Industry-Wide Task Force’s “White Paper” On Restarting Film & TV Production Expected To Be Ready Soon


The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee’s task force on the safe resumption of film and TV production expects to have the final draft of a White Paper completed in a week or two for delivery to government officials and public health authorities. The document still is under review by the representative of the major studios, unions and guilds, a source familiar with the task force told Deadline.

This joint collaborative effort will produce guidelines for the safe return to work, but the task force is not looking to develop a department-by-department handbook of protocols for use on every production. That level of detail is below what the task force is working on. The major studios and Hollywood’s guilds and unions – including SAG-AFTRA, the DGA and IATSE – are working on their own sets of detailed protocols, as well.

The idea for a White Paper originated out of the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who asked the industry to develop safe-opening protocols – something that the companies and unions had been working on anyway.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that his office will be issuing guidelines on Monday for the industry’s reopening, though his chief of staff later acknowledged that a quick resumption of production in Los Angeles might prove more difficult.

The industry task force’s White Paper is intended for a high-level audience of governmental and public health officials, including the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which is considered one of the primary gate-keepers for greenlighting a return to work in L.A.

Reports of “infighting” between the companies and the unions over the document are miscast, a source said. “That’s really not the right word. This is the normal process of coming to terms on an important document like this,” the source said. “The work of the task force is not all that different than the work of the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee,” which has been implementing safety procedures for decades. “It’s a very collaborative thing that the studios and unions do,” the source added. “A lot of this is the same process. Each side considers how things should be; they get together, talk about it and work it out. To call it ‘infighting’ is not really accurate. That’s a headline-grabbing way of approaching this, but not fair to say.”

Another source close to the task force said it’s working “night and day, and that’s on both the union and the company sides. You have a large number of people on these committees; everything’s getting vetted, and I’m actually very, very impressed with the way that this has been working. It’s been very collaborative. People are not bringing agendas to the table; they’re bringing ideas, and instead of bringing problems, they’re identifying problems and finding solutions, sort of what you would hope that it would be.”

Carteris SAG-AFTRA

In a statement to her members today, SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said: “Working with our Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety, we are completing a set of initial protocols with input from our expert epidemiologists, industrial sanitation specialists, member leaders and staff. We also are working in collaboration with our fellow guilds and unions, and the industry to ensure that our protocols are part of any harmonized industry standard.

“There are multiple efforts across the industry to create various procedures for returning to work,” she continued. “SAG-AFTRA has not yet signed on to any specific set of procedures for reopening. We are reviewing all of these on a case-by-case basis to ensure that any such guidelines reflect the concerns of performers and provide appropriate protection for any return to production. In this unprecedented time, there are many and varied interests in the larger process. While we remain flexible, our overriding interest is in ensuring that sets are safe for SAG-AFTRA members. We want to get back to work and we want producers to have the confidence and understanding of our membership as they move forward with their projects.”

Drafters of the White Paper recognize that different-sized productions will have to approach re-opening differently – a flexible approach rather than a one-size-fits-all document – especially since so much of the science about the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus still is developing. The CDC, for instance, didn’t even recommend that people start wearing cloth face masks to prevent the spread of the virus until April 3 – more than two weeks after the entertainment industry shutdown.

“Getting everyone back to work safely is priority number one for everybody on the task force,” a source said, who described the atmosphere of the talks as congenial and collegial. “There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but they really do want the same result – to get people back to work. Everyone is pulling in the same direction. Are there concerns? Of course. This is a big issue. There’s an unprecedented degree of attention on this issue right now. But the committee and the task force are doing what they always do, which is putting safety first and thinking about how that can be done in a safe way. We all have an interest in that.”

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