Film Set Safety Post-Pandemic

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After reading the latest shocking statistics about the spread of Covid-19, it’s hard to imagine how we can ever possibly work safely on a film set again.  Once this virus does start to dissipate and filming resumes, we’ll be working on set in a new normal.  I can’t recall ever even hearing the term ‘social distancing’ before this pandemic began, but now it’s very much a part of everyday life.  What exactly the new normal will look like post Covid-19 is yet to be determined, but it’s clear that some work routines on set will need to change.  Can social distancing be practiced on a film set?  It will have to be for the near future, to prevent another outbreak of the virus and further shut downs.

Think about a typical day on set.  We start the day by gathering around the caterer for breakfast.  Actors go into the makeup and hair trailer, extras get checked in and then dressed in their wardrobe.  The wardrobe department has fittings with actors, the camera department sets up the camera, grip and electric departments set up their equipment, the props department readies the props and craft service sets up their table.  And that’s just during the first hour of the day.  Then there are the camera cars, picture cars and small, confined sets.  The shuttle vans to and from set are often filled to capacity.  There’s no social distancing practiced in any of these activities.

On commercial shoots, a small motor home houses a production office, which is usually bustling with crew members coming and going.  Makeup, hair and wardrobe are also usually installed in the motor home, working in close quarters.  Of course, there’s video village too, with the client and agency folks crammed closely together under a pop-up tent.  How there can be safe health practices within this scenario remains to be seen.

Here are a few improved practices I expect to see on set when productions gear up again:

  1. More hand sanitizer and hand wipes on set.

It’s not practical for most crew members to wear gloves while working, and hand washing is often unavailable, so continuous hand sanitizing is a must.  Multiple people touch every piece of equipment, so that needs to be wiped down frequently, too.

  1. Improved hygiene at craft service.

Using tongs or napkins to pick up every kind of food has always been a necessity but hasn’t always been practiced.  Have you ever seen someone on set rush past the craft service table and grab a bagel with their hands, even though tongs are available?  It’s essential that food not be picked up by hand.  It would be great to see more individually wrapped food, too.  Coffee urns, coolers and anything that’s constantly touched needs to wiped down throughout the day.  Perhaps there will even be a hidden camera at craft service, and we’ll see craft service shaming on social media for unsafe food hygiene practices.  (Just kidding about that last one, although it is possible.)

  1. Limited access to the motor home production office.

Been to Costco lately?  The number of people entering at one time is strictly limited.  I suspect there will have to be some similar rules enforced for the production motor home.  There is no social distancing really possible inside, so anyone who needs to go in will just have to wait outside until it’s their turn to enter.  Welcome to the Costco motor home.

  1. Live audiences will be gone for a while

I’ve worked on quite a few sitcoms, and a live audience always substantially increases the energy level on stage.  The shows all have warm up comedians who get the audience revved up and ready to laugh.  Unfortunately, I don’t foresee the audiences returning any time soon.  There’s no substitute for a live audience, so I imagine the live audience format shows will have to adapt or fade away.

Whether anyone will wear masks on set on a daily basis is uncertain, but I think it’s a possibility in some situations. What other safety changes will evolve on set is yet to be determined.  We’ll just have to wait and see when production resumes again.  In the meantime, stay safe.

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