Life On Set Is Going To Go To A New Norm
For almost three months, Hollywood shut down. For the first time in history, the entire industry ground to a halt, almost overnight – and certainly within a week of Covid-19 of the state mandated shutdowns. Not only did productions stop filming, and studio and networks shut their doors – all the businesses that support Hollywood, from the talent agencies to the restaurants, the prop rental houses to even our own agency to a large degree.
On June 11, 2020, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health released the guidelines for movies, TV shows and music to resume production. But returning to production comes with its own list of issues and hurdles to overcome, with limits on how productions can shoot, and even if they can get insurance to cover them. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares the highlights and need-to-knows of the new guidelines for Hollywood to resume production and get TV and film projects greenlit again.
The Return Of A Closed Industry
Hollywood started closing down earlier than the rest of the country, and even before the Governor put the state on stay-at-home orders, in order to protect film crews. That was an scenario seen around the world - many productions shut down before mandates were put in place to do so. The TV, SVOD, music and film productions were completely stopped, and for our agency, that meant that the brand partnership deals we had spent the previous many months working on were canceled, put on hold, or pushed to a pending and future re-negotiation status to be discussed once productions resume the ability to film.
Many productions stopped mid-filming, and they either will need to come back to finish shooting, or like many broadcast network series have opted to do, chose to just shorten their overall episodes. But now we are facing an issue about what happens with productions being able to resume. It’s not that there is a switch that turns on and everyone just starts shooting. There are limited sound stages, filming equipment, crew personnel and cast members, and each move from one production to another. Just like theatrical films that are madly searching for new release dates where there is not a competitive film in place that will take too much a share of the box office, future production shoot calendars are already set quite a bit in advance often, at least for larger productions.
So if dates in the future have already been booked – the question is: do the productions that were halted get first dibs in pushing back those other productions that should be gearing up? It’s a bit of a mess to figure out.
But Hollywood is busy trying to do so.
A Roundup Of The New General Guidelines
Here’s a breakdown to the guidelines the county of Los Angeles Public Health have issued.
Work From Home
Just like with any other Los Angeles business, any employee who can work at home, should. Production companies are not exempt from this. So expect even more remote work to continue, versus seeing everyone crowding back into the studio offices.
Intimacy Coordinators Are The Hot New Thing
A new role in Hollywood has been created, with workplace COVID-19 Compliance Officers (C19CO). These new job roles provide a point of contact to oversee and ensure that productions meet the requirements issued. One of the more sought after job histories here will be those with former experience working as onset intimacy coordinators – whose job is to make sure everyone is comfortable with one another – and choreographed well - during those more adult close-up scenes shot. Yep. That’s a real job.
What they will be doing:
- These individuals are in charge of overseeing that everyone gets health checks before setting foot on set. That includes employees, vendors and visitors. Plus they need to keep track of all statuses – and keep people’s information, private. There are medical privacy laws in place – and no production is going to want to get sued for leaking out information that someone wanted to keep private.
- They are also in charge of making sure any concerns and complaints are actually recorded and listened to.
- Additionally, they will be creating workflows and processes to ensure that everyone keeps to social distancing on set, and that things stay super clean.
- Lastly, they have to follow procedures for what happens when the inevitable happens: someone tests positive for Covid-19.
Lots of Personal Protective Equipment To Be Purchased
Production companies will now also be responsible for supplying every single person on set the personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies required, which include masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectants to scrub down surfaces (a lot), gloves, mobile handwashing stations, etc. Productions just incurred an additional cost to doing production.
Oh, and everyone needs to be wearing masks. All the time.
Wear A Face Mask, People!
Everyone on set – just like in a grocery store – will be required to wear a cloth face covering if they are near other people, unless some how it’s just not possible. And if it is a situation that makes it hard to do so (like when they are acting…) it’s supposed to be super short in time, and those individuals are supposed to keep as much distance between them as possible. If you’ve ever been on a set, you will know the standard is people everyone, closely gathered and scrunched around cameras and monitors, grips positioned next to one another, others huddled together throughout set.
Plus, any workstations, desks or work areas have to be kept 6 feet apart.
