The UK film and TV industry can resume shooting as early as July, which is great news for completing “The Batman,” thanks to the release of new safety guidelines covering production, post-production, and visual effects during the pandemic.
“Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-End TV Drama Production,” developed by the British Film Commission (BFC), will pave the way to for a return to shooting in the UK’s studios and locations. This has been endorsed by the government, in consultation with the British Film Institute and various health and safety organizations, but it will still be up to productions to decide when safety measures are properly in place to resume production.
Meanwhile, the UK Screen Alliance released “Guidance for safe working in post-production and visual effects during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This includes rules for trace testing (and the development of a smartphone app for tracing contact with possible COVID-19 exposure); continued stay-at-home measures, along with remote/distributed tech usage; social-distancing practices for those that need to work at studios or offices; and limited on-set interaction. Virtually all post-production and VFX companies are equipped to provide remote review and approval facilities together with offline editing, color grading, online finishing, audio recording/sound editing/mixing, and voiceover.
More specific location guidelines can be found in the BFC document, such as limiting on-set VFX crew to the VFX supervisor, virtual production supervisor, and essential technicians. Additionally, they recommend presenting digital concept work and previs remotely; and avoid day players for motion-capture work.
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The BFC guidelines include induction training for all crew members prior to the start of shooting; the inclusion of a dedicated COVID-19 health and safety supervisor to oversee health and symptom-checking along with an optimized number of trained medical staff depending on crew size; safe pre-employment screening for all cast and crew; stay-at-home precautions for those in close contact with anyone contracted with COVID-19; physical distancing wherever possible; responsible use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); utilization of local crew where possible; and avoidance of public transportation where possible.
In addition, directors shall use witness cameras whenever possible for rehearsals; allow directors of photography and key grips to plan safe working procedures with camera and grip departments; allow enough time and space to set up, move, and strike camera equipment safely; allow grip/crane crew sufficient additional time to also install and strike equipment safely.
Also, relying on CG to avoid or limit crowd scenes; limiting art department interaction on set; limiting the handling of key props; limiting interaction for the costume designer by doing as many offsite fittings during prep as possible; allowing costume reps on set for limited periods or for specialty costumes; avoid face-to-face fittings whenever possible; establishing appropriate physical distancing for hair and makeup; limiting hair and makeup chair time; and asking cast and supporting artists to do their own hair and makeup whenever possible.
For stunts, guidelines ask to keep cast and stunt performers together for as little time as possible; avoid face-to-face positions; and consider a testing regime for cast and stunt performers.
“The industry is extremely keen to restart production as soon as possible, but not without a comprehensive road map for how to do it safely while the threat of COVID-19 still looms large,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the BFC. “Today’s guidance provides that reassurance, reflecting the latest government, technical, and medical advice available. We will also update it on a regular basis, giving clarity on the latest measures recommended to ensure a safe shoot for cast, crew, and the wider public.”