Important industry update: COVID Safe Practices

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.

Latest industry restrictions for our sector

Restrictions are easing in metropolitan Melbourne

Restrictions have eased in metropolitan Melbourne from 11:59pm Sunday 8 November. Details for Media and Film Production can be found here.

Download the latest metropolitan Media & Film Production restrictions PDF here.

Follow the Regional roadmap here.

Film Victoria update re. Step 3

Here is the latest information from Film Victoria’s Dan Beck, which was emailed this afternoon.

I’m writing to share that from 11:59pm on 27 October, some restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria have eased.

Please find the relevant industry updates below which are now available on our website. Further screen industry FAQs will be published in the weeks ahead as we await more information.

Metropolitan Melbourne

From 11:59pm on 27 October, Third Step restrictions apply to metropolitan Melbourne. Screen production is permitted under the Third Step. Strict filming and COVIDSafe guidelines must be adhered to. A COVIDSafe Plan must be in place.

This includes pre and post-production activities. Set construction must operate in accordance with the construction sector guidelines. Productions can include student productions, corporate productions and television commercials.

If you can’t work from home, you can go to work, and you do not need to carry a permit. However, you still need a permit to travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria for work or study. If you can work from home, you must continue to work from home. 

Studio access is permitted within a density quotient of one person per four square metres. All workplaces that are open must have a COVIDSafe plan in place and employees must work from home or a single site where reasonably practicable.

For the full list of permitted screen activity in metropolitan Melbourne visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/industry-restrictions-roadmap-metro-melbourne.

Regional Victoria

From 11:59pm on 16 September, Third Step 3 restrictions apply to regional Victoria. As part of the Third Step, screen production is permitted under the Third Step. Strict filming and COVIDSafe guidelines must be adhered to. A COVIDSafe Plan must be in place.

This includes pre and post-production activities. Set construction must operate in accordance with the construction sector guidelines. Productions can include student productions, corporate productions and television commercials.

Studio access is permitted within a density quotient of one person per four square metres. All workplaces that are open must have a COVIDSafe plan in place and employees must work from home or a single site where reasonably practicable. For the full list of permitted screen activity in regional Victoria, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/industry-restriction-levels-regional-victoria.

FAQs

Is set-building for film, television or theatre permitted in in the Third Step?

Yes, set building can proceed if it adheres to the restrictions and requirements outlined in the construction sector guidelines.

This includes:

  • Having a COVIDSafe Plan in place
  • Having no more than one worker per four square metres of enclosed workspace.

Can cast and crew members from metropolitan Melbourne travel to regional Victoria to work on a screen production?

Cast and crew from metropolitan Melbourne may travel to regional Victoria to work on the production if they cannot work from home. They must have a Permitted Worker Permit and travel with the permit at all times in regional Victoria.

While a worker from metropolitan Melbourne is in regional Victoria, they must abide by the level of restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne at that point in time. The worker cannot undertake any non-work-related activities while in regional Victoria. Workers should not carpool when travelling to regional Victoria.

When actors/talent have been through hair and make-up and are waiting to go in front of the camera, are they required to wear a face mask? Can they wear a face shield instead?

Face shields on their own do not meet the face mask requirements. Unless an exemption applies, a face mask must be worn.

Can I work from my creative studio or workshop during the Third Step?

If you can work from home, you must continue to work from home. If you cannot work from home because you require access to specialist equipment or facilities to conduct your work, you can work from your creative studio or workshop.

You must have a COVIDSafe Plan in place and a limit of one person per four square metres. All people on-site must wear a face mask and should maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres at all times. Where possible, limit the number of worksites you visit.

Kind regards,

Dan Beck

Locations & Production Services Coordinator

Metro Melbourne entering Step 3 @ 11.59pm 27 October

Film Victoria has advised today that, following the Premier’s announcement, metro-Melbourne will be entering Step 3 as at 11:59pm, Tuesday 27 October.

The link below is the updated industry roadmap for metro-Melbourne: – https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/industry-restrictions-roadmap-metro-melbourne  It outlines what is permitted for media and film production (you will need to scroll down a bit to our industry. From there you can download the document).

