Industry Task Force Submits Production Health Guidelines to State Governments

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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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With the aim of getting the entertainment industry back to work safely amid the threat of COVID-19, the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force — whose members include AMPTP, SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild, IATSE and the Teamsters — submitted on Monday a white paper to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as to governments across the country.

This 22-page document offers recommended protocols on how to restart production while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19 — effectively giving stakeholders a glimpse at what coronavirus-era production could look like.

Per the general recommendations, all cast and crew should be tested as a condition of employment and should follow protocols in areas such as daily symptom monitoring, social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment and hand hygiene. The task force calls for staggered meal times to avoid large groups and the elimination of buffet-style meals. It instead urges the use of individually wrapped meals and snacks and individually wrapped, disposable utensils.

The white paper introduces the role of an autonomous COVID-19 compliance officer, who would oversee testing, physical distancing, disinfecting and all safety protocols related to COVID-19 on a set.

As to how work is conducted, the document encourages remote meetings whenever possible, as well as the use of technology for remote viewing of video.

It also urges the use of virtual writers rooms. The WGA wasn't a member of the task force, but the WGAW said in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, "The AMPTP white paper recommends that writers rooms should be virtual whenever possible. We agree this is the best protocol for now. We will carefully scrutinize any plans to reopen room and will talk with studios if those plans raise member health and safety concerns."

Also in the white paper, measures to "minimize scenes with close contact between performers" might include revising scripts or use of digital effects. Specifically, suggestions include minimizing crowd and street-set scenes (and, relatedly, discouraging live audiences). Also expect shooting schedules that would limit back-and-forth travel (and minimize travel altogether).

For cast and crew that work in close proximity (for instance, actors, hair stylists and makeup artists) additional testing, contact tracing and task-specific controls are recommended. Protocols might include control of the entrants to trailers and allowing sufficient work time to follow safety guidelines; details are still being worked out.

In addition to the aforementioned organizations, the preparation of the white paper included the participation of the major studios as well as companies such as Amazon Studios, HBO and Netflix, in addition to health experts. The task force is continuing its work to complete a more detailed "phase two" while paper. It also stated a need for department-specific measures that will continue to be discussed and developed among the impacted unions and guilds.

DGA president Thomas Schlamme and national executive director Russell Hollander on Monday sent a letter to the guild's members outlining the initiatives. "These are incredibly complex issues to solve, the science is still rapidly developing, and it’s all being done amid a world changing at breakneck speeds," they wrote. "Through it all, what drives us is getting this right for our members, other industry workers and the general public, so a quick, safe and sustainable return to work can be realized."

They added, "The road back is finally taking shape, and we remain optimistic. We appreciate the need to get back to work and know that the timing is exceedingly important; getting it right is mandatory," they conclude, adding acknowledgement of "the pain and anguish we are all feeling right now in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing social injustice in our nation. There’s more we plan to say about that very soon."