Making content and working with a film crew

The closure of arts venues and cinemas during the pandemic has catalysed an abundance of digital arts content to meet the voracious viewing demands of culture-starved audiences.  While business-as-usual and performing to live audiences is simply not possible, the government’s guidance makes an explicit allowance for performing for broadcast and recording purposes, creating an exciting opportunity to make digital content.  Making and sharing content can be a valuable way of keeping your organisation active, exercising your creative juices and engaging with your audiences, members and donors.

Should your organisation choose to make content for broadcast or recording purposes, producers must act within the legal framework for working during the current “stay at home” order and must put the health and safety of crew and co-workers first.

So, with the above in mind, producer Kate Wilson is sharing links and advice to help you make content while acting legally and responsibly (borrowing from our friends in the film and TV sector where appropriate) and sharing some tips for healthy productions and a happy set.

1. The Law

Everybody is obliged to follow the law as set out in government legislation and guidance.  Please refer to the current legal guidance and stay abreast of updates regarding working restrictions.

Please note the following:

  • National “stay at home” orders are in place across the 4 nations of the United Kingdom.  Each nation may have local restrictions: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland.
  • Everybody should stay at home if possible and should only travel to work if they cannot work from home.
  • Those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable are advised to work from home.
  • As of 18th January, 2021 all travel corridors to the United Kingdom are suspended with very limited exemptions.

Other workplace legislation must be upheld.  Particularly, please remember that it is unlawful to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic (defined under the Equality Act 2010 as age, race, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation).  Employers also have additional duties to disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.  While certain exceptions arise where a balance must be struck between employees’ rights and the restrictions or requirements of the employer, these must be objectively justified and are the exception, not the rule.

2. Guidance for the Performing Arts

The government has issued specific guidance for the performing arts.  Performing arts venues and professional practitioners and staff may continue to operate within the following parameters:

  • Performing arts professionals may continue to rehearse and train, and perform for broadcast or recording purposes
  • Other than for this purpose, theatres, concert halls, grassroots music venues and entertainment venues must close. Professional dancers may continue to use dance studios
  • Non-professional activity, such as amateur choirs and orchestra, cannot take place
  • Indoor and outdoor performances with an audience cannot take place
  • You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home

3. Broadcasters’ Guidance

The television broadcasters have collaborated with COBA (the Commercial Broadcasters Association, the industry body for broadcasters and on-demand services) and Pact (the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, the trade association for producers of film, television, animation and digital media) to publish Covid-19 TV Production Protocols and Guidance.  Their guidance covers all programme making for television, and supplementary guidance for film production and high-end TV drama is available from the British Film Commission.

The latest version of the TV Production Guidance (V6) was published on 19th January and considers the additional risks posed by particularly transmissible new variants of the virus and the consequent closure of travel corridors.   You can access the full guidance here.

Any production, however small, should undertake a comprehensive risk assessment to include:

(i) Specifically consider people at higher risk of harm

(ii) Heighten precautions for everyone at work and respond immediately to symptoms

  • Hands, Face, Space; use hand sanitiser and wash your hands regularly; wear masks and PPE; social distancing of 2M+
  • Temperature checks
  • If you or a member of your crew show symptoms (a temperature, a dry cough, a loss of sense of smell and/or taste), self isolate immediately for 10 days
  • f you or a crew member has a positive coronavirus test, you and everyone in your household must self-isolate for 10 days – see guidance
  • Anyone who has been in close contact within 48 hours of a person testing positive for coronavirus must also self-isolate for 10 days – see guidance
  • Develop a robust communications plan to ensure you can share information including any symptoms or changes to your production schedule

(iii) Reduce the number of people involved

  • Can some of the crew work remotely?  Maximise the use of technology
  • Segregate groups and minimise contact between people.  Can you divide your crew into cohorts that do not mix?

(iv) Consider editorial ‘on camera’ requirements

  • Plan and prep!
  • You know we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so choose content that can be completed with minimal social contact and as little risk as possible

(v) Consider mental health and wellbeing

  • Living and working through a pandemic poses significant risks to people’s mental health and wellbeing
  • Talk to your crew and ask them if they need help
  • Share support line numbers and access to information
  • If you are working with a professional film or TV crew, they can ring the Film and TV Charity’s 24/7 Support Line: 0800 054 0000

(vi) Feedback loop

  • Encourage everyone on the production to report any problems or breaches of the protocols you have set out, reviewing and making appropriate adjustments as required
  • In the event of an infection, consider your reporting duties under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurences Regulations) and guidance from Public Health England (or the relevant national body)

You must also consider the safety of travel to and from your place of work, your working space or studio, each working activity, equipment, rest areas, first aid and access to emergency services.

Even when you have undertaken meticulous planning and extraordinary precautions, the virus may outwit you.  With that in mind, always have a contingency plan and be prepared to stop filming and delay production if that is the best and safest way forwards.

If you want to capture performances or create content to share with your audiences, don’t let a pandemic stop you!

But, please –

  • Read all of the guidance and follow the best practice advice
  • Plan, plan, plan!  And then start planning
  • Less is more (fewer is better)
  • Hands, Face, Space
  • Act immediately if anyone shows symptoms or has a positive test, following the latest published guidance re self-isolation and reporting
  • Talk to your co-workers and support their mental health and wellbeing
  • Do not discriminate
  • Have a contingency plan (or three…)
  • Report, reflect, review

And… Action!

Kate Wilson

Kate is a Producer and Consultant working across the film, TV and arts sectors.  She founded award-winning production company Fury Films and has a range of projects in production and development with partners including Joseph Adesunloye, Simon Beaufoy, Lucy Brydon, Charlotte Ginsborg, Lisa Gornick, Natalie Ibu, Akram Khan, among others.  She works with The Space and the Film and TV Charity and is the Co-Chair of the Film and Video Umbrella, the UK’s leading commissioner of artists’ moving image work.

Kate Wilson

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