Below The Line – Guest Editorial: Inoculating Your Film From COVID in Seven Steps (btlnews.com)
Recently, a modest-budget movie production shooting in New Mexico was temporarily shut down for four days as a result of COVID-19. The producers thought they were doing everything right, testing on a regular basis and even performing extra rapid antigen tests on cast and crew that all came back negative, but due to a delay in the lab reporting to SAG-AFTRA, the Guild had no choice but to shut down the production. Until this shutdown, there was no COVID-19 outbreak on set or even a positive test result, but because the production did not strictly adhere to the Guild-mandated protocols, it was shut down, losing precious time and incurring significant additional costs.
More specifically, a series of unanticipated events led to the shutdown, but they could have been prevented had the producers been prepared. First, the contractors supplying testing materials to the production lacked sufficient testing materials, which led to some personnel not being tested on the specific day required by the Guild protocols. Second, the Veteran’s Day holiday fell on a Wednesday, and the lab was closed, which resulted in some crew members’ test results not being confirmed by the lab on time. SAG requires that 100% of personnel in Zone A (more on that below) test negative, and the production’s testing lab could not provide the test results for Zones A and B quick enough to avoid a shutdown under the SAG rules. In other words, the lack of testing and timely lab results shut down production and not COVID-19 itself. This article is not a referendum on the Guild or its practices but rather a guide to filmmakers on steps to take to navigate productions through these uncertain times and help prevent an unexpected shutdown and significant loss of time and money.
By: Harris Tulchin, Kyle Moser, Pamela Billie