How can Hollywood get back to normal? Here's how.

By Nick Romano
June 12, 2020 at 01:45 PM EDT
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How can Hollywood get back to normal? That's been the question racking the brains of everyone in the industry. On Friday, the Hollywood guilds, including the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), released a new report about just how that can work.

"The Safe Way Forward" was developed in conjunction with "leading epidemiologists and experts," and contains "a detailed set of science-based protocols serving as a path for Employers to uphold their responsibility of providing safe workplaces in a pre-vaccine, COVID-19 world." It's a joint effort between SAG-AFTRA, DGA, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and the Basic Crafts, which represent film and TV cast and crews.

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The report, shared digitally as a PDF, emphasizes "regular, consistent testing" for cast and crew members to avoid production delays and shut-downs, as well as "The Zone System," which advises crews to maintain three distinct zones on set, each with different levels of safety protocols for those who must work within them. For instance, Zone A denotes a "perimeter" where performers can work without PPE or physical distancing. Zone B would be everyone else the production has a footprint, and Zone C denotes "wherever people employed in the production go when they’re not working." Workers would need to be tested before entering either Zone A or B.

The document also lays out specific instructions for how day-to-day operations should run, including a daily morning meeting about safety and health procedures, disinfecting deliveries, minimizing crowding and food consumption during rehearsals, sanitizing sets when needed, and daily testing for the cast and crew at the end of each day.

The actual process of filming scenes has been a major concern. Recently, Pose creator Steven Canals mentioned in an interview with Variety, "Things like kissing — we will likely forgo those moments" in season 3. "The place on our show where the biggest impact will be felt will be the ball scenes: Those scenes have 125 to 150 background actors. That’s tricky, because that’s such an important and critical part of our show and the narrative. We’re just, only now, having conversations of ‘Is there a world where we forgo these things?’”

According to "The Safe Way Forward," "Crew can work near each other assuming they are wearing PPE, though appropriate physical distance should be maintained whenever possible. The important thing is to minimize crowding. If shooting in a small place, the departments should take turns doing their work, coordinated by the 1st AD/Key SM."

"The process of rehearsal, lighting, and shooting are basically the same," reads the report, which notes "a few exceptions," including "some added time for caution" in-between shooting.

Productions have mostly been shut down across the Hollywood industry since lockdowns began in March. Many actors who traveled to locations to start work found themselves quarantining in rental setups.

“Safely getting back to our work of storytelling, and reuniting with our creative community is at the top of all our minds," Thomas Schlamme, president of DGA, said in a statement. "But in these fast-changing times amid such a complicated virus, figuring out how to get that done right was no easy task. We knew the only way forward was to consult with leading medical experts and let science guide us to the right approach for our unique work environments. It was only through that Herculean process, and our close coordination with our sister guilds and unions, that we were able to develop the most effective solutions to keep all of our members safe. At the DGA, this was many weeks of hard work and we are eternally indebted to our COVID-19 Safety Committee led by Steven Soderbergh who so intimately understands the complex issues at hand. Through the dedication of everyone involved, we are all that much closer to being able to get back to telling stories together.”

The full report can be read here.

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