Ten months of 2020 is in the History books. In many ways, it has gone fast and in other ways, it seems like one hundred years! Around 5 months ago a number of film and video organizations put out “Rules” for working on TV shows and other video production-related activities to keep people safe from Covid-19. This is our COVID Rules Update for Video Production in Miami: What Works.
We’ve already written about this, but things continue to change and so have our policies. So now that Accord is fully experts in the field of production in the time of COVID, we’re here to update and tell you what’s working.
Look to History
The first reality we dealt with was the fact that, like the flu, this virus was going to be with us for a while, we were sure of that. We just did not know who was in danger? When running a business in a panic environment, the first thing you have to do is not listen to what I call the “opinion of the minute”. Being a student of history I believe that everything has already happened in some form. If you study History you can see a similar situation and see how the people of that time dealt with it and what worked and what didn’t. I also like to look at the likely outcomes based on History and not on a one in a million creation that is new and different. That never happens.
The first question we asked ourselves is how deadly is this virus to the general population? Based on History (so Spanish Flu and Swine Flu and HN1 and a host of other Historic flu virus type events) we determined early that healthy under 60-year-olds were at low risk of this thing being lethal.
What is Effective and What Only Seems to Be
This whole process took us two weeks and our rules early on were masks, alcohol spray for surfaces and hand sanitizer and of course lots of soap and water hand washing. The early push for gloves we felt was a mistake. Gloves are not constantly being sanitized as you can do with your hands. So there is a high risk for cross-contamination. We only use gloves when we have to touch someone and then quickly discard after use, such as an audio person putting a mike on someone or a make-up person or hair person doing their work.
Small Still Works
We also looked at our crews and decided that they must be smaller with each member being highly skilled in at least two trades, so entry-level PA’s and grips were dropped from the crews. Producers and sound guys have had to do more of the work of the people dropped. But fewer bodies means more room for social distance and fewer possible virus carries.
Safety and Practicality
We learned early on that the procedures we instituted had to be practical. Several trade groups had early rules that limited one person to a vehicle, with a crew of seven, meant seven vehicles, seven parking spots and seven things that could go wrong. So we adjusted and now require N95 masks when driving and windows open. Vehicles are sprayed and hands frequently sanitized. If we get pulled over, the car smells like a distillery, but the officers can rest assured we are germ-free!
Testing, Testing, Testing
The final element that was needed to manage risk in this Covid-19 environment was testing, frequent, fast results testing. This was originally left to government authorities and Miami-dade county, state of Florida did a pretty good job until July. Before July we would test crew and staff weekly and get results in 48 hours. But then that became slower. People wouldn’t get their results back until two weeks later. A two-week late test result does no one any good. So we mandated testing be done and clinics we knew to be fast and keep to a two day turnaround.
To date, we have had one freelancer test positive before he joined our crew and three on our staff test at different times test positive and we quickly separated them and had no other positive tests. Since the bulk of our staff and crews escaped infection, we felt our system was working to keep our staff safe and give them the ability to make good quality TV shows and video production.
Since testing is so important, we have decided to add onsite testing to our process with results in as little as 15 minutes. Not cheap but gives us and our clients more peace of mind.
We travel a lot so we had to review that function as well. First, we looked at our suppliers, in this case, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. We liked what Southwest was doing early on. Southwest has not been selling the middle seat and that is huge for us. So huge in fact it has made the extra travel time to fly out of Fort Lauderdale worth it.
Especially with airlines cutting 95% of their capacity and having fewer direct flights, the empty middle seat is a big relief. We have flown American a few times and the planes have been full and that simply does not feel right at this time.
We made travel kits for each crew member that included travel size alcohol sprayer, travel size hand sanitizer, N-95 masks and they also have a “head cloth”. The headcloth is not as effective as N-95 mask but on a long day, we find it is just not practical to expect a crew to be able to wear an N-95 for long stretches at a time. So we made the policy when indoors and its harder to maintain distance, wear the N-95. But if we are shooting outdoors and more spaced out, you can switch to the headcloth.
Doing the Work to Continue the Work
How have we done? We finished season 3 of our History series, “It’s How You Get There” as well as several other projects. None of our traveling crews has contracted the virus and the office staff that has contracted the virus has been quickly isolated and has fully recovered. Unlike the big LA companies, we are a video production company in Miami and we have to work to survive. We have no big studio or library of movies to keep our lights on, so if keeping the lights on is the goal, we have succeeded.
At least until Hurricane season…
If you’re looking to book a production company based in South Florida that is now experts in the art of COVID production, give us a call. We are here, ready, sanitized.