I remember sitting on my porch in December 2019 and saying to myself, finally, 2020, a new start. I think the majority of the world pretty much felt that 2019 could take a hike, that is until 2020 really hit us with a Pandemic.
Being a filmmaker during this time has struck fear within our industry, as well as the rest of the world. So, the impending question is, how do we get back to set? What does that look like as the bans are lifting and work is kinda moving forward? I’m here to give you some reassurance and guidance on how to efficiently navigate COVID while being on an active set or if you’re planning your next film.
You may be asking yourself, how would I know this and my answer is I have personally created my short film “River” May 16th and 17th 2020 once the ban lifted in North Carolina. I will explain the steps I took and providing a helpful link for you to take a COVID safety test and then receive a certificate once you pass. Hang tight as we enter the world of “How to film (safely) during a Pandemic.”
The Cast and Crew of "River"
So, you have an epic story you want to tell and or someone reached out to you to join their project…Now what?
First thing is first, you need to make sure safety is at the forefront of your project. That not just you, but your entire team feels safe. What does “Safe” actually look like? Obviously, we are put at risk no matter how safe you are, meaning we all have had to leave the house at some point, whether that’s to get groceries or some form of errands.
My advice, this is what I did, I got tested. This will put not just yourself, but your team at ease. As part of safety measures, you are only allowed to bring needed people to set. Not your friends or actor’s friends, this is a closed set. The fewer people you need the better. For River, we had a total of 8 people: 2 actresses and 6 crew members.
I also suggest you vet and have the others tested if they haven’t practiced social distancing. It can be an awkward discussion, but this is imperative during this time. If you are being hired for a set, ask them if they have taken the COVID safety test, you should also take it too. Here is the link for a really amazing “Safe Sets International”.
If you are working with SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actors you will have to go to them for their list of compliances to follow, be sure to check with them and give yourself ample time. Don’t wait until the last minute to process things with SAG or you will be denied.
Alexandra Rose & Mary Cameron, stars of "River"
Have a safety meeting the day before set and on set, so that everyone knows where everything is and understands the protocol. I suggest emailing this too. Save a tree and email. This is something that can get overlooked a lot before COVID hit and that’s a clean environment.
Have sanitizers out and visible around your set, easy access bathrooms for washing hands, Clorox wipes need to be used after sharing a camera or touching things, and wearing masks when in close distance with each other. If you have to film inside and it’s a tighter space, you wear a mask.
For my short film, we were outside in my actor’s backyard, which was a forest, so we all had good space between us. We also didn’t have a make-up or hairstylist as requested by my actor’s, they chose to do their own HMU.
When our sound op. placed lav mics on them, they all wore masks and gloves so they wouldn’t touch or breath on each other, I even made sure the right cleaning stuff for the lavs was done before it was placed on my actors.
Food is another safety protocol, everyone needs their own lunch, I would even suggest having them pack their food and you pay for it, but if that’s not in the budget, then the food needs to be in their own lunch boxes or ziploc bags so the team can just grab a bag and not be touching things. I used Ziploc bags and for the feature film I’m prepping now, will be lunch boxes.
Behind the Scenes of "River"
Take a deep breath. Being safe is important, but don’t worry about every moment, that will stress you out and the team, which leads me to the next point. Ego.
Listen, we are all creative, and right now with how everything is heightened by COVID, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is an ego on set. Smaller sets equal’s the team really having to work together to make this happen.
I was the Director and DOP, while keeping us all on track for time. I did my own call-sheets, my onset AD was also scripty, slate and we all pitched in with setting up and carrying lights. Please don’t be that person who demands things on set or when the film comes out you want more credit for things the entire team pitched in with. You want to work, right? That means you will have to adjust. I’m not sure we will be back to what is considered normal, we must adapt and work together.
Every set will have its rules, there could be more or less. This is what worked for my set and we followed the most recent protocols that were in place during our shoot in May. Every state will have guidelines for film sets, so make sure to check with your local film commissions office.
Have fun filmmakers and be safe. If anyone on your team decides to go rogue, it is your job to kindly correct the situation, this is up to us. My team and I proved this works, the protocol we followed, it’s now been over a month and we are all healthy.
Happy creating filmmakers.
I am an American Screenwriter | Director | DP | Producer. Began my career at the early age of 17 when I was scouted by Wilhelmina Models. After working on Miami Vice the movie, I officially left modeling to become a Director. Over the last 2 years I have completed a Whiskey docuseries “Binder Stash” and episodic Dramady “ The Erectors on Amazon Prime” and my newest short film " River" that has wrapped May 18th, 2020, which has won over 10 awards already. Currently, I am getting ready to film the feature film of River this Sept. 2020.
Seeing the need within the filmmaking community on social media, I became a mentor on Industry Jump, coaching women in film, soon branching out and created a tribe called #shefilmtribe on Instagram. This is a safe place for women to come together, encourage, love, and talk. Women from all over the world in the industry have joined the sisterhood. You can find me on Instagram @shewolffilms
A few years back I partnered with NASA Space Apps to encourage more women to be a part of hackathons and I taught about storytelling.
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