Film Victoria has confirmed in conversation this afternoon that commercial television production is included in all references to media and film production being permitted under Step 3.

More details will come from Film Victoria shortly. Their website will also be updated this afternoon or tomorrow.

Petition to ‘Breathe life into Victoria’s Advertising Community’

A change.org petition has recently been established by Victoria’s Advertising Community, representing the interests of Cinematographers, Camera Operators, Assistants Directors, Agency Producers, Caterers, Sound Recordists, Art Coordinators, Production Managers, Creative Directors, Receptionists, Accountants, Camera Assistants, Art Assistants, Location Supervisors, Safety Officers, Traffic Coordinators, Grips, Gaffers, Colourists, Offline Editors, Online Editors, VFX Specialists, Motion Graphic Artists, Animators, Musicians, Sound Mixers, Photographers, Hair and Makeup Artists and Wardrobe Coordinators.

The petition is addressed to Danny Pearson, the State Minister for Creative Industries, Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian State Government. The petition reads:

Dear Minister,

As Victoria went into Stage 4 Lockdown and filming was not permitted in Victoria – with some motion film and tv show exceptions – the Advertising production sector was left baffled.

The Victorian Government had its “Victorian Roadmap” discussions at the end of August.

Given the most recent outcome, we have no reason to believe the advertising community had any representation in those meetings at all; it was simply left out of the discussion. And considering that we are often the loudest and most visible agents of change, it’s nothing short of bizarre. No one promotes Victoria like we do, and no one can promote Victoria without us.

This is despite the fact that the industry’s standards of care and adherence to COVID-19 protocol are at the highest level of adherence and professionalism. There have been no cases of infection or examples of a cluster connected to an advertising production.

The fact is that the advertising production community of Victoria has received nothing in terms of support; production in Sydney and Brisbane is busier than ever, while the industry in Victoria is on its knees.

We have simply been ignored and left at the gates to wait, because we’re not on the list.

As a community, we are a resilient, resourceful and infinitely flexible one. We don’t require 200 cast and crew in a studio to create content – and we create every single day. Since the inception of digital cameras and smaller budgets we have gotten what some would say, “match fit,” working with smaller crews years before COVID-19 landed on our shores.

Lately we’ve done so from our makeshift studio apartment offices; over hundreds of depressing Zoom chats; outside a Datsun with one talent holding an iPhone that’s remote-controlled by a guy in a nearby van, streaming live to15 interstate account managers who wonder if the talent can “look warmer”. We change 24/7 because that’s the nature of our industry.

But now we’re learning that somehow, we’re not part of the industry. We’re told our work is less essential than mowing a lawn or getting a manicure. It’s not just degrading, it’s dangerous – costing jobs and wasting creative talent – and it’s unfair.

We need to start having a real discussion about how we can make permits and permissions fast and affordable, help Victoria become a viable option again, and most of all: help our incredible crew back on their feet. Sydney has become busier than ever during the last 6 months and unless we promptly address the Victorian industry’s way out, this temporary move will become a permanent shift. At the moment, Victorian creatives and technicians are either out of work, or they’re looking at classifieds in Sydney and on the Gold Coast.

it’s widely estimated up to 26% of the Australian workforce are likely to lose their jobs due to pandemic shutdowns and restrictions – but this rises to 75% for those employed in the creative and performing arts. We can only speculate how this number inflates for Victorians.

Our stronghold in the creative industry of Australia is eroding before our very eyes, and while advertising may not be the first thing on anyone’s mind when they consider creative content, we are the only industry that ensures sure great photographers, gaffers, soundies, grips, best boys, production managers, actors, writers, directors and producers always have an accessible and regular job in their field of expertise.

It’s also worth mentioning that encouraging Victorians to spend will stimulate our economy, something our state desperately needs right now and likely will for a long time to come.

So what is the strategy for Victoria to support advertising’s creative community?

We urge you to consider how to revive the advertising production community of our state, and to consider it now, because the incredible nature of our industry is also our greatest challenge: we are immeasurably flexible and mobile, and right now, that mobility is seeing our creative talent leave Melbourne.

We need support from the Victorian Government. This is an opportunity for the community to rally and truly come together, to strengthen the industry.

