Cinematographers Guild President Offers Update on How TV and Film Work Could Resume

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A TV cameraperson at the last game the Los Angeles Rams played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 29, 2019

Live sports and game shows (which could be televised without fans or audiences) could return sooner than work on features, says guild exec John Lindley.

Less than a month after his election as president of the International Cinematographers Guild's board, John Lindley offered an update to members on the open questions that the industry is grappling with on how to eventually resume film and TV production. 

For camera crews, certain types of work may resume at different times in the recovery process from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Live sports telecasts and game shows (which could be televised without fans or audiences) may return before work on feature productions requiring actors, Lindley said. 

"A lot of members are asking about how they’ll be able to work safely when the work comes back. And I think it depends a little bit on the genre," Lindley said Friday in a video to members.

"In live broadcasting there are going to be sports where there won’t be fans and camera crews will be able to stay a safe distance away from the players. And there are game shows and live audience shows where the audience will be kept away but the camera crews can be safe," the IATSE Local 600 president said. 

Added Lindley, "It’s a little different in film and television, where actors will be the limiting factor since they can’t wear the protective gear that’s available to us as crewmembers. But that work will come back eventually, too."

The ICG Local 600's Safety Committee has been directed to review protocol suggestions for safety moving forward, Lindley said. "I’m talking about the fact that we have equipment that comes in after the shoot starts and how’s that going to be handled, or camera checkouts at rental houses," he noted. 

Virtually all film and TV productions have been indefinitely halted stateside since mid-March, with thousands of below-the-line crewmembers furloughed. In the video to members, ICG national executive director Rebecca Rhine mentioned the larger conversations happening among the guilds on how to return to work with updated standards. 

"I think that there will be a fairly robust conversation about how do we get people back to work safely but how do we do it in a time frame that allows the industry to get back to work,” said Rhine, who also noted the open questions surrounding how insurance companies will insure productions in the novel coronavirus era.

The Directors Guild of America has similarly begun exploring how the industry can properly and on Thursday established a committee led by helmer Steven Soderbergh in coordination with health experts to make recommendations on how to resume film and TV work. 

On Monday, the leaders of a coalition of entertainment guilds — AFM, DGA, IATSE, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America East — signed a joint letter addressing relief efforts aimed at members. The letter noted, "We are also focused on the protective measures that will need to be enacted to keep professionals safe on production sets and other work environments once people can return to work."

The coalition added, "We do not know when this national emergency will subside sufficiently to allow productions and other elements of the industry to begin opening back up for business."