Blog Home

Returning to Production: Hair and Makeup Teams Apply COVID-19 Protocols to Life on Set

Getting back to work: a look inside set life during COVID-19
February 26, 2021

Staff Writer

Filmmaking is looking a lot different these days as productions mask up and design safety protocols so cameras can get rolling again.

Claire Mahony, Hair Department Head, and Samantha Wiener, First Call Additional Hair Stylist, are two crew members who shared with us what it means to “get back to work” safely.

Given that the hair department works extremely close to the actors, Claire and Samantha are on the front lines of production, and work together with the COVID Department to keep the production moving forward and avoid outbreaks. Since last March, crew members around the globe have wondered when they would be able to get back to work, and Samantha was no exception, “This craft [hair] that we do is so important. I spent six months being unemployed...and now, the fact that we are able to do this again, feels so precious and fragile.”

In many highly-affected industries, COVID-19 has led workers out of a job to explore different roles, or new industries all together. While pivoting may work for some, for many who work in film and television, that’s not an option. Industry professionals, like Claire and Samantha, have spent years perfecting their craft, and can’t easily pivot to a new career. They have to trust that work will keep coming, and when they are hired, uphold safety protocols with extreme caution to stay healthy and employed. As we have seen throughout the past year, one outbreak can shut down an entire production for a minimum of two weeks, so following protocols is not optional.

A day on set

When Samantha and Claire get to set, they check in with the COVID department. The size of this department changes from production to production, but can consist of a COVID-19 Compliance Supervisor, a crew of set medics, the safety department, and locations. Vital to maintaining safety on set, the COVID department is responsible for compliance with established safety protocols. Duties of this team include: testing all persons upon entry to set, ensuring tests get to the testing facility, distributing proper PPP (personal protective equipment, such as masks and eye protection), and handing out wristbands to easily identify crew members who are associated with the zone they are working in for the production. Different zones on sets indicate how often crew members get tested - Zone A, B, C, etc.

For example, Zone A is the area where masks have to come off for filming. Only a limited number of people are allowed in this zone, and these cast and crew members are prohibited from interacting with the other zones. Individuals in Zone A are tested three times a week, while additional zones are tested less. Find more information about zones and testing in the Return-To-Work Agreement.

As Claire explains, her position as the Department Head has changed since the pandemic hit, “I’m left delegating from afar. I have to rely on my team so much more.”

The fact that we are able to do this again, feels so precious and fragile.

To keep cleanliness transparent, Claire and her Department Key, Emily Rosko, pack kits for every cast member. As Claire points out, “Our standards of cleanliness are very high because we are touching people.” Echoing this sentiment, Samantha affirms the seriousness with which she approaches her job, “I’m personally invested in someone’s lifeline. This virus is killing people without real choice.”

When Samantha arrives at the hair department trailer, she picks up the sanitized kits and any notes on maintaining continuity of the characters associated with them. At the end of the day, she brings the kits back to the trailer to be sanitized again for the next day of filming. And the cycle repeats.

It's a tedious process, but necessary to prevent a shutdown. Having previously worked on a production forced to shut down to do COVID-19 outbreaks, Samantha knows first-hand how frustrating the ordeal can be. Aware of what’s at stake with her job, she doesn't cut corners, often wearing a combination of multiple masks and face shields, even when the extra work and information to process on a daily basis is exhausting.

Just like before Covid – we take joy in the small moments and victory of an entire crew getting along. That existed before and it still exists today.

6 Ways Set Life Has Changed

Knowing morale can suffer with all these new protocols, Claire, as the Department Head, works consistently to keep her team motivated, “I do my best to create a good work environment...make sure my team gets a good turnaround...have increased levels of cleanliness...listen to my team’s concerns...ensure meals are on time.”