And we’re not just talking about ads. International talent across the screen industry has emerged from Victoria over the years. Too many to count.

And beyond our export, the industry consists of endless streams of talent…

Cinematographers, Camera Operators, Assistants Directors, Agency Producers, Caterers, Sound Recordists, Art Coordinators, Production Managers, Creative Directors, Receptionists, Accountants, Camera Assistants, Art Assistants, Location Supervisors, Safety Officers, Traffic Coordinators, Grips, Gaffers, Colourists, Offline Editors, Online Editors, VFX Specialists, Motion Graphic Artists, Animators, Musicians, Sound Mixers, Photographers, Hair and Makeup Artists, Wardrobe Coordinators…

And a whole mix of other dedicated professionals that pour their heart and souls into our industry….

Let’s continue to build the rich creative history Melbourne brings to our nation as, right now, our industry is broken.

Let’s save our creative industry before it’s too late. Open the doors. Let’s talk.

Finally, to quote an industry professional of note;

“If Jim’s Mowing can get an exemption, and the cutting of grass stands up to the scrutiny of Covid Safety, surely the Advertising Production Community matches and excels these standards out of the proverbial back yard.”

Regards,

Verbose communicators, screen-engrossed technicians, and passionate Melburnians

Sign the petition.

COVID-19 UPDATE – Outdoor photography now permitted in metro areas

The Victorian Government has announced that as of 11.59pm Sunday 18 October, outdoor photography for commercial photographers undertaking paid services is now permitted. Services must operate solely outdoors with up to five people where physical distancing can be maintained at all times, for businesses with an ABN.

Film Victoria’s Emily Dutton has confirmed that this is for metro industries. For any regionall-based Victorian activity, you are required to follow the Regional roadmap, which you can view a summary of here.

Screen NSW update: Xmas, NY & Aus Day restrictions

This update has was sent by Mechelle Axford, Production Attraction Lead at Screen NSW on Friday 16 October.

I recently connected with Manager Road Network Access Riham Gergis at Transport Management Centre (TMC) .You may have already been notified as an OPLINC user, or in your own contact with TMC –  however please find below for your information “ FW: Christmas/New Year and Australia Day restrictions “

This document also includes the details of when the TMC’s Road Occupancy Unit will be closed from and inclusive.

As always, if you have any  questions you can reach out direct to Theagaraja Prabahar and the TMC Team via TMC_Filming@rta.nsw.gov.au or call 02 8396 1245

Podcast: State of Play with Airbag’s Martin Box

The Production Brief podcast’s Mark Welker and Brendan Lee speak with Martin Box, Head of Production at Airbag, one of the CPC’s long-standing members, about the challenges and opportunities of the last six months and well as his outlook for the remainder of the year and into 2021.

Listen to the podcast here.

CPC requests reinstatement of commercial tv production in Victorian government’s definition

UPDATE: With the swearing in of Danny Pearson as the new Victorian Minister for Creative Industries on 29 September, the CPC has recently redirected its formal request to Pearson’s ministerial office. A response is pending.

When the Victorian Government’s Stage 4 Restrictions were announced for our sector on 3 August, commercial television production was inexplicably excluded from its broader definition of screen production (which included long-form/feature filming and television productions).

At the time Film Victoria was unable to provide a rationale as to why commercial tv production had been singled out. The decision was a baffling one and the exclusion also seems at odds with the way in which our business operates, given that freelancers dominate our sector’s crews and work across commercial production and film as well as television production.

As a consequence, the CPC has recently written to the MInister for Creative Industries, the Hon. Martin Foley, MP, to query the government’s decision to single out commercial television production and to formallly request its reinstatement so that when restrictions are relaxed for our sector, commercial television production can recommence in alignment with film and television production.

The letter also sought clarification regarding critical and essential services, exemption processes, and special conditions that might apply for stills photography shoots and post-production services. A response from the DHHS is pending.

Raven Collective joins CPC

Raven Collective is the CPC’s newest member, joining ARC Edit, Brightworks, Clockwork Films, Division, Eight, Filmgraphics, Friske, Happy Films, Sedona and Spinnaker Films as new members since January 2020. The CPC looks forward to welcoming Michelle Parker to our next committee meeting on Tuesday 1 December.