Remember Not to Kill Your Crew
Covid-19 has dropped an enormous cartoon anchor upon the heads of indie filmmakers. It has disrupted lives, budgets, schedules, and caused sickness, depression, and death. To borrow a phrase, it’s An Inconvenient Truth to say the least.
The need for on-set PPE and testing is real, and from an indie producer’s point of view, really expensive. The film industry guilds, including SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, PGA, and others, have agreed to a safety protocol that may be out of reach for low budget filmmakers. I am by no means suggesting that low budget filmmakers avoid safety guidelines to make their films. Safety should be the number one responsibility of producers and directors. Cast, crew, and vendors need not and should not die or contract Covid-19 on a movie set.
Attempting to shoot a short teaser for our next project, SAINT GRADY, we were determined to follow the new safety protocol. We consulted with SAG-AFTRA and a leading Covid Compliance Officer. The Guild required that all actors flown in from out of town to be tested after a 3 day waiting period once they arrived, 3 days to see if
they contracted the virus while flying on a plane. The next procedure then required a nasopharyngeal specimen test for Covid-19 with results reported within 24 hours. Unfortunately, we were told that without a doctor’s prescription or a hospital’s direction, test results would take 10 days. The costs of paying and lodging SAG actors for 13 days for a 2 day shoot more than doubled our budget. The protocol was both cost prohibitive and impossible to meet.
Our story is not unique. Studio films, advertising agencies, and big budget indies are able to absorb these costs and provide their own medical staffs. Unfortunately, some non-union shoots will undoubtedly flout the safety guidelines altogether.
Remember,it’s not worth endangering people just to make a film.
Sitting on your hands not shooting is frustrating but there are a few things you can do.
Create a budget for an existing script.
Cast a project over Zoom or with emailed video submissions.
Storyboarding, set design, wardrobe design. prop-making, and location scouting could all be done without endangering anyone.
Improve your editing and cinematography skills by taking an online class or working with your own footage. Hey, why not update your reel?
Catch up on classic films you’ve been meaning to see and form a group to discuss them.
Remain forward-thinking. Plan for the near future. Filmmaking will be back.