'Contagion' Helmer Steven Soderbergh to Lead Directors Guild's COVID-19 Committee

Steven Soderbergh - 68th Berlinale International Film Festival - Getty - H 2019

The task force will consult "with top epidemiologists in the field" to make recommendations about restarting the industry.

Steven Soderbergh will lead a new Directors Guild of America committee that seeks to assess when halted film and television productions may restart and Hollywood can resume work.

On Thursday — the same day the White House unveiled its three-phase "Opening Up America Again" blueprint — DGA president Thomas Schlamme and national executive director Russell Hollander wrote a letter to members addressing concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic and disclosing the new task force chaired by Soderbergh.

"A major concern we're hearing most right now is about when we'll be returning to work, and how we can be certain that it's safe to do so. Rest assured, this is something we've been spending a great deal of time thinking about as well," read the DGA letter from its leaders.

Added Schlamme and Hollander, "While we don't have an answer as to when production will resume, we are taking steps to address how we can be safe when it does happen. A National Board committee, spearheaded by Steven Soderbergh, and with members from all categories, has been appointed to do a thorough examination of the issues at hand, and to make recommendations to the Board."

Soderbergh's long list of credits includes helming the 2011 film Contagion, which has become a popular on-demand title amid the ongoing pandemic. On March 27, the director, as well as the film's castmembers Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne, partnered with the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health for a series of public service announcements on COVID-19. 

The DGA letter added, "The committee is consulting with top epidemiologists in the field, and we will collaborate with our sister guilds and unions and the employers as we put together a comprehensive guide to help us all return safely to work."

Since mid-March stateside, virtually all Hollywood film and TV projects have halted production and thousands of crewmembers and support staff have been furloughed. On Thursday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees outlined its list of priorities for further federal relief legislation, including pension plan protection, greater access to the Paycheck Protection Program and subsidies for COBRA health care costs for entertainment workers for one year. 

DGA leaders Schlamme and Hollander also stated in their letter to members that they've created an additional committee "to focus on preserving the communal theatrical experience so that when it is safe to do so, your feature films intended to be seen on a big screen will have that opportunity." No chair was named for that guild committee.