The Producers Guild of America (PGA) this week issued "COVID Safety Protocols for Independent Productions," a 57-page series of mandates, recommendations and guidelines for shooting during the coronavirus pandemic. Following similar documents – such as the studio-oriented "Safe Way Forward" published by IATSE, SAG and the DGA – the PGA paper, which was written by the Task Force on Production Safety, codifies and deals with new safety practices in the industry Questions that are specific to independent people (i.e. non-studio or streamer-based) productions. Like the documentation guidelines of the Doc Society, the Field of Vision and the Sundance Institute this summer, the PGA's “COVID Safety Protocol” extends its mandate to include the question: Should a certain production be shot at all?
New COVID-19 production processes – zone systems, increased use of video conferencing, physical distancing on set, careful hygiene, wearing PPE, etc. – have been discussed a lot in the trade press. Below, in these 14 specific food stalls and topics of interest, I've focused on recommendations that seem particularly relevant to independent filmmakers, that are worth discussing, or that go beyond the practices described in previous documents.
Ventilation. As mainstream coverage of coronavirus transmission has shifted from concern about surface transmission, the PGA document has also changed. While washer-disinfectors and work areas are still required, the larger hurdle for independent productions will meet requirements designed to reduce the risk of airborne transmission. "Every location, stage, store, dressing room, office, etc. must be assessed and upgraded or upgraded to ensure compliance with the ventilation system," the document states. MERV 13 – a filter category used in hospitals, smoking lounges and high-end apartments – is the “standard base” for installing HVAC systems. Upgrades must be done in locations where the HVAC filtering is below MERV 12. If HVAC systems are not used, portable HEPA units must be installed. Additionally, as the paper states, the SAG requires that manufacturers provide detailed information about the locations and their ventilation. Manufacturers can expect to be asked “the size and location of each stage, set, location, office, store, etc., along with information on outdoor access and existing circulation systems, and hourly ventilation and air conditioning Specify monitoring methods to reduce the spread of airborne particles. “The health and safety officer discussed below will consult with engineers and other experts to assess ventilation of all work areas and determine the appropriate filtration systems.
Finally, recommended hourly ventilation procedures result in work stoppages that manufacturers and AD departments must now consider. “Work should be interrupted several times a day (every hour or two hours, depending on the size of the room), team members should leave the premises and the air systems should be switched on, and doors and windows should be opened to remove any remaining particles from the enclosed space “, Says the document.
10 hour shooting day. The Safe Way Forward recommended 10 hour days of shooting – as opposed to the US industry's 12 days – and the PGA document supports that recommendation. One such limitation is that "the cast and crew immune systems remain strong, with time for monitoring, cleaning, and logs to reduce the risk of transmission". Of course, producers, ADs, PAs, drivers, and others traditionally work even longer, and the document recommends shifting the schedules so that no crew member works more than a 12-hour day. And within the day of shooting, the PGA recommends that the crew be given "face mask / hand washing breaks" every one to two hours.
Occupational safety officer / department. With COVID-19, a whole new department has been created. A cornerstone of any industry plan is a trained professional who is able to monitor and enforce COVID security procedures. This department is headed by the Health and Safety Supervisor (HSS) who reports directly to the manufacturer. The Health and Safety Supervisor is trained in epidemiology, while a second position, the Health and Safety Manager (HSM), is better trained in production and able to implement safe practices on the set. (If the HSM position is vacant, the productions should appoint an additional production manager or coordinator who works exclusively with the HSS.) The PGA states that small productions should expect the size of the health and safety department to increase one person to raise 20 cast members and crew members. The PGA document also names a dozen additional crew positions that might be included in the HSS division, including test runners, medical checkpoint officers, and officers dedicated to specific production zones.
"Red light", shutdown procedures and backup crew. The shoots should have a schedule to process positive test results among crew and cast. The PGA document goes into detail here and describes “isolation rooms” that must be available on set in order to immediately isolate a UTM (“unresolved team member”) whose positive test result is returned during the working day. UTMs have to be transported home privately, retested and, in the event of a second positive, quarantined for 14 days. The contract tracking procedures are detailed, along with a breakdown of the crew replacement procedures by position. In the event of a shutdown due to an outbreak, the cast and crew should be ready to quarantine for 14 days, and production should have plans to clean up and secure offices and sites before restarting (or returning to owners).
Regarding exchange procedures, the PGA recommends that productions have written plans to address the potential of sick, essential personnel. For example, if the director of a feature film falls ill, it can be confirmed that filming will be stopped until they are released for work again. Or a pre-approved backup director can be hired. A manufacturer should designate a backup in order to take responsibility. Department heads should designate their own replacements in writing. For example, a DP could agree that the operator could be bumped into or an external backup could be hired.