Adjusting to life on set with the new “back to work” protocols, Claire and Samantha share other and unexpected ways things have changed:

  1. Prep Areas. The main trailer for the hair department where Claire works is reserved for the principal actors. Day players and Background cast, including crew like Samantha, prep in an additional separate holding space.
  2. PPE. Right after “cut” is called on set, actors put their masks on right away before returning to their trailers.
  3. Accessing the set. Writers and producers are much more purposeful about who they are bringing to set, and often request that Day Players to do their makeup and hair before coming into work.
  4. Communication and socializing have changed. With social distancing in place, cast and crew are speaking louder and using more hand gestures, and many departments are not socializing outside of their own group. The sense of community still exists, but it’s not as casual as it once was. Samantha notes her circle of contact is limited to actors, PA’s, and the hair department crew.
  5. Eating is not longer a social experience. Lunch rooms are now in large warehouses with individual areas separated by plexiglass on either side. Despite this, and given her close contact with the cast, Samantha takes extra precaution, and chooses to eat outside by herself or even in her car to stay healthy and avoid any potential spreading of the virus.
  6. Constant testing. Claire has standby crew members within her department who are paid to take COVID-19 tests on a weekly basis. In the event one of her current crew members tests positive, this backup crew can quickly replace them in a moment’s notice.

While COVID-19 compliance is adding more levels of safety to productions, Samantha reminds us, “Just like before Covid – we take joy in the small moments and victory of an entire crew getting along. That existed before and it still exists today.”

Together, Claire, Samantha, and Emily are supporting each other and everyone on their crews as peers in an industry which cares about their craft, the people, and the chance to create movie magic once again.

Topic: COVID-19

Related Content

How Television Crews Are Getting Back to Work

1/12/2021
A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU
More
Master Series Return to Work Agreement Panel

Understanding the COVID-19 Return-To-Work Labor Agreement

11/12/2020
EP's Legal experts explain the entertainment industry's safety guidelines

New Terms Under Return-To-Work Agreement

8/30/2021
RTW extension includes new two-part delineation, and the role of the vaccine
Topic: Legal
More
Celebrating Pride Month Panel

Celebrating Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Film and Television

6/24/2021
Celebrate Pride month with us as our panel of groundbreaking producers and activists discuss the past,...

Meet the Producer

6/15/2021
From concept to the red carpet, the producer is there to keep the production moving forward
actors on set

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

6/9/2021
What productions should know as they head back to work
Melissa Lintinger NBCU

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU

1/7/2021
How television crews are getting back to work during COVID-19
Paul Steinke

A Conversation with Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance at Walt Disney Studios

12/9/2020
Mark Goldstein and Paul Steinke discuss the state of the industry, emerging technology and more!
Pressing Play in Eastern Canada Panel

Pressing Play in Canada: From Nunavut to Nova Scotia, Production Returns to the Eastern Provinces!

10/29/2020
Producers from across Eastern Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...
Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19 panel

From Domestic TV to Mission Impossible 7: Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19

10/15/2020
Lessons learned about producing through a pandemic, and how the Nordic countries got it right

Streamers and the Changing Landscape of Film Distribution

9/14/2021
Director/Producer Daniel Farrands on strategies for success in the time of VOD

Meet the Paymasters

9/9/2021
The hard-working payroll professionals behind Hollywood's paychecks

How to solve a compounding problem?

9/8/2021
The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...

Designing for Horror

8/13/2021
How filmmakers create fear through visual techniques
Paul Beyers prop master on set

Meet the Prop Master

7/28/2021
From script to screen, the creative mind behind the props from film and television

5 Things to Know Before Relocating for Your Next Job

7/20/2021
What production workers need to consider before moving to a new state
Equity Financing Panel-thumbnail

Film Financing Explained: Equity Financing

7/15/2021
James Schamus and Michael Helfant join our panel to share expert advice on funding film and television...