If You Are Vulnerable, Stay Home
The county states that anyone who is older or has a higher health risk due to pre-existing conditions, just not come to set, and are assigned projects that can be done remotely. While that sounds like a legit idea, the issue is a lot of production individuals have jobs that can’t be done remotely. Because they are part of the crew and are needed on set. So that means there are a chunk of people who still can’t return to work and make money. Productions will certainly try to make this work, but most on-set jobs require you to actually be on-set.
Stay Away If You Are Sick
Employees are banned to come in, just like with any other job out there, if they have symptoms that indicate possible Covid-19 infection, or if they have been in contact with someone who has it. Plus, if someone has become infected, heavy disinfecting procedures on set are required, along with even tighter monitoring of employees on set. And those who have it, are gone for 14 days at least.
Think about that. Fine if it is someone in the lighting department or set department who comes down with Covid-19 and is banned from set for 14 plus days. But what happens if it is one of the primary actors who gets sick? Scenes will have to be re-written, or production will entirely grind to a halt.
Testing, Testing…One, Two Three
Regular testing is now required of the entire cast and crew (that the production will be paying for) to help limit exposure. Exceptions exist for short production shoots, like commercials or music recording sessions.
Oh, and get this. If there is a cluster outbreak on set, with three or more people testing positive, the red flag goes up, alarm bells ring, and the Department of Public Health has to be notified – with steps then taken to ensure the outbreak is controlled. So now the entire production is at risk of getting shut down.
And THAT my friends, is the reason why productions are having such a hard time right now actually being able to start shooting. Because the insurance companies that protect them, are refusing to allow Covid-19 shut downs to be something insurable. So if a production is told they need to stop filming, each day they are stopped, they are bleeding massive amounts of money because contracted union production employees are still required to be paid.
Keeping Social Distance On Set
Productions are going to be kept pretty busy keeping people apart in a world where they are used to bringing them together.
Limits On How Many People Can Be Together
Production companies have to have a written plan in place before they are allowed to re-start.
- The only cast and crew that are allowed on set have to be deemed “essential”. That means you are going to be seeing a lot of scenes written with less people in them. Get used to seeing some inner monologues, and usage of technology like computer screen conversations, and fewer camera angles.
- Production and editing meetings are likely going to be remaining remote wherever possible, and are only allowed to happen if they are in an area where everyone can be spaced apart by 6 feet. I think most people are going to still try to work remotely wherever possible, as the last three months proved that collaboration and creativity can still occur through a computer screen. There have been a lot of Zoom Room writing rooms, and bonding over remote happy hours.
- There is going to be less sharing of space on set to limit intermingling. That’s going to keep departments even more silo’d – no be creative group meetings. Hello again, Zoom.
And there is even more...
- During rehearsals, keeping people very spaced out across the set.
- Those comedies and reality shows that need an audience are going to have much smaller audiences – including the crew watching. Everyone has to stay at least 6 feet apart, and there can be no more than 100 people or 25% max of the occupancy – whichever is the lower amount. You might be wondering, why do they need an audience – keep people away. But if you haven’t figured it out yet from watching late night television, it’s awfully hard for a comedic host to say their jokes to an empty room. Not having an audience can impact the quality and power of the content.
- Six feet of space. Everywhere. Trailers. Green rooms. Offices. Props. Wardrobe departments. And those areas, plus restrooms, breakrooms and make-up areas all have to be disinfected. A lot.
- Oh and can you say “hand sanitizer”? That needs to be everywhere.
- No tools or equipment can be shared anymore either. Everyone gets their own.
- For costume departments, clothing has to be cleaned every time it is worn. And wigs or prosthetics have to be disinfected every time they are worn.
You know how you picture those big crowded rooms of people practicing their lines, waiting to be called to stand in front of a group of casting directors? Well that's a thing of the past.
Goodbye Casting Calls
Another thing that will no longer exist is… group casting calls. All auditions are supposed to be performed remotely now, through video conferencing whenever possible. That’s going to be hard for those casting directors to be able to tell if the onscreen chemistry between actors is actually there. This means there are going to be no open calls and crowded rooms with people waiting knee deep. Good news for those auditioning – they at least will be allowed to remove their face masks during the audition.
