An Actors' Guide to working in TV and Film in a post Covid 19 World
You may have been offered a role, but you might be feeling nervous about being on set, the script might have intimate moments or touching. Your producer will have developed an action plan or their Covid-19 or Corona Virus or SARS-Cov2 protocols document. Before you sign your contract, ask to look at it and make sure you feel safe before you go back to work.
Below is a list taken from a global perspective of all measures being put into place to allow people back on to set to work. This list is designed to help you ask:
How do I keep myself safe on set?
How do I make sure my producer is following all protocols to keep me safe on set?
Is it safe to work on set?
Is it safe to perform scenes with intimate content?
Is it safe to film sex scenes?
What happens if I get sick on set?
How can I help come up with creative ideas on set to maintain social distancing while still telling the story?
Consider you own health and well-being
Read well any documents that you're asked to sign.
Don't agree to any terms that you're not happy with.
Find out what protocols the company are putting in place.
Is there a safety officer, Covid Guard or similar on set?
Are they providing PPE for you?
Be prepared for regular testing and daily screenings and health questionnaires
If you'll be working without a mask, and particularly if you're asked to work on intimate scenes, be prepared for a period of quarantine/isolation and/or declaring your SARS-Cov2 status
What provisions are in place if you get sick?
Is there a medical team on stand-by?
Are there mental health specialists on stand-by to support you should you need?
Is there a member of the team you can talk to confidentially if you have concerns?
Working through the script:
Can you see where you'll be working with social distancing?
Are there creative ways to think about the physicality of the scene that tell the same story? (Remember - the moment before the touch, or the kiss is often the most exciting bit to the audience).
Are you going to be working with day players and supporting artists - what provisions are being put in place to keep you all safe?
Will you be having arguments, shouting or fighting?
What are the strategies when doing these scenes?
Have the production booked intimacy coordinators and stunt coordinators to develop creative ideas
Do you normally have a live audience - how is that going to change?
The casts might be smaller, which may mean more intense pressure and expectations on you, what are your coping strategies going to be?
If you see something in the script that you're not comfortable with, ask for a discussion and don't be afraid to say no.
Auditions and Casting:
Castings, ideally online or self-tape,
If in person
Check that the area appears to be clean and is being maintained on arrival and departure
Is there sanitiser available for everyone's use?
If auditioning as a pair, are you provided with visors, or markings to keep the current distance from each other?
Have you got appropriate space in your waiting and performing area?
Is there enough space between yourself and director and camera operator?
If you get booked for the job, go through the contract in detail, and talk to your agent and the producer, empower yourself to speak openly to all involved - see yourself as part of the solution, not part of the problem - everyone is learning the new normal, so don't be afraid to ask questions and make suggestions
On set considerations:
Is there a pod/team-based system in place and what does that mean for you?
(You may be restricted to certain areas)
You may need to use different dining and toilet facilities
You may not be offered a trailer and will be zoned in a bigger tent
You may be asked to drive yourself to set if you can
If using production transport, what protocols are in place to keep you safe?
You may be asked to shoot in remote locations away from home
You may be working more on a green screen
If you don't feel safe in a certain location, speak to the representative that has been assigned to you
(there should be no members of the public present for example)
The location you're working in should have been sanitised before you arrive
If shooting abroad:
Be prepared to be PCR Tested before travelling and within 72 hours of arrival
You may be asked to quarantine on arrival
If you're accommodated while away, it's best if you stay alone or with your own pod and not to mix with the public in bars/restaurants etc.
Arrival on set:
Non-contact temperature checks - and daily logs kept and checked, should be standard
You may be asked to fill in a health/wellness questionnaire - at beginning and end of each day
If you're displaying symptoms, you'll probably be sent home to self-isolate
Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
Cough, breathlessness, runny nose (cold) or sore throat, sudden changes in the sense of smell or taste, headache or body aches
Be responsible for your own hand hygiene
hand washing including wrists and up to elbow if arms exposed, sanitising, social distancing, blowing noses in disposable tissues, sneezing into crook of elbow, avoiding touching of eyes, nose, and mouth
If possible, avoid wearing contact lenses, keep hair tied back, and keep nails short
Is there PPE for the day provided on arrival, new or laundered at appropriate temperature and sanitised, or will you be expected to bring your own?
You may receive specific/individual/pod call times to avoid over-crowding on arrival - try to stick to those if transporting yourself
On the day:
Health and Safety - these should be outlined to you and be apparent.
If you feel ill, what are the protocols you follow?
Are there Nurses/paramedics and or doctors on set?
Are there SARS-Cov2 'Guards/Supervisors' on set?
Are there signs telling you what the protocols are?
Do you know the areas that you have access to?
