10 Startling Safety Changes on Film Sets

10 Startling Changes on Film Sets
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The Production Safety Guidelines for working safely on film sets, a joint effort between the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters Committees, has been released.  Now we’re slowly starting to get back to work.  I had my first job since all productions shut down last week.  It was a on a commercial, with some of the other crew members also having their first job back after months of no work.  The set was a very changed environment for all of us.

Masks on film sets is the new reality.

Here are 10 safety changes I noticed on set:

  1. Masks were required and worn by every crew member including the producer. The actors kept their masks on until they were filmed.  As we were outside in 100 degree heat at ASU for part of the first day, it was not particularly comfortable wearing a mask but everyone did it.  ASU mandates that every employee on campus must wear a mask, too.  All the student extras wore masks both on and off camera.
  2. A medic took every cast and crew member’s temperature as soon as we arrived each day and kept a daily record of every person’s temperature. Everyone had to fill out a COVID-19 Symptom Screening questionnaire.  The medic also spoke at the daily safety meeting, encouraging social distancing and giving recommendations for working in extreme heat.
  3. There was no video village for the agency people and clients. In fact, they weren’t even there.  They were in their homes or offices elsewhere watching our progress and giving notes to the producer by phone.  At least no one had to move a video village setup around in 100 degree heat.  I suspect this is a trend that may continue, as it’s more cost effective than flying people out to a film set.  The agency team and clients can easily view all the action from just about anywhere.
  4. A cleaning company representative was present on set wiping everything down all day long. He cleaned surfaces, door handles, bathrooms and anything else anyone asked him to clean.
  5. There were no paper call sheets distributed on set. The talent was asked to complete a digital photo release before they came to set.  I did receive a paper shooting schedule, but other than that, it was pretty close to a paperless set.  No doubt a tree or two was saved.
  6. One recommendation from the Production Safety Guidelines was not followed on the set I worked on. Having ice in coolers that people reach into to get drinks is not recommended in the safety protocols.  We did have coolers with ice on set and people reached into them, as opposed to being handed drinks.  Is that a big deal safety-wise?  Maybe not on this shoot, but I wouldn’t want to see that happening on a set with a large crew.
  7. Hand sanitizer bottles were all around the set and were frequently used by all. I started out the first day thinking I would wear gloves all day, but that wasn’t practical in the heat.  My hands were sweaty and itchy after about 30 minutes, so off came the gloves and on went the hand sanitizer.  I think this pandemic has made everyone more aware of hand cleanliness, so hopefully we’ll still see a lot more hand sanitizer on set post COVID-19.
  8. Various health and heat safety protocols were pasted to a large board that was posted prominently. The safety bulletins were actually emailed to us, so I didn’t expect to see them on set.  However, this production company is a large, well-established company based in Los Angeles that has specific ways of doing things, so we had the safety board.  Which is a good thing in the current environment.
  9. Individually packaged box lunches were served, with everyone socially distancing at the location for eating. Lunch was a rather lonely affair.  I sat alone at a table, talked to no one and ate my boxed sandwich and cookie.  The unexciting lunch was fine, but everyone was spread out silently eating and I realized I missed the sociability that usually occurs at lunch.  I guess that’s on hold for the time being.
  10. There were no paper time cards. We were given a link to CAPS payroll online, where we were prompted through the various forms to be filled out. Some of us were trying to complete this on set on our phones, but the system only works with a Chrome browser and didn’t work well on my phone.  I ended up completing the ‘paperwork’ at home the day after the job, and it took quite a bit more time than the paper version.  However, I suppose that’s a procedure that is here to stay.

So those are some changes I experienced on my first post-pandemic job on a film set.  As it was a small commercial shoot, we didn’t need zones, as recommended in the safety guidelines.  I imagine these and other changes will be part of life on set for the foreseeable future, so keep your mask handy and remember to use plenty of hand sanitizer.

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