When the pandemic hit, businesses braced themselves. From products and services to travel and entertainment, in what felt like an instant there were pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs. The stock market tanked. Some companies felt they might weather the storm, assuming the crisis would last just a few weeks, a few months at worst.
Yet, as the shutdowns and social distancing wears on, we are learning that society is in this for the long haul. Now it’s time to adapt and find a way forward.
When it comes to the film and production industry, the road ahead has been increasingly rough. Movie theaters are still closed. Release dates have been postponed, while other films have been sent directly to streaming services. Sets have been abandoned. As Colleen Bell of the California Film Commission puts it, “it wasn’t a fade to black, it was a snap to black.”
In 2019, global box office revenue garnered a record $42.5B. For some, in looking at these numbers, it may be hard to feel bad for Tinseltown. But think again.
In a state like California, more than 700,000 people work in the film industry. The expanded California film and television industry tax credit generated $8 billion in in-state spending. When a film is shot on location it boosts the local economy, bringing jobs, cashflow, infrastructure developments, and even a boost in tourism. Case in point: Game of Thrones not only boosted Iceland’s tourism sector, the economy is “booming” , even though it was on the verge of collapse just a decade ago.
Disney and several top media companies recently reported record losses from last quarter. Forecasting and financing has been nearly impossible with so much uncertainty. The classic set motto “hurry up and wait” has taken new meaning. The only answer – find a way to get back to work.
“FILMMAKING IS THE ULTIMATE TEAM SPORT.”– Michael Keaton
Like every industry, ensuring safety and mitigating risk are key in reopening Hollywood. But making a movie is a team sport. What makes the reopening of a production tricky is that a film or tv set can encompass a cast and crew of more than a hundred people.
Hollywood’s major unions and guilds have created their own set of guidelines with the responsibility of enforcement resting on the production company. Although guidelines vary, the basic practices include testing before the first day on set and regular weekly testing thereafter. Other processes like waivers, PPE, hand washing, set sanitization and zoning areas for essential cast and crew are outlined in detail.
SAG-AFTRA also has their own 37-page document titled “The Safe Way Forward” that represents what they see as a path for employers to provide a “safer workplace for their cast and crew members in a pre-vaccine COVID-19 world.” Since new protocol and process take time and time is money, film studios don’t have a moment – or dime – to waste.
The smart play is to require a dedicated health and safety manager on every set. Failure to follow guidelines will result in hefty fines and risk the health and safety of cast and crew. It can ultimately result in the shutdown of the entire production.
The creation of this new health and safety position has movie studios scrambling to find the right people for the role. Also referred to as safety coordinators, hygiene advisors, COVID managers, and more, COVID Compliance Officers are now essential.
Think of how American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives are required to ensure the safe treatment of animals. During a pandemic, a COVID Compliance Officer is required on all sets. From now forward, moviegoers will be hard-pressed to find a production that doesn’t include compliance in the credits.
Many crews might be reluctant to assume this additional cost and be tempted to have the Production Assistant manage compliance. But a PA is an entry level job. Some view this role as a learning or networking opportunity. PA’s don’t ask, they do. It is unlikely a PA will feel comfortable asking a screaming director to maintain a proper social distance or assert that the A list movie star should pull her mask over her nose. And without that enforcement, the production is a cough, sneeze, or shout away from shutting down.
“DO WHAT YOU DO SO WELL THAT THEY WILL WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN AND BRING THEIR FRIENDS. – Walt Disney
When existing team members are tasked with the safety of the production, studios have a higher risk of getting it wrong – and putting the project at risk. Operating your production safely is rigorous, but it is both possible and can be done well, especially if you outsource to the experts. Elevate’s SAG-AFTRA trained and certified health and safety specialists ensure everyone – from the crew to the talent to the executives – can work safely together on set or on location. We have even partnered with Visit Healthcare to provide medical professionals with the operational understanding to execute seamless rapid testing, no matter where the production is filming.
“EVERY TIME I GO TO A MOVIE, IT’S MAGIC, NO MATTER WHAT THE MOVIE’S ABOUT.”– Steven Spielberg
In the “normal world,” a set is created to be a controlled environment. But in the era of COVID, that is simply not possible if the studio sticks with business as usual. By utilizing COVID Compliance Officers and adapting your production to ensure the safety of all involved, we can continue to make movie – and television – magic.
If your production is in need of COVID Compliance Officers, let us know! We have teams ready to go now, across the globe. Whether you are in the studio or on location, we’ve got you covered.