COVID-19 Guidance for Filming

The UK Film and TV industry recently created COVID-19 guidance for crew members filming in public places during the pandemic. The guidelines expanded to cater to indoor meetings and workstations.

Most of the guidance is a checklist of actions aiming to help the crew mitigate coronavirus transmission risks when on location. Even so, the industry’s COVID-19 guidance may change anytime, with respect to changes in the UK’s government guidelines.

This guidance provides details about crew travel, training, and awareness of coronavirus. Professional medical advisors like ScreenSkills developed various online courses to help induct crews into their new working environment and conditions.

Below you will find all the latest practical guidance about coronavirus, aiming at reducing its potential impact on the film industry.

COVID-19 Guidance for Filming - Shootfactory

Filming During COVID

1. Film and High-end Television HETV Travel Self-isolation “Quarantine” Exemption

This guideline came into effect from Monday 18th January 2021 at around 4 am GMT. All international arrivals travelling via Common Travel Area will take a pre-departure coronavirus test and self-isolate immediately for at least ten days once they enter the UK. Travellers who passed through the same route ten days prior to this guide’s enforcement will also take the mandatory COVID-19 test. Even so, any crew member who qualifies for the Test to Release Scheme can cut the isolation days to five.

The Common Travel Area is a long-lived agreement between British and Irish citizens allowed to move freely in either jurisdiction. They are also entitled to basic freedom of association and privileges, including work and education. Crew members must pay for a private coronavirus test under the Test to Release Scheme, whereby they can choose to skip isolation if the results turn out to be negative.

For Northern Ireland, crew for film and television can move freely to their work stations and back home provided they didn’t travel out of the Common Travel Area fourteen days before this guideline.

2. COVID-19 Specific Health and Safety (H&S) Training and Awareness

All cast and crew of different companies should undertake an online induction course on various COVID-19 preventive measures before commencing their work. Basic principles highlighted in the short course include:

  • Social distancing, hand, and respiratory hygiene
  • Essential preventive measures in close-proximity working conditions
  • Mental health awareness at work amidst the pandemic
  • Availability of coronavirus safety work conditions

Each company should have a designated supervisor to undertake and enforce the above training among its crew members. Various Heads of Department (HODs) should also undertake safety training to familiarise themselves with the needs of a safe working environment amidst coronavirus. The guidelines emphasise the need to have enough first aiders in every production crew. All first aid personnel is subject to the above training from expert service providers.

3. Crew Supervision, Enforcement, and Communication

The Health and Safety supervisor will have a dedicated role to ensure that his/her crew adheres to all the guidelines put across during the online training. The supervisor will do periodical risk assessment reports and has the authority to halt unsafe working conditions. Other functions of the supervisor include the following:

  • Advise all the HODs on compliance and issue checklists for assisted supervision
  • Advise staff to undergo coronavirus symptom checking periodically
  • Allocate coronavirus monitors to all departments to help enforce guidelines and protocols
  • Hold producers responsible for the health and safety of their crew members

Every designated supervisor is responsible for clear communication lines, including remote pre-shoot briefings and site posters to remind crew members of their expectations. Additionally, the supervisors should ask crew members to confirm receipt of their daily briefings to encourage clarification on missed points.

4. Who Should Work During The Pandemic

Every film and TV Company should set appropriate methods to identify the clinically vulnerable amongst their crew and advise them on the increased risk of contracting the virus. This group of people should be given access to professional medical counselling on their consent, preferably from the production medical advisor.

Before resumption, employers should set out clear return-to-work policies consistent with the UK government guidance. This includes setting up high-quality testing infrastructure in the workstations. The testing infrastructure will help boost confidence and clarity among crew members who are in constant fear of the pandemic. Even so, crew members whose tests turn out positive should have access to professional counselling to help manage their return to work after a successful recovery.

Crew members who suspect any of their household members to have contracted the virus shouldn’t report to work. This policy extends to those with family members directed to self-isolate as part of the government’s test and trace program. Above that, designated supervisors should lay off workers who show prevalent signs and symptoms of COVID-19 until they get cleared by an NHS-approved test. Even after recovery, such crew members are encouraged to self-isolate for ten days before mixing with the rest.

5. Social Distancing and Personal Hygiene

All film and TV crews should adhere to strict social distancing and personal hygiene practices as stipulated in UK’s Government guidelines on coronavirus safe practices. These measures include the following:

  • Having markers to designate safe separation distances, ideally two meters apart. If two meters isn’t applicable, the supervisor shall resort to at least one meter with a risk mitigation plan in place
  • Every crew member to have at least four square meters of space per person in communal work stations
  • Mitigation actions include frequent dusting and handwashing practices, short working periods, screen barricades, and back-to-back working instead of face-to-face
  • Face covering is encouraged at all times, unless in settings where the crew’s job relies on lip-reading and intimate conversations
  • Appropriate ventilation in work stations, including large windows, open doors, and artificial ventilation appliances.

6. Mental Health and Wellbeing of Cast and Crew

Most people in the UK witnessed the pandemic’s death toll taking on their friends and relatives. Quarantine and isolation can also affect someone’s emotions. Thus, they are battling COVID-19 related stress and anxieties at this unprecedented time. These guidelines encourage employers to treat the mental health and wellbeing of their staff with sufficient priority. For instance, supervisors should clearly display information on mental health awareness and help programs across the workplace. They should also recruit professional in-house mental health providers.

