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Restarting Film & Video Production (COVID-19)
The entertainment industry has been majorly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and 2.3 Million+ people in the US who used to work are now unemployed. We have a responsibility rethink how to do production safely and restart soon.

With everyone staying at home and keeping 6 feet distance from each other, the entertainment industry has been majorly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps our industry is not the one that has had the biggest loss (compared to the tourism and service industries) but I think it certainly is one of the first 5 industries that the pandemic took down to its knees.

The people who work on all the TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos we watch are now unemployed or not occupied. These are 2.3 Million+ people in the US who used to work 10 to 16 hours a day… More than a few of them are living paycheck to paycheck while bringing us the stories and characters we love. 

We have a responsibility

Just like we have a responsibility to keep each other safe and flatten the curve of the pandemic by wearing masks, keeping distance, and if we show any symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) staying home and getting tested…

I think we also have a responsibility to rethink how to do production safely (and contagion free) and think of safe ways to restart the film & video production business once the local laws allow it.

A producer’s job is to do their best with the resources available. 

I want to encourage you, the reader, to think of:

What we can create and how we can execute with the available resources while being careful.

These questions are not in order. In fact, 

we may even need to think of how we are going to execute the production before we start thinking about what the content will be. 

I think the first step is understanding the current situation we are in and keeping ourselves updated.

Humanity is united fighting with this pandemic and our resources are growing by the minute. 

As of May 4, 

There are more than 90 vaccines are being developed (*) and more than 150 treatments are in the pipeline in the fight (*) against SARS-CoV-2 by research teams in companies and universities across the world.

LA Mayor Garcetti recently announced that he is aiming to get coronavirus tests available and free for every LA resident. 

Currently, the Stay At home Order is extended till May 15. 

Also a few days ago, CA Governor Gavin Newsom announced details on how the state plans to modify the Stay-At-Home order in 4 stages: by prioritizing opening lower-risk workplaces and then gradually higher-risk ones until eventually, the ban is fully lifted. 

He announced today that we are entering into the next phase this week.

It’s also important to note that vaccines and medicines can take a year or two to become available, and LA is still working out a way to have enough tests for everyone.

So I want to start the discussion and co-author a guideline of how we can restart the video production before these lingering problems are solved. Before we have the vaccination and medicine and even before the testing becomes widely available…. 

For that, I would firstly invite us to:

1- Learn how the disease spreads and understand the CDC guidelines

2- Examine how other production companies are approaching the pandemic

Based on this, I am sharing a Guideline for Film & Video Production during Covid-19 for you – my fellow producers, creatives, and crew members… I would like your comments and suggestions to supplement the guideline and restart film & video production.

Let’s get to it.

How it spreads and CDC guidelines

I think the first crucial information for the producer is to learn about the virus and how it spreads, and to understand the guidelines to keep everyone safe. 

As of April 30, 2 pm here are few of the CDC Guidelines

Know how it spreads (…)

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
    • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
    • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (…)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

  • Put distance between yourself and other people.
    • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
    • Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover (…)
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. (…)

For the original CDC Guideline please visit CDC > Covid-19 > Prevent Getting Sick 

Understand the nature of the virus better

I think it is crucial for entertainment leaders to understand the nature of the virus as much as possible in a scientific way – without any commentary or speculation.

You can check out the New England Journal of Medicine for the latest scientific developments.

Note for peers: reading medical journals about the pandemic was much easier than reading a legal document and much more comforting than reading the news. 

For visual learners, Netflixexplainedstarted a special series where it explains where the virus may have originated, how it could have been prevented, and gives examples from history how staying home ‘flattens the curves’ in pandemics.

Other productions approach and their guidelines

The discussion among executives and producers about how to ease back into production already started weeks ago.

The first guideline that came to my attention was from Hobby Film in Sweden & Denmark.

In their website They suggest:

  • Production must enable the required social distancing.
    • This means leaner crews and planning to ensure departments can work sequentially.
  • The maximum number of people should be limited based on local laws.
  • For interior shoots, each person inside at any given time requires 42 square feet.

Their guideline focuses on personal hygiene and social distancing. 

It also suggests minimizing the number of people on set, staggering each department’s arrival time, and even optimizing the workflow to have only one department present at a time. 

The guideline emphasizes individual responsibility for crew members as well.

The second protocol news I learned was from Australia’s ‘Neighbours’ TV show. They were going back to production with the following rules:

  • The studio space has been divided into quadrants, with three production teams isolated from each other, and only three actors allowed to cross between the groups. 
  • They implement the four-square-meter and the one-and-a-half-meter social distancing rules
  • Male actors will have no make-up, female actors will not be touched up;
  • There will be no physical contact between actors including kissing, holding hands or intimate scenes;
  • Actors will also practice social distancing, with camera trickery used to make them look closer together;
  • There will be no outside extras, with crew members already on set doubling as background performers.

The third guideline suggestion came from Tyler Perry, who suggested a ‘drama camp’ method.

[box] Note, he is not the first one to suggest this method, where everyone isolates themselves during the production, yet Perry might be the first one who has the resources to successfully do that. 

His shows film entirely on his studio lot in Atlanta, and his lot includes ample housing on the premises. Furthermore, he has access to private testing and already started testing his crew members.[/box]

Perry’s plan includes:

  • Testing the cast in their city before they travel to Atlanta
  • When cast and crew arrive at the lot, each will be tested again where they will be quarantined for 24 hours until results come back.
  • When tests come back, they will start the work.
  • After 4 days, they will do the test again as an additional precautionary measure.
  • Productions will go for 3 weeks at a time. Then, the cast & crew get a week off to go visit their families. When they are back, the same testing process repeats.

Another production also slated to start as well. Right as I am writing this, production in Arkansas told Deadline that they are planning to start production. They are considering social distancing, taking everybody’s temperature, and quarantining people before they arrive.

These are some of the discussions and plans to restart the film & video production. Follow Deadline’s “Reopening Hollywood” series for more. 

In the next article, I wrote a guideline for film & video production based on these suggested protocols, CDC suggestions and OSHO guidelines. My intention is to start the discussion of how we can safely return to production. 

Join me and tell me what you think.

(For comments and discussion, see you on the next post.)


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