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Is it possible to film safely within Covid19 restrictions?

After the government’s announcement last week requesting that everyone who can’t work from home should now return (and with Covid19 restrictions seemingly in place for the foreseeable future)... It’s fair to say that production as we knew it will not be the same for a long time, if ever again. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t find a safe and feasible way to keep producing content.

With this in mind, Big Head Content felt it important to start researching and outlining some key safety points from the many available sources before planning the first post lockdown shoot.

Reviewing the available sources, the most important factors were based around hygiene, protection, distance, crew size and time.  

Hygiene and Protection

Every crew member present on shoot day should be fully briefed on Covid-19 precautions. Cough and sneeze in the crook of the arm or into a tissue and bin immediately

It seems obvious but as this is the best method of preventing the spread of the virus, it has to be the most pressing. For starters, all crew must wash their hands on arrival and at regular intervals throughout the day. Hand sanitiser stations need to be available at all times and a minimum of face masks and PPE gloves to worn at all times.

Shoots are not usually known for their adequate space, with crews often having to squeeze past people just to stay out of shot. Locations/ Studios must be large enough for all crew to keep two meters apart at all times and be thoroughly cleaned prior and after filming. This will of course result in slower build times with crews having to take turns at setting up. Prelight/set-build/set-dress must be undertaken separately by one crew/department at a time if possible.

Food on set will be another key issue. Organising hot individual boxed food or even having team members bring their own meals to the shoot (to be reimbursed) seems to be the safest option. 

Hair and Makeup - Where possible the talent should be applying all makeup and styling hair themselves. If the hair and makeup department do need to step in, they should be wearing a PPE visor as well as the usual mask and gloves. All equipment must be thoroughly disinfected after use.

Kit is something that the Production team will need to manage vigorously. Again seemingly obvious but all equipment will need to be thoroughly sterilised before leaving set. Similar strands of Covid can live on surfaces for up to  9 days on metal, glass and plastic. (The Journal Of Hospital Infections 2020*).

Allow more time and space for everything

The number of people on set must be kept to a minimum. Anyone from the production team, cast, crew, agency and client who are not necessary to have on set should not attend and ideally view via a live video stream. 

All scripting needs to consider what is now possible within current restrictions. Having more than two people on screen at a time will be tough to shoot without the help of the VFX team.

Stagger the amount of crew and talent on set at one time. Making sure any common areas or holding areas are outside wherever possible will be vital. Crossed fingers for a sunny summer but as this is the UK you can’t count on it. Additional shelter outside or potentially keeping people in their cars until needed maybe an option.

Last-minute changes or late sign-off before shoots are going to make it even harder to ensure locations/studio are safe and people can be properly staggered throughout the day. It’s not always possible but the more time between final pre-production sign off and the shoot means more time to solve any problems.

Keep it digital 

Now more than ever is the time to keep as much information available digitally and print as little as possible. This includes scripts, creative treatments, budgets, contracts, casting docs etc.

All meetings should continue to be run digitally including any casting sessions and production meetings.

Lastly, everyone involved should digitally sign a Health Declaration Form. There are various versions of this but the APA example can be found here.

I found the APA, Bectu, WHO, and the most useful places for information at the minute but I’m keeping a close eye out for others.

This information is by no means exhortative and should be seen as a guide of what we’re currently considering when looking to start filming safely for our next shoot. All information correct as of 19th May 2020. 


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