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BACK TO WORK: New Protocols, New Businesses, New Gear

September 3, 2020 | By

PGA LogoWe are living in strange and interesting times, and for television and film production, what we’re seeing is an incredible amount of ingenuity and creativity in trying to return to work while still being safe and conscious of the pandemic going on around this.

Although it’s been a week since I’ve posted one of these columns, I’ve had some interesting meetings, panels and interviews that have given me a much clearer picture of how big-scale productions have figured out how to ramp up again. It’s been difficult for everyone, and the added cost and time needed to properly prepare everyone to deal with COVID may be prohibitive to some, but it’s the only way things can ever get back to normal before an actual vaccine.

In some ways, today’s column is more of a preview of things to come, because I spoke at length with the guys behind Saniset, a company that’s literally offering return-to-work solutions for the entertainment industry from comprehensive testing to PPE to actual nurses and medical experts to help with the discussion about getting back to set. I hope to run that column sometime next week.

PGA

Also, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Production Safety Task Force launched its comprehensive safety guide for producers on Monday, titled “COVID Safety Protocols for Producing Independent Productions.” These guidelines offer independent producers comprehensive and detailed recommendations for how they can help maintain the safety of cast and crew during the pandemic. The full white paper can found at the PGA’s website.

Lori McCreary, former PGA President and CEO of Revelations Entertainment, leads this Task Force, saying, “There has never been a time where I’ve seen producers and the larger industry come

together around an issue with such collaboration, endurance, purpose, and, as we all need right now, hope. Our colleagues and fellow PGA members, whose talent for telling stories and making sense of the world has been paused during the pandemic but never extinguished, are eager to return to doing what they love. I and the Task Force are honored that we have the opportunity to help pave the way to work safely while continuing to produce great content.”

The PGA Production Safety Task Force is comprised of Holly Carter, Cean Chaffin, Yolanda T. Cochran, Mike Farah, Jennifer A. Haire, Gary Lucchesi, Kelly Mendelsohn, Jamie Patricof, Robert Salerno, Stacey Sher, Haley Sweet, Chris Thomes, Sara E. White, Mari Jo Winkler, Harvey Wilson, and Lulu Zezza. PGA members were collaborated with closely throughout the process of putting together the protocols.

Producers Guild of America Presidents Lucy Fisher and Gail Berman shared a statement, too. 

“The Production Safety Task Force has been a priority for us at the Guild and we’re grateful to Lori McCreary, the seasoned producers of the Task Force, and all of our many members who have contributed to this endeavor that will guide us into our next chapter. As fellow producers, we all feel the need to get back to work while still making sure that our cast and crew are safe and protected. We hope that our guidelines will help make this new reality possible for independent producers and provide an accessible resource for the broader creative community.”

The PGA is also creating a  “Tips from the Field” online resource where producers and department heads can post tips and insights from productions they’re working on, which sounds like a very cool way to share information between shows.

Then on top of all that, I took part in a series of panels and discussions this week called “Collectively Speaking: Production In a Pandemic” presented by NABShow, which is a series of panels and discussions about that very subject.  The three-hour panel was made up of three sections, the first being about the production on the feature film, Ripple Effect, and the technology used to make that happen, the second being more about sports show production, and then there were four “breakout discussions.” I took part in one on “Production Hacks” that allowed questions from the attendees, and that ended up being absolutely fantastic as we were all able to share experiences and ask questions of the panelist after they talked about their own efforts to produce a show under pandemic protocols. 

There is a lot going on in the world even in areas where COVID is still spreading wildly, making it hard to have people together in a soundstage or studio, but still, people are figuring out how to work, whether it’s at home or using new technology to keep everyone aware of their social distance.

I’ve been told that the “Collectively Speaking” panels will be available next week, and I hope to share more of the specific information that was shared once I’m able to disseminate all that was said in the three one-hour sessions.

Cartoni UV-C Boxer

Cartoni UV-C Boxer

Returning to work is on EVERYONE’s minds right now, and with IBC 2020 taking place next week, IBC has been going full-force on offering content and information for making movies and TV with COVID in mind. I thought this article was particularly interesting because it dealt with a number of products that have been created, designed specifically to deal with issues that might arise on set.  It includes things like Cartoni’s UV-C Boxer (pictured) that can be used to safely sanitize cameras and accessories, and Luxibel’s UV-C fixtures, which include sensors to shut off when people are present but can disinfect sets and soundstages at other times. There are even multiple devices and apps that are all about social distancing like Riedel Comunications’ DisTag Distance Monitor, which is exactly what it sounds like. Everyone on set wears it around their neck and it offers three types of alarms (vibrating, lights and sound) to warn when people are in closer proximity than allowed by local regulations. 

It is absolutely amazing how everyone has been coming together and using their noggins to really make sure that shows and production can be resumed safely and efficiently, and between all of the above, we may get to a point where many of these things become standard practice even once there’s a vaccine. 

Other Tidbits:

Below the Line has been updated that Dick Wolf Productions‘ Chicago-based television projects will be moving forward with Chicago Med beginning to shoots its 13-episode season on September 22, and then Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire will start shooting their 12-episode seasons beginning October 6. FX series, Fargo, has already begun filming its new season in Chicago, as well.

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