• Lex Lea

COVID guidance for filming

The UK Film and TV industry recently created COVID-19 guidance for crew members filming in public places during the pandemic. The guidelines expanded to cater to indoor meetings and workstations.


Most of the guidance is a checklist of actions aiming to help the crew mitigate coronavirus transmission risks when on location. Even so, the industry’s COVID-19 guidance may change anytime, with respect to changes in the UK’s government guidelines.


Professional filming during COVID


Film and high-end television


This guideline came into effect from Monday 18th January 2021 at around 4 am GMT. All international arrivals travelling via Common Travel Area will take a pre-departure coronavirus test and self-isolate immediately for at least ten days once they enter the UK. Travellers who passed through the same route ten days prior to this guide’s enforcement will also take the mandatory COVID-19 test. Even so, any crew member who qualifies for the Test to Release Scheme can cut the isolation days to five.


The Common Travel Area is a long-lived agreement between British and Irish citizens allowed to move freely in either jurisdiction. They are also entitled to basic freedom of association and privileges, including work and education. Crew members must pay for a private coronavirus test under the Test to Release Scheme, whereby they can choose to skip isolation if the results turn out to be negative.


COVID specific health and safety


All cast and crew of different companies should undertake an online induction course on various COVID-19 preventive measures before commencing their work. Basic principles highlighted in the short course include:

  • Social distancing, hand, and respiratory hygiene

  • Essential preventive measures in close-proximity working conditions

  • Mental health awareness at work amidst the pandemic

  • Availability of coronavirus safety work conditions


Crew supervision


The Health and Safety supervisor will have a dedicated role to ensure that his/her crew adheres to all the guidelines put across during the online training. The supervisor will do periodical risk assessment reports and has the authority to halt unsafe working conditions. Other functions of the supervisor include the following:

  • Advise all the HODs on compliance and issue checklists for assisted supervision

  • Advise staff to undergo coronavirus symptom checking periodically

  • Allocate coronavirus monitors to all departments to help enforce guidelines and protocols

  • Hold producers responsible for the health and safety of their crew members

Every designated supervisor is responsible for clear communication lines, including remote pre-shoot briefings and site posters to remind crew members of their expectations. Additionally, the supervisors should ask crew members to confirm receipt of their daily briefings to encourage clarification on missed points.


Who should work?


Every film and TV Company should set appropriate methods to identify the clinically vulnerable amongst their crew and advise them on the increased risk of contracting the virus. This group of people should be given access to professional medical counselling on their consent, preferably from the production medical advisor.


Social distancing


All film and TV crews should adhere to strict social distancing and personal hygiene practices as stipulated in UK’s Government guidelines on coronavirus safe practices. These measures include the following:

  • Having markers to designate safe separation distances, ideally two meters apart. If two meters isn’t applicable, the supervisor shall resort to at least one meter with a risk mitigation plan in place

  • Every crew member to have at least four square meters of space per person in communal work stations

  • Mitigation actions include frequent dusting and hand washing practices, short working periods, screen barricades, and back-to-back working instead of face-to-face

  • Face covering is encouraged at all times, unless in settings where the crew’s job relies on lip-reading and intimate conversations

  • Appropriate ventilation in work stations, including large windows, open doors, and artificial ventilation appliances.

Mental health and wellbeing


Most people in the UK witnessed the pandemic’s death toll taking on their friends and relatives. Quarantine and isolation can also affect someone’s emotions. Thus, they are battling COVID-19 related stress and anxieties at this unprecedented time. These guidelines encourage employers to treat the mental health and wellbeing of their staff with sufficient priority. For instance, supervisors should clearly display information on mental health awareness and help programs across the workplace.


Accommodation


The film crews will be travelling inside the UK to shoot in various locations. All their accommodation plans must comply with the UK’s Government coronavirus guidelines. These guidelines include providing sanitised isolation for crew members who will be flying in from outside the UK. Employers should also avoid booking shared rooms for their staff as much as possible, unless necessary.


On-set crew


The supporting cast and artists should embrace remote working whenever possible to minimise physical interaction. Only essential crews should be allowed to be on set. In case of a large number on set, producers should separate the crew into different cohorts and shoot interchangeably whenever possible. This includes also limiting access to communal work stations to one cohort at a time. Besides, only designated members with active role-playing duties in each cohort should visit the shooting scenes.


Base and vehicles


TV and film production crews often move around in trailers. These emerging guidelines recommend the acquisition of extra trailers by employers to cater to additional space needed to curb the spread and infection rate of COVID-19. Ideally, each cast should have a trailer, while employers partition technical ones to segregate workstations. All trailers should also undergo thorough cleaning and sanitisation when casts swap locations.


During transportation, employers should adhere to strict travel and transport guidelines enacted by the UK Government. Besides limiting one occupant per vehicles wherever possible, other guidelines include the following:

  • Hiring dedicated drivers

  • Spending less time inside vehicles

  • Travelling with vehicle windows open

  • Having a screen to separate drivers from passengers

Producers should follow these guidelines for location carts:

  • Wiping touched surfaces frequently with a sanitizer, including handles and levers

  • Sanitising unit carts at the end of the day and before the following working day

  • Using easy-to-clean seat covers

Catering


Auxiliary staff and crew members can have on-location catering services provided they firmly adhere to the government’s guidelines on safe COVID-19 protocols for the catering industry. Here are the general policies that each employer must enforce:

  • Sanitizers and handwashing stations should be readily accessible to all crew members

  • Using single-use cutlery and single-serving drinks

  • Unless impossible, supervisors should encourage a pre-order system for food at all times

  • Regular cleaning and sanitising of shared catering appliances such as water dispensers

  • Social distancing practices when queuing for food and drinks

  • Cleaning the area after use to eliminate any unwrapped food waste

  • Ensuring segregation of the catering and cast crew, unless during serving times

  • If possible, screes should separate the catering from the cast crew during serving

  • One-way system for navigating each serving point


Workspaces


Cleanliness is given high priority and should start from high contact surfaces such as door and window handles for frequent sanitisation. Working and communal areas designated for special cleaning attention include waiting bays, dressing rooms, eating halls, and shared offices. The guidelines extend to stipulate how the crew should manage waste. They should consider:

  • Recycling wherever possible

  • Using face covering and medical PPEs when handling all type of waste

  • Disposing PPEs in waste bags

  • Having a clear understanding of a waste bin and a recycle bin

Supervisors should ensure that working spaces remain out of bounds to non-cleared personnel when not in use, including beefing up security in such areas. Workers are also encouraged to leave their workstations early to give enough window for deep cleaning and disinfection.


Equipment


It is imperative to understand that most production companies rely on rented equipment shared across the industry for high-quality and intuitive film making. Hence, supervisors should encourage frequent hand washing across the board. There is a prohibition in sharing personal items such as mobile phones, iPad, chargers, and even notebooks. If sharing is inevitable, each crew member should take personal responsibility for disinfecting their items to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus.


Meetings


Various technology service providers have impressive remote-meeting solutions for any industry. The film and TV crews should embrace remote meetings before physical shooting scenes to reduce social contact as much as possible. As for in-person meetings, follow:

  • Having meetings in well-ventilated spaces

  • Only necessary participants should attend

  • Adhering to social distancing guidelines in social halls

  • Using personal items like pens and notepads

  • Having an exact schedule to keep the meeting as short as possible

  • Organisers should share drawing plans digitally

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