U.K. Film and TV Union Bectu to Consult Members This Week on Proposals to Restart Production (EXCLUSIVE)

The Witcher

Detailed proposals on how film and high-end TV production can safely resume in the U.K. are to be circulated among members of union Bectu this week.

The union’s members will be consulted in a number of online sessions for their thoughts and responses on the physical working group proposals. The aim is for a set of documents to be ready to feedback to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport by the end of the week.

The first draft proposals have emerged as part of Bectu’s contribution to the Inward Investment Recovery working group, one of a number of groups that have been pulled together by the British Film Commission and the BFI to investigate how the industry can return to work.

Though not yet finalized, the wide-ranging proposals — drawn up by Bectu’s assistant directors branch in consultation with other branches such as sound and make-up — provide the first indications of what the industry could be facing, and span pre-production and production, taking into account key elements such as choosing locations, equipment handling, catering, makeup and hair, and costumes.

It recommends, for example, that a COVID-19 Health & Safety Department become part of every production, consisting of “at least” a dedicated health and safety COVID-19 supervisor, a COVID-19 production manager to assist in budgeting for coronavirus measures, a professional cleaning team, medical staff and security staff.

Other recommendations are that people should travel to work by private transport or private hire transport such as taxis, with public transport used as a last resort. People working on the shoot must also fill out a health declaration form, and productions should also look to reduce the number of crew and cast at work.

Wherever possible, departments should be organized into ‘cohorts’ and kept separate to minimize the knock-on isolation impact of one member developing symptoms.

Safe distancing guidelines as set out by the government should also be followed, say the proposals. Hand sanitizer, gloves and masks should be made available by productions. Masks should also be worn at all times.

In terms of hair and make-up, where possible cast members should prepare their own makeup under remote supervision of a makeup artist. The document admits this is highly unlikely in most cases. Thus, when makeup must take place, it recommends that enhanced PPE be used by any makeup artist/hairdressers including gloves, masks, aprons, overalls and visors as deemed necessary.

On set, there are also measures set out to stop the spread of COVID-19 via transmission from infected surfaces. The document recommends additional cleaning and disinfection of key props, furniture and set dressing which have interactions with cast or crew members. The document also says that only qualified camera crew should handle any camera equipment.

The Inward Investment Recovery group, which Bectu’s proposals are feeding into, is looking at international examples of film and TV returning to work alongside domestic proposals from across the industry. Their work is also likely to influence other areas of scripted production in the U.K., including commercials and lower-budget TV drama work.

Inward investment productions from studios and streamers, such as Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and Netflix’s “The Witcher,” generate 80% of film and TV’s contribution to the U.K. economy.

The operation of post-VFX production and business and legal work are also being discussed in separate working groups.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “These are important discussions and Bectu will be listening to all areas of our membership to ensure that the economic necessity of returning to work is balanced with people’s health and safety.”