Australia Sets Comprehensive COVID-Safe Guidelines For Film & TV Production

Australia Sets Comprehensive COVID-Safe Guidelines

While the Hollywood unions and studios are still deliberating over protocols for safe return to production amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian film and TV industry has released its COVID-Safe Guidelines to help get their industry back to work.

Spanning 41 pages, this is the most comprehensive set of official country or state recommendations to date, addressing in detail every aspect of production.

Considered a ‘live’ document that will evolve as best practices develop when projects return to production, the document was created by The Australian Screen Sector Task Force, comprised of members from the Australian Film TV & Radio School, public-private incentive body Ausfilm, federal agency Screen Australia, trade union Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, state and territory agencies, guilds, the Australian Broadcasting Co., the Special Broadcasting Service and major production companies including Endemol Shine Australia and Fremantle Australia, whose series Neighbours became the first suspended TV drama in the English-speaking world to set safety protocols and restart production.

“These Guidelines are an essential tool to help the Australian industry get back to the business of creating world-leading screen stories,” Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said. Using the guidelines as a benchmark, each production will have to devise their own individual plan.

With the guidelines, Australia is putting up the :Open For Business” sign for outside production companies, including Hollywood studios. “As a nation, our response to controlling this virus has been unparalleled, placing us in a unique position to not only return to work on local productions, but also to attract international productions looking for a safe and experienced home base,” said SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.

The guidelines cover everything from general information about COVID-19 to risk management, insurance and incident management and control. (A COVID-Safe Risk Assessment template is also being developed.)

Of most practical interest are the Mandatory Control Measures and Specific Control Measures.

The Mandatory Control Measures (pages 15-17) include requirements for Physical Distancing, including limit the number of people in all areas to essential personnel only; Hygiene; Working Arrangements, including stagger start, finish and break times, and film outdoors, rather than indoors, where possible; Contractor and Supplier Management, including implement contactless deliveries; Health Monitoring, including screening measures to detect symptoms of COVID-19 as early as possible; Training, including conduct a daily toolbox talk to remind workers of COVID-19 protocols; Planning, Communication and Consultation, including appoint a COVID-Safe Supervisor, and appropriate supporting personnel; and Personal Protective Equipment, including use of appropriate PPE, such as masks, eye protection and gloves.

Specific Control Measures (pages 18 – 31) are optional but recommended safety guidelines for every stage — Development and Pre-Production, Production and Post Production — and for every individual production area and group involved — Performers, Catering, Assistant Director/Director/Script Supervisor Departments, Camera, Grips and Lighting, Sound, Art Department, Locations, Costume/Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup, Safety and Medical, Transport, Unit, Workshops, Offices, Domestic and International Travel, Testing and Mental Health.

Here are some highlights:

    • The pandemic is temporally taking away a lot of the perks for actors who are encouraged to dress themselves, do their own hair and makeup, including touchups and makeup removal, and perform own set checks, where possible. Hair and makeup should be reserved for feature cast, if practicable. All crew members in proximity of the cast are required to wear PPE.
    • Cast members have to provide written consent to work in scenes that require close contact or intimacy in their contracts, with details about such scenes disclosed in casting briefs as part of the auditioning process. Production schedules should be amended to ensure that scenes requiring close contact or physical intimacy are filmed either all together or at a later stage in the production, with quarantine for all persons involved in filming the scenes advised. Background performs should not be asked to perform any scenes requiring close contact or intimacy.
    • All departments are asked to use color-coded equipment/props/costume pieces (with tape/stickers) to identify when equipment has been cleaned and is ready for next use
    • All production paperwork should be digitized, including call sheets; all accounting to be done electronically with no cash payments
    • Pre-production and post-production should be done remotely if possible
    • Productions are asked to Implement permanent separation of teams to minimize cross-contamination
    • Additional time will be needed for many of the tasks for ensuring social distancing by having one department at a time and for cleaning of sets, dressing and props. On hold for now are costume/wardrobe members’ trips to department and vintage stores as they are asked to allow extra time for online purchases/delivery and separate individual fittings and to brief and advise background performers on costume choices. Additionally, for international talent and crew, productions need to build in extra time to comply with the current 14-day mandatory quarantine for international arrivals
    • There should be no more buffet-style meals, with staggered mealtimes and drinks in single serving containers only
    • Most crew members will be required to carry a COVID-19 kit in their vehicles containing masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes and sanitizers.

To illustrate how detailed the Australia guidelines are, here are some examples of recommendations that are either very specific or just common sense:

  • Require cast to handle hand-held props out of a sanitized bag and return the prop to the same bag when finished
  • Require individuals to change their own batteries in communications units
  • Dispatch sound cards or drives (cleaned with disinfectant wipes) to the data wrangler only once daily
  • Restrict view finders to individual use only, and require sanitization after each use
  • Plan purchases to minimize trips needed to brick and mortar stores


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