The Film and TV Charity offer around-the-clock toll-free support through 0800 054 0000

7. Accommodation

The film crews will be travelling inside the UK to shoot in various locations. All their accommodation plans must comply with the UK’s Government coronavirus guidelines. These guidelines include providing sanitised isolation for crew members who will be flying in from outside the UK. Employers should also avoid booking shared rooms for their staff as much as possible, unless necessary.

8. On-set Crew, Cast, and Supporting Artist Numbers

The supporting cast and artists should embrace remote working whenever possible to minimise physical interaction. Only essential crews should be allowed to be on set. In case of a large number on set, producers should separate the crew into different cohorts and shoot interchangeably whenever possible. This includes also limiting access to communal work stations to one cohort at a time. Besides, only designated members with active role-playing duties in each cohort should visit the shooting scenes.

No visitors should join the cast and crew on set unless in exceptional circumstances. For instance, government officials may pop in to discern whether coronavirus safety and preventive protocols are into play. Another essential guideline requires producers not to overburden their crew by long working hours to boost immunity and promote mental health.

The guidelines encourage senior crew members such as scriptwriters, producers, and directors to join their colleagues through video calls.

9. Unit Base/Facility Vehicles

TV and film production crews often move around in trailers. These emerging guidelines recommend the acquisition of extra trailers by employers to cater to additional space needed to curb the spread and infection rate of COVID-19. Ideally, each cast should have a trailer, while employers partition technical ones to segregate workstations. All trailers should also undergo thorough cleaning and sanitisation when casts swap locations.

During transportation, employers should adhere to strict travel and transport guidelines enacted by the UK Government. Besides limiting one occupant per vehicles wherever possible, other guidelines include the following:

  • Hiring dedicated drivers
  • Spending less time inside vehicles
  • Travelling with vehicle windows open
  • Having a screen to separate drivers from passengers

Producers should follow these guidelines for location carts:

  • Wiping touched surfaces frequently with a sanitizer, including handles and levers
  • Sanitising unit carts at the end of the day and before the following working day
  • Using easy-to-clean seat covers

10. Catering and Craft Services

Auxiliary staff and crew members can have on-location catering services provided they firmly adhere to the government’s guidelines on safe COVID-19 protocols for the catering industry. Here are the general policies that each employer must enforce:

  • Sanitizers and handwashing stations should be readily accessible to all crew members
  • Using single-use cutlery and single-serving drinks
  • Unless impossible, supervisors should encourage a pre-order system for food at all times
  • Regular cleaning and sanitising of shared catering appliances such as water dispensers
  • Social distancing practices when queuing for food and drinks
  • Cleaning the area after use to eliminate any unwrapped food waste
  • Ensuring segregation of the catering and cast crew, unless during serving times
  • If possible, screes should separate the catering from the cast crew during serving
  • One-way system for navigating each serving point

The guidelines also encourage the cast crew to bring their own food from home whenever possible, provided they adhere to the set rules regarding that. Cleaners should disinfect common eating areas between every use.

11. Workspace Cleanliness, Sanitisation, and Inspection

Cleanliness is given high priority and should start from high contact surfaces such as door and window handles for frequent sanitisation. Working and communal areas designated for special cleaning attention include waiting bays, dressing rooms, eating halls, and shared offices. The guidelines extend to stipulate how the crew should manage waste. They should consider:

  • Recycling wherever possible
  • Using face covering and medical PPEs when handling all type of waste
  • Disposing PPEs in waste bags
  • Having a clear understanding of a waste bin and a recycle bin

Supervisors should ensure that working spaces remain out of bounds to non-cleared personnel when not in use, including beefing up security in such areas. Workers are also encouraged to leave their workstations early to give enough window for deep cleaning and disinfection.

12. Personal and Hired-in Equipment Cleanliness, Sanitisation and Inspection

It is imperative to understand that most production companies rely on rented equipment shared across the industry for high-quality and intuitive film making. Hence, supervisors should encourage frequent hand washing across the board. There is a prohibition in sharing personal items such as mobile phones, iPad, chargers, and even notebooks. If sharing is inevitable, each crew member should take personal responsibility for disinfecting their items to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus.

For hired equipment, the following guidelines apply:

  • Using hired equipment at scheduled times
  • Labelling professional equipment such as chairs and notepads to avoid sharing wherever possible
  • Opting for remote operation of equipment wherever necessary
  • Digital signing to minimise contact items
  • Having dedicated headsets to discourage sharing
  • Maintaining cashless transactions wherever possible

Producers are encouraged to receive rented equipment 72 hours before shooting for thorough cleaning and sanitising.

13. Limiting Face-to-Face Meetings/Meeting Etiquette

Various technology service providers have impressive remote-meeting solutions for any industry. The film and TV crews should embrace remote meetings before physical shooting scenes to reduce social contact as much as possible. As for in-person meetings, follow:

  • Having meetings in well-ventilated spaces
  • Only necessary participants should attend
  • Adhering to social distancing guidelines in social halls
  • Using personal items like pens and notepads
  • Having an exact schedule to keep the meeting as short as possible
  • Organisers should share drawing plans digitally

These are just among the many items on the guidance checklist to help curb the spread of the second wave of coronavirus. The industry will review most guidelines in later dates, including Film and HETV Travel Self-isolation “Quarantine” Exemption, set for 15th February 2021.


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