Gov. Newsom Announces Guidelines for Reopening Hollywood
California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced that filmed entertainment production may resume in California no earlier than June 12, 2020. His announcement means that production may resume in the state, subject to Industry Guidelines and the approvals of county public health officers.
The Governor's announcement requires productions to obtain approval from county public health officers, who will evaluate local data to determine whether it is safe to begin filming in such jurisdiction. Prior to greenlighting the start of production, local officials will evaluate cases per 100,000 population, rate of positive tests, local preparedness for a health care surge, contact tracing, and testing.
Governor Newsom's announcement follows last week's release of an industry/labor task force's white paper, which Newsom explicitly incorporated into his plans for reopening the entertainment industry. A summary of the key provisions of the Task Force's recommendations is below:
Focus on Medical Expertise, Communicate With Local Officials, and Properly Train Cast and Crew
Along with dozens of specific recommendations covering everything from casting to craft services, the Industry Guidelines set forth a few general principles:
- Prioritizing health and safety;
- Embracing medical guidance;
- Following state, local, and federal guidelines;
- Maintaining physical distancing by encouraging and continuing work from home where possible, in addition to on-set and on-location distancing;
- Where physical distancing is impracticable – using other forms of mitigation including providing personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Embracing universal symptom monitoring, including temperature screening;
- Providing enhanced sanitation – wipedown/disinfection/hand sanitizer;
- Training all cast and crew in COVID-19 prevention;
- Respecting individual rights and non-discrimination;
- Providing adequate staffing and space to allow productions to embrace COVID-19 prevention;
- Providing emotional/mental health support to help deal with stress; and
- Providing flexible paid leave.
To enact COVID-19 prevention policies, the Industry Guidelines recommend hiring an independent COVID-19 Compliance officer who will have responsibility for assuring that productions follow their COVID-19 safety practices. While having such an individual may be feasible for larger productions, it may be impractical for smaller unscripted and documentary productions with skeleton crews to hire a dedicated producer to oversee these measures.
Productions may also wish to engage an infectious disease expert prior to the commencement of production, who can help develop efficient and safe workflows to stem the spread of infection, and such expert should be engaged on a local level in the event production shoots in a distant location.
And, as mentioned above, all cast and crew should undergo infection control training that will focus on physical distancing, hand hygiene, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and role specific trainings for crew members.
Maintaining the Safety of Cast and Crew
The safety of cast and crew can be maintained with infection control measures, such as enhanced sanitation techniques, universal testing and symptom monitoring, required use of PPE, and the enforcement of physical distancing.
The guidelines embrace widespread testing in accordance with recommendations from the unions and medical privacy laws. If feasible, each cast and crew member should be periodically tested as a condition to employment, and production should be aware of updated testing protocols as testing becomes more accurate.
The guidelines further urge the use of PPE throughout production as a strategy to mitigate the risk of spreading an infection. Productions are to issue PPE to each individual member of the cast and crew (at no cost to them) prior to entering the workspace.
In order to avoid the risk of infection, production should encourage and promote hand hygiene by installing hand wash and alcohol-based sanitizer stations and provide opportunities for wipedowns of high-touch surfaces throughout filming. Posting signs that inform cast and crew of the proper use of PPE, disinfection, and hand hygiene can ensure the promotion of infection control measures.
When possible, physical distancing should be encouraged and productions should provide for virtual writers rooms, the use of adequate staffing to create a feasible environment for physical distancing, virtual production meetings, and avoid the use of live audiences.
Craft services and catering should avoid "buffet" style food service, designate individuals to pick up food delivery, and limit the ability for cast and crew to leave the job site for meals. Production specific items such as props, wigs, and costumes should be disinfected in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and should not be shared among the cast absent proper disinfection.
Production Should Proactively Address Infection Control in Situations Specific to Film and Television
There are some aspects of production that cannot adhere to the requirement of physical distancing, and production must proactively assess workflows and the development of specialized protocols for certain departments. However, contact between crew and performers should be kept at a minimum, and only necessary visitors should be permitted on set. If minors are on set, it is recommended that the studio teacher interact with the minor via remote schooling, and the extra personnel associated with the minor be limited to one guardian and a studio teacher.
Crew members in wardrobe and make-up should wear masks, and production should provide for sufficient time to follow safety protocols between specific tasks. Casting should occur virtually and, if not possible, in a room with a barrier or in excess of six feet between individuals. In order to limit the crew's interactions with potential contaminated spaces, productions should encourage traditional in-person tech scouts to be limited to small groups and the use of virtual scouting.
Production Protocols Should Respect Individual Rights and Mental Health
The risk of infection can increase anxiety for cast and crew as they return to work. Productions may consider providing resources for mental and emotional wellbeing, such as online mindfulness training, telemedicine, and emotional support hotlines. Production should also ensure that the workplace is one of non-discrimination and that cast and crew will not be subject to punitive measures for missing work due to illness.
Be Flexible and Prepare for Evolving Guidelines and Regulations
As filming gears up to resume on or after June 12, 2020, productions should be aware that the Task Force characterizes the recommendations as a first phase in a larger discussion. Other guilds, such as International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, have issued separate guidelines, and as the medical community learns more about COVID-19 the strategies for safe work environments will likely evolve during the production process.
In order to successfully ensure the safety of cast and crew, productions need to maintain flexibility with changing guidelines and regularly communicate with stakeholders from the unions and local authorities.
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