Film Production Safety Tips for the Covid-19 Era
Updated: Jun 23
At Filmkraft, we're gearing up to start physical video productions again in the near future. As we prepare, we are taking a deep dive into safety laws and best practices to keep our team and clients safe.
If you have a physical shoot coming up, we hope this blog post will help you understand guidelines and minimize Covid-19 health risks.
Read on for tips, resources, and Filmkraft's step-by-step guide to returning to set.
Evaluate if Shooting is Legal in Your Area
Before you begin planning a shoot, it is very important to check your local reopening schedule to see whether video production is permitted. Most regions have specific rules about how and when video productions may resume. The New York City video production rules, for example, will allow shoots with up to 10 crew beginning July 1st. In Los Angeles, guidelines were published in this ordinance. It's critical to be aware of such rules for your area before starting to consider a video shoot.
To check which rules apply to you, research the reopening instructions for your country, state, and city. You can also write an email to your local government or film board in order to be extra sure that your shoot will be in compliance.
If shooting in your area is permitted, the next step is to weigh the risks and benefits of physical production. Take a look at local virus numbers, guidance, and laws, and evaluate whether a shoot is the way to go. If the Covid picture is still iffy or regulations are too burdensome, it might be a good idea to think about other content creation options.
The Alternatives: Animation, Motion Graphics, Remote Videography, or Shooting Elsewhere
There are many ways to create great content without the risks of physical video production. If it's too dangerous or inconvenient to shoot, try:
Remote Videography, like recording interviews on Zoom
Shooting in a safer location that is further along in reopening, such as upstate New York or Iceland
Waiting: while conditions improve, consider development, screenwriting, or pre-production rather than shooting
Before you Film, Check Out these Resources
If shooting in your region is possible and the above alternatives are not an option, it's time to make an action plan to minimize risk for your clients, crew, talent, and community.
Before we dive into Filmkraft's own list for safe video productions, we recommend that you check out and print some of the following resources:
1. Georgia's Best Practices PDF
The US state of Georgia released a convenient guide to film and television production. It contains general safety information as well as specific advice by production area (catering, camera department, etc.):
2. LA County Health Protocols: Appendix J
The second resource that we recommend you take a look at is Appendix J of this legal decree issued by LA County. If you're planning your shoot in LA, you absolutely must take this document seriously since it's the law of the land. You'll find information related to film production on pages 16-25 of the packet.
3. Production Guidelines by Hollywood Unions
Several Hollywood unions have teamed up to publish a detailed book of guidelines called The Safe Way Forward. This document is intended for major feature film productions, but it is a carefully crafted resource that can help inform production crews of any size.
In the words of the authors: "What we are trying to describe and contribute is an organizing principle, an overlay; the granular detail that lies beneath can be tailored to each production." Whoa, that's pretty deep stuff for a safety manual.
The report goes in depth on the importance of testing on set and introduces a novel Zone System in which the production environment is broken up into Zones A, B, and C.
4. US Covid-19 Resources
Besides the above documents which are specifically tailored for film productions, we recommend checking out resources published by various US government agencies about Coronavirus in general. These include Guidance on Preparing Workplaces by the OSHA or the CDC's Covid page.
Filmkraft's Step-by-Step Guide to Safe Video Production
We've meditated on the above resources and have put together a strategy that we think will work best for the types of shoots we specialize in at Filmkraft (explainer videos, testimonials, and TV commercials). Be sure to adapt the list to the specific needs of your shoot, such as local laws, size of shoot, etc.
Pre-Production Covid Safety
Do as much pre-production, scouting, and casting remotely as possible.
Conduct in-person meetings, such as callbacks, outside or in a well-ventilated large room.
Arrange for talent and crew to arrive on set via private transportation such as walking, bicycles, or cars. (2 passengers wearing PPE per vehicle max).
Adapt stories and shoots to be as Covid-safe as possible. For example, switch indoor scenes or interviews outdoors.
Plan for a smaller crew.
Allow crew to work in rotations to minimize crowding.
Take extra care with older or vulnerable individuals.
Purchase PPE, soap, and hand sanitizer for the set.
Make sure talent and crew report any symptoms they may have before or during the shoot.
Reduce the number of extras.
When scouting locations: act as if the potential locations are infected (in other words use PPE and don't spend too much time in them). Also, choose locations with good ventilation and lots of space.
For craft preparations: consider providing individual food portions.
Make sure the shooting location is cleaned and ventilated before crew and talent arrives for the shoot.
Create signs that will be displayed on set providing safety instructions, such as "Please wash your hands here" or "Please go outside during breaks".
Production Covid Safety
Shoot outside or in large, well ventilated environments.
Crew should wear PPE at all times.
Maintain 6 feet of distance when possible.
Get in. Get out. Work in shifts to minimize exposure. If crew isn't needed on set allow them to wait outside. Have conversations outside.
Clean and disinfect the shooting space according to CDC instructions.
Eat meals outside. No buffets!
Create a Zone System to separate unprotected talent from crew.
Make it a closed set: don't let outside personnel into the shooting area.
For Larger Shoots
Hire a dedicated person to oversee your Covid safety strategy.
Set up a temperature-check system.
Set up a testing protocol. This is especially important for actors who will not be able to wear PPE.
Consider keeping a record of contacts, especially for actors who do not wear PPE and may have close interactions during scenes.
We hope this post has provided some useful ideas and resources about getting your team back to the film set! We will continuously update the above advice as facts on the ground change and more is discovered about Covid-19. If you have any recommendations or thoughts, please let us know below.
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