As cities across the US loosen health and safety regulations aimed at keeping COVID-19 under control, many people are looking to introduce health measures into what used to be day-to-day activities. And while it’s not every day that we face a pandemic, a key takeaway from this experience is that there are simple steps that most companies can take to minimize risk of illness on a daily basis.
Production is a unique setting to protect because by nature, it often involves groups of people interacting. This collaboration between crew members, talent, and anyone else involved in a shoot is often what makes a production great, but it also creates the potential for illness to spread unless precautionary measures are in place.
That being said, here are the steps we recommend all production companies take to minimize health concerns on-set.
1. Enforce official regulations and recommendations.
This should be at the top of the list for every employee and manager—regardless of industry or job description. The CDC, WHO, and other official organizations are designed to monitor everything from the common cold to a highly contagious virus like COVID-19. Their reason for existence is to share accurate and timely information and resources to stop the spread of illness. As such, it’s critical that any company facing an outbreak of illness follows protocols and regulations set by these entities.
2. Mandate breaks for hand-washing and other hygiene measures.
Hand-washing is almost always the most important cautionary measure to prevent the spread of germs. Don’t make your cast and crew go out of their way to work these breaks into the schedule. Give regular reminders, and pause periodically to give everyone a moment to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. This is especially important in high-contact scenes—stop as often as possible to allocate time for hygiene measures.
3. Encourage anyone who feels remotely unwell to stay home.
When it comes to your cast and crew, make it very clear that anyone who feels the slightest bit ill should not come in. Directors, managers, and company executives should make this precaution abundantly clear. Paid sick leave can also help with this initiative, as it eliminates the pressure to show up while feeling unwell.
4. Stagger call times whenever possible.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, we’ll shift to some production-specific tips. First, stagger call times whenever possible. As a rule, no one should be on-set who doesn’t need to be there at any given time. The more you can allow for social distancing, the better. By minimizing the number of people in a space at once, you eliminate some of the power of contagion by forcing the risk to exist on a smaller-scale.
5. Reconsider your approach to craft services.
The concept of craft services is a staple of on-set life, but you may need to rethink the way you approach it. Rather than having big, family-style portions that everyone dips into, can you offer individually packaged food and snacks? Or, can you make a group order where everyone gets their own meal? The idea is to avoid cross-contamination from many people reaching for the same dishes, so think through your options for keeping everyone’s food separate.
6. Avoid shooting in public locations or anywhere where many people are gathered.
When it comes to on-location shoots, be especially mindful of where you’re going to film. Avoid crowded public locations or anywhere else where many people will be gathered at once. Consider shifting to a less-crowded location or postpone shoots that require a crowd when there is risk of an outbreak.
7. Eliminate live audiences.
For anyone who films with a live audience, consider eliminating the audience anytime there’s cause for concern and move forward with only cast and crew. Again, this is to mitigate any unnecessary risk by removing people who aren’t essential to the shoot itself. As soon as the threat of illness subsides, bring back the audience.
8. Postpone production if necessary.
Finally, consider postponing production when any of the measures above are unrealistic for a given shoot. Whenever possible for shoots that feel high-risk, reschedule for a later date to protect the safety of your team and the integrity of the process.
There you have it—use these eight tips to keep everyone safe on-set. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to take extra precautionary measures. You’ll never regret being overly prepared!