After losing months to the COVID-19 pandemic film and TV production has actually begun again in the United States, but full-scale Hollywood-style productions are probably weeks away. Several drastic measures must be taken to ensure the safety of all involved in production.  While several of Hollywood’s unions have spelled out conditions for return, the immediate future of almost all films, shows and even commercials are still in doubt.

Television and film writer Roger Wolfson said Hollywood is likely to move as quickly as possible, given that several big-name films are scheduled to resume in July in the United Kingdom, including The Batman and Jurassic World: Dominion. When production does begin, Wolfson said, smaller productions, such as reality television programs, are less likely to afford the increased costs associated with widespread safety measures requested by actors and crews.

Hollywood’s unions – including the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters – have issued a detailed set of guidelines that TV and film productions will be expected to follow in the short term while the industry restarts. Such restrictions are expected to remain in place until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 or other measures which virtually eliminate the threat of the virus are discovered.

The detailed measured have generally been accepted, but most in the industry agree that it will take weeks before any full-scale productions will begin in Hollywood, or elsewhere in the United States, according to Wolfson.

Among the immediate questions to be answe21red is how producers are going to handle the increased costs and time frames required to implement changes and when the unions will provide detailed directives for production departments.

Among the guidelines issued by the Hollywood unions:

  • All productions must maintain closed sets, with no visitors allowed;
  • The addition of a health and safety supervisor (and department);
  • Frequent COVID-19 testing
  • Creation of “Zones” on set to maintain distance and determine test frequency

Wolfson explained that “Zone A” will include actors and any crew in the immediate vicinity of filming. Anyone allowed into this zone must be tested three times weekly. Zone B includes all areas not immediately adjacent to filming, such as trailers and other areas. Anyone in Zone B will be subject to weekly testing, until and if they are needed in Zone A.

`Wolfson explains that the Hollywood guidelines resemble those of the British Film Commission, which has allowed UK production to begin in early July. The BFC also created a new production role, COVID-19 Health and Safety Supervisor, to oversee the implementation of the guidelines and to ensure all agreed-upon measures are in place. Furthermore, this new role is responsible for symptom-checking (taking temperatures each day) and have access to an optimized team of trained medical staff standing by to treat anybody displaying symptoms. From a filming standpoint, the BFC mandates that directors use witness cameras whenever possible for rehearsals, allow more time for set design and set-up, and to avoid or limit crowd scenes.