Newsroom Home

British Production Sector Moves Forward Gingerly as Filming Resumes

British government gives the green light for film and TV production to resume, but how can this be done safely?
June 17, 2020

As seen on Variety

Earlier this month, the British government gave the greenlight to film and TV production to resume, but how can this be done safely?

During a panel discussion on Wednesday, moderated by Joseph Chianese, executive VP at consultancy Entertainment Partners, three prominent figures in the British production sector spoke about how the industry is figuring out how to implement the guidelines issued by the British Film Commission, “Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production.”

Jamie Christopher, a first assistant director on movies such as Marvel’s “Black Widow,” urged “patience” as the guidelines were put in place and he cautioned against any complacency.

“The biggest changes I see coming are in the amount of crew and cast on set and the balance of what that will be and still maintaining an efficient workplace,” he said.

“Another massive challenge will be maintaining these guidelines [until a vaccine arrives],” he said. “We can all be led into a false sense of security once it’s all working.”

Matt Spooner, a production safety consultant whose recent credits include “Mission: Impossible 7” and James Bond movie “No Time to Die,” said that the changes amounted to “an enormous structural change.” He said the greatest challenge would be “gaining crew confidence” that they “are going to be safe in this environment.”

Samantha Perahia, head of production at the British Film Commission, said the BFC’s guidance “is a living thing – it is a live document,” as it would be constantly updated. For example, further guidance on hair and makeup would be added soon.

The guidance for the public around “mass gatherings,” she said, did not apply to the production sector, and that the BFC’s guidelines had been “created specifically for our industry.” That said, the core things for people to remember is social distancing as well as the regular washing of hands.

Spooner said that the biggest focus was around training and “empowering the crew” to allow them to “make the right decisions.” He said a middle tier of management would then need to support the crew and to “make judgements” regarding how procedures are implemented, and what “risks are acceptable.”

Christopher said that implementing the guidelines would be led by a “COVID manager” – a new role that has been introduced by Disney – who would “concentrate on everything COVID.” There would also be a supervisor working alongside this person.

That said, Christopher underscored the point that it would be about “teamwork” and that communicating the guidelines was key. He added that he was finding that “the crew themselves and the heads of department are also wanting to be extra cautious.”

Testing would be key, he said, and if someone was found to be suffering from COVID there would be “isolation areas” where they would be moved to, and bespoke transport would be on hand to take them home or to hospital. He added it was important to “keep everyone calm” in such a scenario, and not have a “knee-jerk reaction,” leading to a production being shut down.

Spooner said he thought a COVID “compliance officer” would need to have a health and safety background and would need a management background as well. “You are going to be launched into a situation that could be very emotionally charged. It could be complexed. You could be dealing with difficult matters within a department,” he said. They would also need “an understanding of budgeting and how to manage costs.”

Spooner spoke about the need for “resilience planning” and “scenario planning” to ensure the show could continue if a member of cast or crew, or an entire department, became sick. Having alternative stage space or an alternative location was also worth considering in case the first option was closed down. This would increase costs, but “it will save your bacon in the long run,” he said.

Christopher said that an approach adopted by Tyler Perry in Georgia with the crew confined to a compound during the shoot, rather than going home or traveling to accommodation off-site, was not desirable, in his view. “It is something I am very dubious about,” he said. “I question putting everyone in one basket.” He asked: “How do you police that?” People would “sneak home for the weekend.”

He added that his production was lucky to be based at Longcross Studios, where there weren’t any other productions, so there was no danger of “cross contamination.” “We can control our areas,” he said.

When discussing the costs associated with guarding against COVID, Perahia said that a key consideration when designing the guidelines was that it should be “scaleable” so lower budget productions would be able to implement the guidelines.

She added that the cost of COVID precautions should qualify for the U.K. tax relief. Insurance was also a key issue. “A lot of smart people are working on it,” she said. Regarding the U.K.’s 14-day quarantine period for those entering the country, she said they had applied for an exemption for the industry. She added that the BFC was looking to learn from other sectors, such as professional soccer, which is restarting this week, having implemented a rigorous testing and safety regime.

Ending on a positive point, Spooner said: “We can build back and we are going to build back better.”

Related Content

actors on set

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

6/9/2021
What productions should know as they head back to work
Topic: COVID-19
More

How Television Crews Are Getting Back to Work

1/12/2021
A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU
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

Film Tax Credit Programs Face Uncertain Future

8/31/2020
Tax incentive programs draw high profile productions, cautious optimism for California

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...

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

‘No Straight Lines’ & ‘Firstness’ Among Top Winners At Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival – Complete Winners List

8/24/2021
Outfest has announced the award winners of its 2021 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival.

Designing for Horror

8/13/2021
How filmmakers create fear through visual techniques

Entertainment Partners Launches New Production Incentive Tools

6/21/2021
New Online Tools help Filmmakers and Producers to Identify their Best Global Tax Incentives
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!

Global Payroll Titan Award 2021

4/29/2021
Davida Lara, CPP, named this year's Global Payroll Titan

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
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

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

2/26/2021
Getting back to work: a look inside set life during COVID-19

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
Pantea Ahmadi and Alan Wu

California & New York Employment and Privacy Legislation Changes in 2021

1/27/2021
EP's Legal team breaks down important legislation changes impacting production hubs
Topic: Legal
Watch
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
Becky Harshberger and Neddy Alonso

Preparing for 2021 Payroll Tax Changes and the New Form 1099-NEC

12/10/2020
EP's payroll tax experts walk through the 1099-NEC and other important changes
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!

FilmOntario Welcomes Four New Board Members at 2020 AGM

12/4/2020
Andy Micallef appointed to the FilmOntario Board
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
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...
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...
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

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

Canadian Industry Directs Financing to Black Media Creators

8/26/2020
Move follows Black producers north of the border demanding end to "systemically racist policies."
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