The worst has come to pass as the world attempts its return to film and TV production amidst a global pandemic; someone has died from COVID-19 after returning to work. 51-year-old Assistant Director John Nolan went into cardiac arrest and died on August 26 after battling COVID for weeks, according to his family.
We’ve been covering the return to work quite a bit here on Below the Line, and while many productions have been working hard to maintain safety on set with all the cast and crew, there have been a few minor outbreaks that have led to quarantines. Nolan is the first reported death.
Although it’s not known how or where Nolan contracted COVID, he began developing symptoms in mid-July after working on a commercial production in Austin, Texas, testing positive on July 29. On August 5, he was placed in intensive care and a ventilator in a Georgetown hospital, according to an L.A. Time story (via Yahoo).
Nolan’s death has led to debate about the safety of returning to film sets, especially since commercials tend to have smaller crews and aren’t required to test for COVID under industry guidelines. The guilds, unions and producers have been working with health officials for the last few months to establish safety protocols for sets that are being followed quite closely, but there’s still a lot that isn’t known about how it’s being spread in some areas where production has resumed.
Nolan worked on television shows like L.A.’s Finest and the movie The Paper Tigers, which just debuted at the Fantasia Film Festival this past week. He had been working on a six-day shoot for State Farm from July 9 to 16 with his son as production assistant, although the production company Tool of North America couldn’t comment other than to say that every crew members’ temperature was tested daily on set with everyone wearing the proper PPE The set also included the obligatory compliance assistant as well as medical and sanitation crew. Some crew members have been worried that commercial productions don’t require the testing of film and television shows.
Directors Guild of America spokesperson Lily Bedrossian commented to the L.A. Times, “We were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of John Nolan, who was a very well-respected member of the DGA community. We are working to learn more about the underlying facts of his passing. The health and safety of our members working in commercials are of the utmost importance, never more so than now.”
You can donate to John Nolan’s surviving family at their Caring Bridge site and read more on this important news story at Yahoo. Since this is a breaking story, we will be following it, as there is any new information to report.