Message from CPC Co-Chairs, Pip Smart and Lucas Jenner.
We felt the need to remind our agency partners of the continuing importance of COVID Safe practices.
While our communities are doing what is, in a global context, a great job at functioning and handling the virus, we all know and acknowledge that this is no time to become complacent or careless in our workplace practices.
It’s imperative that we stay careful and vigilant. No client wants to be at the centre of a ‘cluster’ and our industry needs to stay functioning and safe as we continue under the current guidelines for the foreseeable future. We all now know the rules. It’s not that complicated.
Good hygiene and all the updated WHS rules are still very much in play. Social distancing remains paramount – for every person who walks onto a set.
The CPC strongly recommends wearing masks on set for all agency, client and crew at all times. On-screen cast should wear masks when the camera is not rolling.
Agency and client attendance on set is a big question for our members, and we know a lot of agencies are placing extra pressure on production companies to return to pre-COVID type attendance numbers.
This is unfair for the crews we employ, who face extra risk with every extra person to whom they are exposed on set. It’s important to remember that a crew person who catches a cold cannot work for up to 10 days, so they are particularly sensitive at the moment to additional and unnecessary exposure on set.
The CPC recommends 3 to 5 people maximum on set from agency and client. Indoor viewing spaces must strictly adhere to the 1 person per 4 square metre rule.
And agencies and clients must commit to social distancing and all WHS guidelines whilst on set. Clustering around monitors is a thing of the past. Q Take is usually in place for remote viewing and can also be used to maintain social distancing between agency groups when on set, so there is no need for sitting together in groups.
Similarly, in post production we must remember the new rules, and continue to reduce numbers in small rooms for presentations. Edit suites and presentation rooms will all have COVID capacity limits that we must remain aware and observant of.
Production companies can and will ask agencies to communicate their own COVID policies to make sure that all companies involved in the production are taking responsibility for their part.
The biggest issue we are repeatedly facing is with close contact for on-screen cast. The official government guidelines on this have not changed since they were published by Screen Australia in May. This publication remains the only government sanctioned guidelines to date, despite our best attempts to update them.
Each production requires interpretation of these guidelines, the ongoing consultation and decision making about best practice under the circumstances of each shoot, and the choices made between the production company, agency and client as to how best to limit risk and exposure every step of the way.
Top line outtakes from the Screen Australia guidelines with regards to Close Contact are these:
- If cast are required to break distancing, then cast real families or couples who already live within that ‘bubble’.
- If casting real relationships is not possible, then allow cast to distance on camera or test cast going into the shoot, at a cost of $300 for a lay day plus testing costs.
- There are a number of ways through this, and the production must decide whether testing and isolating down days are required, or just straight testing, as far as the client, agency and production company determine to be comfortable with the reduction of risk.
- It’s important that if the cast need to break distancing, then there is a discussion up front in a production. It is not something that can be suggested and implemented on set when the production has not been set up this way.
- Cast can and should be advised at the casting stage of the plan for distancing and testing for the production.
- Many of our member companies have been implementing various systems of testing of cast prior to a shoot if they need to move within 1.5 metres of one another. Cast members are paid $300 per test day and for every day they may isolate at home between testing and shoot.
- While this is not a completely virus-proof scenario, this does further reduce the risk and allow actors to move into closer contact on set with some comfort and security. This plan can be discussed in the bidding stage and included in a casting quote.
- Similarly, if complicated make up and costume are required, some companies are testing these departments along with cast to create a tested ‘bubble’ on set for those who may need to break distancing.
- Beyond testing, and casting people who are family groups, each production continues to grapple with onscreen cast situations.
- It’s important that agencies and clients understand that nothing has officially changed here. Each scene and production require the same consideration and care that it did 3 months ago.
Rules have not been relaxed.
We are continuing to press for Screen Australia to update Close Contact on-screen guidelines for commercial production and will keep doing so on behalf of our members. In the meantime, it’s up to agencies, clients and production companies to work together to maintain the safety we have managed thus far.
Thank you for your co-operation and commitment to maintaining COVID Safe practices.
Download the PDF version of this update.