The Beginner’s Guide to Equity Financing

7/15/2021
Expert advice to help producers secure funding for their next project
Anthony De La Rosa EP Residuals

The Beginner's Guide to Film and Television Residuals

7/7/2021
Important details every producer should know as they budget for their next project

Diversifying Hollywood Through Better Hiring and Training

6/22/2021
How new legislation and production incentives are promoting diversity and inclusion
Sarah Westman-liu and Jennifer Liscio

Canadian Incentives and Legislation News

6/10/2021
The latest updates on incentives, CRA guidance on COVID-19 related costs, and more!

Choosing the Right Production Incentives

6/2/2021
5 questions to ask when selecting your next incentive-based filming location

The Path to Better Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood

5/25/2021
How production incentives are helping to promote inclusivity

Meet The Costume Designer

5/4/2021
The artist behind a character's signature style

Innovations in Production Incentives

4/27/2021
How emerging local initiatives are driving productions to new jurisdictions

COVID-19 and the Impact on State Unemployment Insurance

4/13/2021
How high unemployment claims have led to increased SUI rates across the US

The Beginner's Guide to Production Financing

4/6/2021
What to know before starting your next film or television project

Editorial Spotlight: Dana Belcastro

3/30/2021
Producer and executive, Dana Belcastro, on how women are changing the way Hollywood does business
Producing through COVID women producers panel

Producing Through COVID-19: A Discussion with Six Prominent Women Producers

3/25/2021
Stories of navigating the entertainment industry and producing during a pandemic

Editorial Spotlight: Nancy Savoca

3/23/2021
In celebration of Women's History Month, director and producer, Nancy Savoca, shares her experience in...

Women Impacting Hollywood

3/16/2021
From Storytelling to Set Design, Female Voices are Shaping Entertainment
Pantea Ahmadi and Joe Scudiero

SB 973's Impact on the Entertainment Industry

3/15/2021
How California’s new pay data reporting legislation, SB 973, applys to the entertainment industry
Topic: Legal
Watch

Diversity and Pay Reporting in California

3/6/2021
Your guide to understanding SB 973 and its application to the entertainment industry

SB 973, California Pay Data Reporting Law FAQs

3/6/2021
The new pay data reporting law and its impact on the entertainment industry

Profiles in Leadership: Martin Mazor, SVP and CISO, Entertainment Partners

2/21/2021
Why Identity is at the Core of Every New Security and Business Initiative

The Beginner's Guide to Production Incentives

2/17/2021
EP helps filmmakers navigate the complex world of film and television incentives

Entertainment Partners Launches COVID-19 Reopening Tracker

2/17/2021
Digital solution to help productions comply with pandemic regulations
Christy Guilbault, Annette Martinez-Novo

EP Cares — The Industry's Leading Health Insurance Program

11/24/2020
Learn how to get your production company on the industry’s leading health insurance program for non-union...
Supplemental COVID sick leave panel

California COVID-19-Related Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and Other Key Sick Leave Developments

11/6/2020
Important changes in sick leave laws that Califonia employers and employees need to know
On Location in Canadas Western Provinces Panel

On-Location in Western Canada: Protocols, COVID-19 Testing, Incentives...PRODUCTION!

10/22/2020
Producers from across Western Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...

Entertainment Partners Launches Production Finance Studio

10/7/2020
New digital solution helps entertainment industry comply with guidelines, reopen safely
All eyes on Florida panel

All Eyes on Florida: Spotlight on Florida Productions

10/1/2020
Producers and Commissioners from across Florida discuss production, crews, infrastructure and incentives
Compliance and coverage with EP Cares panel

Compliance and Coverage: Ensuring Health Benefits While Avoiding Pitfalls & Penalties During 2020

9/10/2020
How the ACA Premiere and EP Cares programs can help production companies stay compliant and covered

Film Tax Credit Programs Face Uncertain Future

8/31/2020
Tax incentive programs draw high profile productions, cautious optimism for California
Covid impact on the workplace panel

Discussing the Impact of COVID-19 on the Workplace

8/20/2020
What considerations employers should take into account when returning to the workplace