Insurance and financial insurance. The inability of independent productions to purchase production insurance to cover COVID costs has resulted in independent productions close to being closed. (The films that are now starting or resuming production are mostly funded by studios or streamers who can self-insure – that is, cover the cost of shutting down and stopping coronaviruses.) There are some independent filming, however – films, theirs Financiers assume these risks and additional costs themselves. The PGA document asks two questions to producers considering filming. First, "If you don't have an insurance policy that covers COVID-19-related claims, do you have a government-sponsored insurance policy?" (Some countries currently have government support for film insurance.) Second, "If the above answer is no, your financier is willing to pay for COVID-related insurance-related issues and claims such as shutdowns and crew pay, holding business, startup costs, etc. ( e.g. can you or your financier insure yourself)? And if so, is this commitment in writing? "If the answer to these two questions is no, the PGA recommends," You shouldn't consider producing at this time. "
Disclaimer of liability. It is something that is still being discussed by manufacturers to issue crew and even cast sign waivers that will relieve the manufacture of responsibility in the event of a coronavirus transmission. However, the PGA is strongly against it: “While it is common practice, especially with non-written productions, to include disclaimers when the capturing the content itself is inherently risky. These waivers should NOT also apply to potential exposures and / or contracts to COVID-19 during production. Exposure to and completion of COVID-19 do not pose any risks associated with capturing the creative content. Therefore, the PGA does not approve any form of disclaimer for COVID-19. "
Mental health. The PGA urges producers to be aware of the mental health issues of all of these new labor rules and to offer mental health resource support and staffing when needed.
Creative adjustments. If it's not obvious by now, scripts created during this time prior to vaccination will need to be creatively adapted – for no reason other than to bear the additional cost of recording incurred by purchasing that exam from PPE, the Health and Safety Supervisor / Department and more. However, the scenes need to be adjusted to reduce your own risk factors. For example, the PGA asks whether actors in risk groups or those who feel insecure can be shot separately. And whether scenes with ten or fewer actors can be filmed. Have the producers, directors, and writers thought about how to "redirect the plot in the absence of a sick actor"? And what about crowd scenes? Can they adhere to CDC distancing protocols and local civil authority rules? Can VFX be used to simulate crowds? Can stunt sequences be edited or rotated in such a way that physical contact between people is avoided? For love scenes, will the production have an intimacy coordinator who can work with the film's health and safety supervisor to ensure that the scene is shot safely?
Locations. The document recommends not to move a company within a day. (In other words, one site per day.) In addition, relocation should be done overnight so that the Health and Safety Department can remediate and prepare the space. The document also recommends locations
"Secured and COVID security prepared and disinfected at this location at least 24 hours before the start of shooting." (Then take into account the additional cost of site rentals.)
Increased budgets. Anecdotally, I've heard that manufacturers are estimating increased costs from 6% to 30% of budget due to adherence to COVID-19 procedures. The PGA recommends that these costs be included in their own annotated line items and not sluggishly budgeted, as estimates allow. In addition to demonstrating that production understands the scope and details of such security compliance by splitting all of the individual line items, by splitting those costs, producers can better negotiate with guilds like IATSE and SAG when higher budgets require lower productions Budget in tiers with higher budget, which increases overall labor costs.
Testing. Rapid tests are the cornerstone of today's production. The PGA asks manufacturers if they have a relationship with a laboratory that can run a test within 24 hours, as well as a backup laboratory for quick processing of PCR tests in the event of a delay with the primary laboratory. (Some manufacturers I know secure mobile labs to process the test volume needed for testing before and during production.)
The Safe Way Forward plan included graphs that showed the effectiveness of different test frequencies in stopping the spread of coronavirus on a set, with three times a week being the safe middle option (versus once a week or daily). The PGA recommends testing Zone A members (cast and crew on set) three times a week and Zone B members (offset, production offices, costume and set shops, etc.) once a week. Antibody testing is not accepted by SAG-AFTRA, and the union has currently only certified three test kit providers: Helix® COVID-19, Bosch Vivalytic PCR, and Abbott's ID Now RT-PCR test. Producers who recently filmed have cited the cost of tests, which ranges from $ 89 to $ 150 per test. (Do the math! And consider the cost of staff testing if testing is done on site.)
Occupation costs. Additional crew costs include paying for any required quarantine times, paying for pre-shooting tests, kit fees for anyone working at home, and recommended "COVID-19 bumps" for crew members who are familiar with adopting additional safety protocols or Responsibilities are assigned. Additionally, the need for crew members to get a negative test result within 48 hours of work impacts production's ability to fly in and out day teams such as extra handles and electrics that typically jump from job to job. ("Avoid crewmembers taking on extra work by performing night movements on other productions," the document reads. "Some crewmembers do three jobs in 24 hours! It's difficult to compete with the combined tariffs the crew do , but we need our teams to maintain strict social distancing and only work on our show, so consider doing general deals with typical day player roles. ")
Casting and planning changes. Similarly, based on testing requirements, the PGA recommends that productions no longer drop / pick up actors and that daily players be converted to weekly shots. The document also recommends producers' budget for a pool of background extras.
Regarding the entire shooting schedule, the PGA document for script work states: “In order to have enough time to prepare for and comply with the 10-hour days, it is recommended that the shooting schedules be blocked at the latest after fifteen (15) working days before production begins. “For lower budget location-based independent films that have understaffed (and under-budgeted) location departments, short preps, a large number of actors, and where the schedule usually hits goldenrod in the middle of a shoot, this is a very difficult requirement.
Insurance. As mentioned above, the insurance currently does not cover claims related to coronavirus. However, this will eventually change. However, when this is the case, the PGA writes, “Insurance is getting significantly more expensive. In addition, there are the exclusions of all communication diseases and the possibility of being able to buy back these exclusions. The premiums will increase significantly. "
18 months. Finally, these sobering words: “Manufacturers must take measures to protect workers from COVID-19. Some experts predict that the risk of COVID-19 infection will persist for at least 18 months, and we cannot revert to pre-COVID-19 production practices while the risks persist. "