Save The Trees
Scripts are also going to no longer be able to be shared – which may lead to more digital technology getting to take a step in. A lot of paper is used in Hollywood. This is a requirement for those auditioning – as well as all finalied cast and crew.
More Steps + Restrictions For Infection Control
Breathe The Clean Air
Location scouts have a new job duty – to inspect and ensure all filming locations have HVAC systems in place and that ventilation is maximized. This is going to change where productions can choose to shoot – including older buildings.
Clean Clean Clean Away
Anything that is touched on set – from props to set pieces, to office equipment and printers – has to be cleaned and disinfected at least three times a day. Everything that is brought to set has to be disinfected, and between uses by different actors on set.
Here’s Something Interesting
So our agency lives and breathes in the world of product placement, and I’m not quite sure how they are going to make this one happen. The County is also suggesting that actors bring their own props to use, as well as wardrobe.
What? Wait. Productions can’t just let any brand show up on screen – they actually have to get clearances to do so. Extras can sometimes be tasked with bringing their own props and clothing, that is approved – but it’s not likely that this going to happen for lead and secondary actors.
Don’t Touch Your Face
Cast are being told to not touch their face during filming, and wash their hands before filming a scene.
Close Your Mouth And Don’t Spray Those Droplets
When filming, if cast and crew have to be closer than six feet, the exposure times need to be as brief as possible, and everyone needs to be as quite as possible to avoid spreading droplets by talking. Those adult scenes I mentioned above – or kissing scenes and even fighting scenes, are also being highly discouraged. That’s going to lead to some massive script changes.
Keep It Small
Just like with no longer allowing group auditions, crowd scenes are also highly discouranged.
No Late Night Shoots
Productions have limited hours to shoot now, only allowed between 7 am and 10 pm, with some exceptions if not possible. Those exceptions are going to include night scenes that are shooting outdoors – where filming needs the sun to not be shining, as otherwise there is only a couple of hours those scenes could be shot.
The Food. All That Food.
There are changes on set that will sadden many. All the glorious 24/7 snacking opportunities are going to be a bit more limited, with no buffets, no communal food and no shared coffee being made – regardless if single serving or by the pot. In fact, all the food has to be single serving, and social distancing rules are going to be enforced, so either meals will occur in shifts or in giant areas where people can stay 6 feet apart.
Plus no snacking. If crew and cast are anywhere else, they aren’t allowed to have food or drinks because that will impact whether masks can be worn consistently.
Actors have a new surprise waiting for them. A lot less help.
Wardrobe dressers and stylists are going to be told to limit helping cast, unless they can’t do it themselves. Makeup artists and hair are seen as being at higher risk, as those required cloth face coverings are not able to be worn. And actors are being told to stay as quite as possible to avoid spreading those tiny airborne droplets by talking.
Not only are location scouts going to have to check on HVAC units, they are also going to have to learn how to do their jobs as virtually as possible by using photographs or video instead of heading out to explore. For shoots, location scouts are also going to be needing to find locations that are very far away from public access – plus be big enough to have the required (and only essential) crew on site – spaced 6 feet apart.
We’ll probably be seeing a lot more outdoor shoots, that frankly come with a lot of extra headaches for productions as they have a lot less control over the space and environment.
Producers who can figure out how to shoot virtually with remote cameras set up, and other technology, are going to get permits to begin shooting much faster.
Curious to learn more about the ways COVID-19 has impacted the entertainment industry and how many some productions and content creators are still able to keep working? Check out these other blog posts we've written!
- How Influencer Houses Can Keep Creating Content During COVID-19
- Rise Of eSports During COVID-19
- Auto Brands Pump Brakes But Don't Stop Advertising During COVID-19
- Generating Content During COVID-19 with Harry Lowell
- Case Study: Covid-19 Cause Marketing By Brands
Check out the below Forbes article where Stacy shares more insight on the landscape of product placement growth and COVID-19:
Those producers are going to have to show that they have a plan to meet all those points I listed above They are also going to have to keep massive lists of everyone and everything and everywhere they go – so that if an outbreak cluster does happen, it can be traced.