most vulnerable because they cannot wear PPE [personal protective equipment] when cameras are rolling, and frequently will not be able to engage in physical distancing.” That will require greater testing frequency for them and those with whom they are in close contact.
There are some activities, such as makeup and fight scenes, where stronger safeguards aren’t possible, the report acknowledges. The plan was produced by the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force, which was formed specifically for that purpose, with input from epidemiologists and sanitation experts.
The guidelines have been submitted to public-health officials in New York and California. Movie and TV production also takes place all over the world, including Georgia, Canada and New Zealand, where work on the next “Avatar” movies is scheduled to formally resume after a quarantine period for director James Cameron and other crew members.
Other aspects of the guidelines include the ability to respond appropriately if personnel contract the virus, educational programs, and a designated compliance officer on each production. Efforts will also be made to “assess health/wellness of all personnel prior to entry onto set.”
There are still questions regarding how all this will work practically, and significantly, how much it’s going to cost.
As Variety noted, the report’s initial draft didn’t specifically address how the expense of “conducting extensive testing, cleaning and safety monitoring will be covered, and who will pay for it.”
The white paper specifies that personal protective equipment be provided “to all cast and crew at no cost.”
Because of the uncertainty associated with Covid-19, U.S. networks have been working on contingency measures if production is significantly delayed. That includes acquiring programs that have already been produced either for streaming services or other countries such as the U.K. and Canada.