Do you know which members of the crew that you're allowed to directly interact with, and what protocols are in place to make sure these interactions are safe?
You should have access to toilets with running water, liquid soap, disposable towels, closed bins. If you have to queue are there markings on the floor to keep you socially distanced from each other?
Are the toilets being cleaned every 2 hours?
Surfaces should be cleaned/sanitised
(Including but not limited to: door knobs, tables, furniture, handrails, light switches, floors, telephones, computers, kitchen areas, rest areas, changing rooms, hangers etc.)
If possible, production should have tried to arrange:
Doors without handles/swing doors
Hand free water and soap dispensers and hand dryers
Foot operated sanitisers available at regular intervals and in all areas, or personal sanitisers assigned to each person if more practical
Foot operated closed bins to dispose of single-use items, such as PPE and drinking bottles etc.
Remember: hand washing is more effective than wearing a single pair of gloves all day
You won't be allowed guests on set.
Make sure that props that you handle have been sanitised between uses
There should be no shared foods or communal condiments at Craft/Meal Service
Your meal breaks will likely be staggered - and time limited per person
You may be asked to follow the French system or continuous working day - ie no set lunch break
Chairs will be likely be used in place of benches to help maintain social distancing
You may have to order food in advance and collect it
Queueing areas should be clearly marked to show 2m space
Food and drink might be served in sealed disposable eco-friendly containers
Principal actors and key crew might have a separate space for catering, toilet facilities and rest areas
You may want to bring in your own food and drink
There may be temporary clear barriers between you and the other actor you're working with while shots are set up
You may have to rehearse scenes with visors and masks
You might be asked to act without your scene partner in your eyeline, or with unusual angles
The production might be trying to speed up the process, so there maybe less opportunity for multiple takes
You may shoot more green scene screens and won't have supporting artists/extras with you in your scenes
Where they can, sound may prefer booms over radio mics, so don't be alarmed if you're not given a personal microphone.
If you are to wear a mic, then ask to apply it to yourself if possible.
Ideally, with your own mic assigned to you, and not shared, but at the least sanitised after the previous user and if not personally applied, applied by sound or wardrobe, who should be wearing full PPE
Some productions in the EU have gone back to work and are tackling intimacy, so be prepared to be asked, and think about how you feel about that.
You have the right to say no.
Ideally you should not be asked to undertake an intimate scene, and then be asked to sign a waiver stating that you're responsible if you get sick. As a principal performer, it is vital that production keeps you well, and has a strategy in place if you get sick. (ie health care and continued pay) If you are being asked to do a high-risk scene by the production company, then the production company should shoulder that risk.
When collaborating with your director, think about other ways to tell the same story. Can the look be as meaningful as a touch?
Work with space, minimise time in proximity
Have the producers brought in an intimacy coordinator, to help with choreography and to act as an advocate for you if you feel unsafe?
One method being trialled is to isolate actors for the entirety of the shoot, or at least for duration of filming intimate content, so consider if that will work for you. In theory, if you have been isolated together and are not exposed to exterior influences, then you may be able to work without PPE, and engage in intimate scenes in the same way that you have in the past.
You may have to prove your anti-body status or show test results. (This has been adapted from the adult film industry - historically performers have been asked to show their HIV status and prove regular testing)..
If working with restrictions however, you'll need to maintain social distance
No kissing, touching, holding hands or intimacy
Or if kissing - not kissing the face; so other body parts will be in play. Sanitising before and after any of this kind of contact will be necessary
You must remember to be vigilant with your own hygiene practices
Be prepared to be tested regularly!
Costume fittings may be carried out remotely
Your costumes should be on rails and bagged up and labelled for you
You may be asked to dress yourself
You may even be asked to wash your own costumes - if you do, use as high a heat as possible - follow the guidance from the wardrobe department
You may be asked to use your own clothes from home
If you're using costume props, they should be sanitised after each use
If the production is using body doubles, they should have their own costume
Make-up and Hair
Make-up artists and hair stylists should be wearing full PPE and exercising good hand hygiene methodologies
If wearing gloves, they should be changed between each cast member
Or you may have one artist assigned to you
Everything should be disinfected/sanitised - the make up area as well as the equipment
Makeup and hairdressing stations should be 2m apart
You may be asked to apply your own make up and there may well be limited 'touching-up' on set.
Jewellery that you wear should be sanitised between uses, or you might be asked to bring your own jewellery
Outside of the workplace
You should limit contact with others when not on set
Remember to exercise social distancing and hand washing while not at work
Try to avoid any high-risk situations, ie shopping, socialising
Try to practice, as much as possible, self-isolation when not at work (possibly isolate yourself from your family during the shoot)
Have work clothes and at home clothes
Be creative with personal intimacy - dating and new relationships in the conventional sense are off limits!