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What a working set looks like during Covid and what to look forward to (or not)!

First and foremost – wear a @*!ing  mask…. Or forget the idea of getting back to work! It is as simple as that!

And if you don‘t like the idea of wearing a mask, then go find another industry.

Simply put: when working as close together as we in the film industry do, the science, the studies and common sense all dictate that it is not only our ethical obligation to wear a mask, but that it is tremendously beneficial for the safety and health of you and your fellow cast and crew to do so.

Wearing a mask is the single most important action we can take to make sets safer. And I am thankful that something as simple, affordable, and easy-to-find as a mask is able to give the protection needed to get back to doing the job we all love to do safely.

Whilst the world is shut down in screen, theatre and live shows, the Australian film and television industry seems to have found a way around it.

Meanwhile, I was speaking to an actress friend of mine who was telling me how very strange things are on set with Covid. 

The normal camaraderie on set – the hugs, the physicality of support we all give each other, has gone. Everyone must maintain a distance of 2 meters. Masks and shields must be worn on set right up until shooting; this makes it super difficult for our poor hair and makeup artists…. But what can you do??

Meals used to be the time for us actors to get together and have a chat about life, but that too has gone, with specific lunch packs given individually and having to sit 2 meters apart.

“However, within a week, it seems like business as usual. You just get used to the masks, the distancing and the protocols. Doing your own make up checks is a little daunting but you even get used to that! What is really hard to get used to is the loss of joy on set. It just becomes a job!”

As SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said “As a nation, Australia’s 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”.

As written in the online Magazine ‘Deadline’, Here are some highlights that actors have to look forward to (or not!):

    • Actors (apart from lead actors) are encouraged to do their own hair & makeup, including touch-ups, makeup removal, and perform own set checks where possible. 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 performers 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
    • 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.
    • All cast wear masks and shields whenever possible.
    • Cast to handle hand held props out of a sanitized bag and return the prop to the same bag when finished. No one else to handle this bag.

Be sure when you are offered the project to ask where they are shooting. If you are away from home you need to know that you have decent accommodation with outside air (windows that open). If you are asked to fly, think carefully about how many hours and what precautions you can have. I am told that some airlines do not provide masks, so be prepared in taking your own, and if you see anyone without a mask on the flight, report them immediately! And please be ready to say “no” to producers who aren’t able to answer your questions or don’t have any protocols in place.

Whilst productions are starting to come back, you should be using your time to study, set up your self tape space and use it like a gym. Every day.

Be audition ready. Stay safe!