As EU countries begin lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the Brussels-based European Film Commissions Network has issued a baseline set of safety rules and protocols in an effort to help pan-European film production resume.
The joint European film commissions’ document lists what it calls the “Ten Commandments of Safe Filming.” They are recommended basic measures based on a common EU safety directive, although most European countries are expected to draft national protocols tied to local legislation.
The purpose of these proposed “commandments” is “to share best practices and to co-operate to facilitate co-productions,” says Nevina Satta, head of the Sardinia Film Commission in Italy, which is a member of the umbrella group.
Satta calls the decalogue “a sort of checklist for European countries covering the common aspects.” She notes it doesn’t have any specific legal value because it is not approved by all European states; however, it “can help European productions be on the same page,” says Satta.
The proposed basic pan-European rules for shooting movies come just as Italy and Spain slowly start lifting lockdown measures, while France prepares to ease restrictions on May 11.
Northern Europe currently has the most detailed coronavirus safety film production protocols since physical shooting of films is actually taking place in Sweden and Denmark, as well as Iceland.
Meanwhile, U.K. industry trade organizations are working on their own common protocols, which they will present to the government. France, as well, is also drawing up guidelines that will be presented to the country’s health minister at the end of the week.
The European film commissions’ umbrella group experts “did a really good job” of pinpointing basic measures, says U.S. line producer Robert Bernacchi who, prior to the pandemic, was in Budapest running production on Showtime TV series “Halo,” which had to be interrupted in March.
However, Bernacchi, who is based in L.A. but often works in Europe, cautioned that a couple of points on the checklist, such as those relating to testing and protective equipment, “need to be put in context of how realistic and practical” they are.
A condensed version of the European Film Commission Network’s “Ten Commandments of Safe Filming” is below, with comments. The full document can be found on the EUFCN website.
1) Tests for acting and related professions. All actors should prove their state of health with a negative test in the form of a swab.
2) Personal Protective Equipment. Basic protective equipment can be divided into three categories: face masks (protects others), respirators (protects the wearer, but can spread the infection) and rubber/latex gloves.
3) Personal disinfection. If the scene being shot is extensive, crew members must carry pocket disinfectant wipes or a 30 ml. bottle of personal disinfectant. Rules for the make-up department “are based on the European rules regarding hairdressers and beauty salons, but more specific to an on-set scenario,” said Satta.
4) On-site organization. It is necessary to take into account — especially in the first months — more space requirements for the use of locations in a public space, so that crew members can be separated. At the same time, sufficient space must be available for the crew to eat so they can be spaced from each other.
“Extras are traditionally treated like a pack of sheep…that’s got to end. You’ve got to be able to spread them out,” said Bernacchi. Also, the new production protocols will mean that “when you have a nudity scene, finally you will be able to shoot it with five people on set instead of 500.”
5) Temperature measurement. Every crew/cast member should undergo temperature measurement with a contactless thermometer before the start of the shooting day and before entering the shooting location.
6) Catering. It is necessary to make sure food can be distributed in a take-away fashion, when each crew member moves away from the catering after taking their food, so the social distancing rule can be adhered to.
7) Securing the location. Can be summed up as: when a crew is scouting locations for the very first time you have to assume the place is infected, whereas when you are going to shoot there, cleaning crews should have gone in beforehand and cleaned everything.
8) Necessary documentation. Now, in addition to risk assessments pertaining to pyrotechnics, stunts and helicopters, risk assessments addressing the coronavirus will be required. “There is a whole mountain of paperwork coming our way,” says Bernacchi. “The crux to getting back to work is legal liability. If the cast and crew or a visitor on set catches the coronavirus, they must not be able to sue the production company.”
9) Management during filming. Measures adopted to secure any possible contagion must be coordinated at the filming location by a film safety specialist or occupational health and safety manager, or a trained authorized person who will be responsible for coordinating and supervising the anti-contagion measures.
“Prior to the outbreak, we always had on set a health and safety representative and a medic,” says Bernacchi. “Now either those same people or an additional person will have to be up to speed on coronavirus protocol and issues.”
10) Waste management. Disposable face masks, gloves, etc. must be treated as hazardous waste.