As Europe Begins to Reopen for Film and TV Shoots, Safety Requirements Vary

Courtesy of Netflix
Spain, home to such productions as 'Money Heist,' has begun to restart film and TV shoots, but restrictions remain.

Several European countries, including Iceland, the Czech Republic, Poland and France, have begun to allow film and television production under new COVID-19 guidelines.

Europe is open for business. Sort of. Several European countries, including traditional international production locations, such as the Czech Republic and Iceland, have allowed film and television shoots to restart after shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

This week, territories from Poland to Portugal also unveiled their plans to get the cameras rolling again, with new COVID-19 regulations that will allow local and international productions.

Certain hygienic guidelines are near-universal, including social distancing of around 2 meters (6.5 feet) between crew members and the use of face masks and disinfection protocols. Closed sets are required almost everywhere, as are limits on the numbers of people on set at any one time.

But digging down into the details, the rules for shooting vary from territory to territory and in some cases within a single country. Spain, for example, has opened up shooting in areas with very low rates of COVID-19 transmission, such as the Canary Islands and the Valencia region, but is being much more restrictive in major cities like Madrid or Barcelona, which still have high contagion levels.

The city of Paris has allowed production to start up again, although the city has been designated as one of the "red-zones" by the French government, indicating tighter coronavirus restrictions.

Filmmakers looking to take advantage of Europe's reopening also need to keep an eye on travel restrictions. The Czech Republic opened up its borders for non-European travelers May 11, but cast and crew have to submit to a COVID-19 test and provide evidence of a negative result before entering the country. In Iceland, all foreign visitors are required to enter a 14-day quarantine but, notes Iceland's film commissioner Einar Hansen Tomasson, crews can get special dispensation to work while in quarantine. "You can fly in and be quarantined in your hotel and on location," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You can do a 13-day shoot and be done before even finishing your isolation."

In much of the rest of Europe, there are major restrictions on travel from non-EU countries. Europe's external borders will remain closed for most travel at least until mid-June.

Returning home could also be a problem. The U.S. shut its borders to European travelers in March and has yet to lift them. While restrictions do not apply to American citizens, there is still a great deal of uncertainty. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that President Donald Trump and U.S. health officials were examining the issue of international travel but did not provide further details.

For producers eager to start filming, what remains is a jungle of national regulations to work through. On the plus side, local service companies, starved of visiting production for months, are champing at the bit. "Everyone is hungry to get back to work," says Tomasson, echoing the sentiment across Europe. "And we'll do whatever it takes to make it happen."

Here's The Hollywood Reporter's breakdown of guidelines and regulations for the major European territories now open for production.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Prague government was one of the first to reopen production, approving measures to allow TV and film shoots in the country on May 7. The Czech Republic is a major hub for international shoots. Amazon Studios had two TV series prepped to shoot here — the second season of Orlando Bloom-starrer Carnival Row and the upcoming epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time — when COVID-19 hit. Disney+ series Falcon and the Winter Soldier was in the midst of shooting when the pandemic shut down production.

Czech regulations require foreign actors and crewmembers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to enter the country. They will be given a second test within 72 hours of arrival and remain quarantined until they receive a negative result, which usually comes within 24 hours.

One European producer noted that obtaining tests could prove a problem for some. "We're trying to figure out how to make this happen in Scandinavia where testing, for obvious reasons, is prioritized for the health system," he noted. But Czech film commissioner Pavlina Zipkova points out that those with negative test results will avoid the 14-day quarantine rules that apply to other visitors, meaning they can begin work immediately.

Film and TV productions will also be exempted from other COVID-19 restrictions, so that onscreen talent will not be  required to wear face masks and government regulations banning gatherings of more than two people in one place will not apply. The Czech Film Commission has posted its new, self-regulatory, guidelines on its website.

One notable measure: Regular COVID-19 testing is only required for on-camera talent (who are not required to wear face masks). Actors have be be tested every 14 days throughout the shoot.

FRANCE

Paris gave the greenlight to restart film and television production in the French capital May 11 under guidelines that designate the city as one of country's red zones, where stricter COVID-19 safety measures remain in place.

The shooting regulations limit on-set groups to 50 people and require sets to be closed to the general public.

Certain other restrictions apply to shooting on public roads and bridges, details of which can be found (in French) on the website of the Ville de Paris — Mission Cinéma, the municipal authority that authorizes film shoots in the French capital.

ICELAND

Iceland, a country largely spared from the ravages of the coronavirus epidemic (there have been a total of three confirmed COVID-19 infections on the island this month) reopened its borders to international production professionals May 15.

Producers can apply for an exemption to travel restrictions, which will allow crews to enter and begin production immediately, serving their 14-day quarantine isolated on set and in their hotel. The local production service company will apply for the exemption on behalf of the visiting crewmembers.

Within the country, crewmembers have to travel by means of private vehicle, taxi or rental car, or via means provided by the on-site production company. Iceland's film commission has posted details of its regulations on its website.

Iceland is expected to open its borders to all tourists June 15, requiring visitors to either provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or take a test upon arrival, remaining in quarantine until a negative result comes back. "Now, when we are open for business but before tourists come back, is a particularly great time to shoot in Iceland," film commissioner Einar Hansen Tomasson tells THR. "You have access to some of the most beautiful natural locations, which would normally be full of tourists but right now are completely empty."

POLAND

The Polish government has further lifted restrictions on the country's coronavirus shutdown, which will allow film and TV production to restart May 18. Face masks for crew and social distancing on film sets is recommended, but actors are exempted.

The regulations allow for a maximum of 50 people in one area, so productions will have to limit crowds on set and regulate movement between different zones in a single production.

Poland has published detailed guidelines of the new regulations at www.kultura.gov.pl.

PORTUGAL

The Portuguese Film Commission announced this week that the country is open for business and issued detailed guidelines, available here, on what conditions productions have to meet to fulfill new hygienic requirements.

These include a detailed production plan that lays out, on a daily basis, the safety requirements on set and a designated health coordinator to ensure these hygienic measures are applied correctly. Among the requirements are contactless thermometers to take the temperature of cast and crewmembers before they are allowed on set.

SPAIN

Spain, which has become a hub for European production, particularly with the increased investment from Netflix in local-language series such as Money Heist and Elite, reopened sections of the country May 11 for film and TV shoots. Production will only be allowed provinces and territories that are in phase one of the government's "de-escalation process" for reopening the country. That covers about half of Spain but currently leaves out major urban areas including Madrid and Barcelona.

The Spanish film commission has issued nonbinding guidelines for best practices, available on its website.

Among the regulations is a requirement for producers to designate a person or team who will record all actions carried out during filming — including a list of people who access the set, disinfection protocols, etc. — and provide this information to authorities as required.