The guidelines stress “regular testing” for COVID-19; workdays no longer than 10 hours; no COVID-related liability waivers; “absolutely no visitors” on set; the sanitizing of shared surfaces; proper ventilation in closed spaces, and remote working and videoconferencing whenever possible.
“As fellow producers, we all feel the need to get back to work while still making sure that our cast and crew are safe and protected,” said PGA presidents Lucy Fisher and Gail Berman. “We hope that our guidelines will help make this new reality possible for independent producers and provide an accessible resource for the broader creative community.”
The PGA said: “Through the collective power of the Guild’s network of producers and deep industry knowledge, these guidelines offer a comprehensive and detailed recommendation of the steps independent producers should take to help secure the safety of cast and crew during the COVID-19 pandemic. These guidelines serve as a resource for independent producers to help navigate the existing guidelines and rules set by the industry’s studios, unions and guilds.”
The PGA’s protocols, however, come with a disclaimer, which states that its guidelines are “being offered for the user’s educational benefit only”; that “each producer will need to determine their own safety protocols”; that “the PGA makes no representation or warranty regarding the accurateness or completeness of the information shared,” and that “the PGA is not liable for any damages or any third-party actions that may result from the user’s reliance on any information offered.”
The guild said that its 56-page “COVID Safety Protocols for Producing Independent Productions,” which was compiled by the PGA’s Production Safety Task Force In consultation with epidemiologists, should be used as “planning companions” in conjunction with two other sets of industry protocols issued in June: “The Safe Way Forward” guidelines generated by the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts unions; and the “White Paper” developed by the Industry Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force. Many IATSE locals – including the Cinematographers Guild, the Editors Guild, the Art Directors Guild and Grips Local 80 – have, like the PGA now, issued their own craft-specific protocols, as well. (The PGA is not a union, but a trade association.)
Like “The Safe Way Forward,” the PGA’s protocols rely heavily on a system of zones that “must be established and strictly adhered to in order to guard against contact between those individuals in the main shooting company and all other individuals on production.”
Executing the zone system, the PGA says, will require the creation of one new position for all productions – and one new department for large productions. “There will be a dedicated Health and Safety Supervisor (referred to in the industry White Paper as the ‘COVID-19Compliance Officer,’ and in The Safe Way Forward as the Health and Safety Supervisor), and a Health and Safety Manager; and on large productions, there will be a Health and Safety Department, with a staff.
“The Health and Safety Supervisor will be hired by and report directly to the Producer and be the final authority on COVID-safety matters, i.e., the HSS cannot be overruled in their efforts and activities to enforce COVID-19-related safety practices. The HSS, with mutual agreement from the Producer, can implement the ‘Red Light Protocol’ on the production. It is the Producer’s responsibility to create criteria that ensure this key position is filled by individuals with the appropriate medical experience and knowledge commensurate with this high level of responsibility.”
The PGA says that its “red light” protocols are designed to guide producers, in collaboration with their Health and Safety team, in the step-by-step process of determining if and when to shut down the production at any stage of pre-production, principal photography, or post-production.
The PGA’s protocols also offer a check-list that should be followed on all productions, including two questions dealing with insurance. “(1) If you do not have an insurance policy in place that covers COVID-19 related claims, do you have a government-backed insurance policy in place? (2) If the above answer is no, is your financier willing to pay for any COVID-related insurance-type issues and claims, such as shut downs, crew pay, holding deals, start-up costs, etc. (e.g. you or your financier can self-insure)? And, if yes, is that commitment in writing?”
The guild said that “If both insurance answers are ‘No,’ then you should not consider production at this time.”
The guild also noted that “While it is common, especially in unscripted productions, to include liability waivers where the capturing of the content itself is inherently risky, these waivers SHOULD NOT also apply to potential exposure to and/or contracting of COVID-19 while on production. Exposure to, and contracting of, COVID-19 are not risks inherent to the capture of the creative content, therefore the PGA does not approve any form of a COVID-19 liability waiver.”
Members of the PGA Production Safety Task Force, which was led by former PGA president Lori McCreary, include Holly Carter, Cean Chaffin, Yolanda T. Cochran, Mike Farah, Jennifer A. Haire, Gary Lucchesi, Kelly Mendelsohn, Jamie Patricof, Robert Salerno, Stacey Sher, Haley Sweet, Chris Thomes, Sara E. White, Mari Jo Winkler, Harvey Wilson, and Lulu Zezza.
“There has never been a time where I’ve seen producers and the larger industry come together around an issue with such collaboration, endurance, purpose, and, as we all need right now, hope,” said McCreary, CEO of Revelations Entertainment. “Our colleagues and fellow PGA members, whose talent for telling stories and making sense of the world has been paused during the pandemic but never extinguished, are eager to return to doing what they love. I and the Task Force are honored that we have the opportunity to help pave the way to work safely while continuing to produce great content.”
In addition to the guidelines, the PGA is in the process of creating a “Tips from the Field” online resource where producers and department heads can post tips and insights from productions they’re working on. This, the guild said, “will create a living hub of information, all accessible to the general public, that is designed to provide further resources and support as the pandemic continues.”