U.K. Industry Confirms COVID-19 Guidelines for Film & High-End TV, Giving Greenlight for Production

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker VFX
Courtesy of Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.

The U.K. film and high-end TV sector has moved a step closer to restarting with the publication of government-endorsed guidelines for working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic (access the documents below).

The U.K.’s visual effects and post-production sectors have also published their COVID-19 guidance. The confirmation of all guidelines technically allows production to resume, although the road ahead remains complex due to insurance considerations. As revealed by Variety, proposals for a government-backed insurance plan have now been submitted to government, and include a multimillion-pound fund.

The firmed-up production guidelines — a 44-page document titled ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-End TV Drama Production’ — come after weeks of industry consultations. They were led by the British Film Commission, and produced as part of a wider COVID-19 task force spearheaded by the British Film Institute.

The BFC described the consultation process as “possibly the most comprehensive conducted on COVID-19 recovery guidelines in the sector,” and noted that it reflected the views of U.K. as well as U.S. organizations involved in the full gamut of production, from large international franchises to independent production.

The guidance focuses on establishing safe systems of working, implementing personal and environmental hygiene measures, and keeping as many people as possible two meters apart during production.

Among its measures, the guidance says COVID-19 Safer Working induction training must be undertaken online by all cast and crew before starting on a job; that a COVID-19 Health and Safety supervisor should be assigned to a production; and that daily symptom checks should be carried out with cast and crew.

It also recommends that cast and crew should drive themselves if possible to a unit base; that on-set crew should be minimized; and that departments should be organized into smaller cohorts and kept separate from each other.

The guidance acknowledges that for some productions, social distancing may be impractical. Here, it recommends using one or more fixed teams of professionals to work together while minimizing the risk of transmission beyond these fixed groups. “Steps should be in place to protect these fixed groups from transmission risk from outside their group on set, off set and away from location during a production.”

The BFC says its guidance exists to advise, and is not mandatory. It is also scalable, with producers encouraged to apply the measures according to each project’s specific needs.

Orgs that helped in shaping the guidelines include production industry bodies such as Pact and the Production Guild, unions such as Bectu, the U.K.’s National and Regional Screen Agencies and industry org ScreenSkills.

Elsewhere, the U.K. Screen Alliance has also published its COVID-19 guidance for safe working for the visual effects (VFX) and post-production community, documenting best working practices already in use, as post and VFX have remained open for business during the pandemic largely with the help of remote working.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’ve worked hard to support the industry through these difficult times, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree this step forward towards getting the cameras rolling safely again.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said: “We believe this to be the most comprehensive, extensively-consulted on COVID-19 recovery production guidance in the world.”

Neil Hatton, Chief Executive of the UK Screen Alliance, added: “The combined launch of two sets of detailed guidance for filming and for post-production is a significant indication that the U.K.’s film and TV industry is proactively making itself open for business; in fact, post and VFX never closed.”