• Life in Covid times – Alice Lanagan

As a member of the film, televsion and wider Arts community, I feel lucky to be employed on a TV series that has begun during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

We are on day 9 of 70 day shoot and, so far, so good. While there has been a number of changes implemented around safety and ensuring we do our best to control the spread of the virus, we are fortunate to be filming outside of metropolitan areas with no local cases or community transmission and as such, we are currently COVID free. I have listed out under sub-headings below the main challenges and changes we have implemented around continuing to keep our production open and our team healthy, while delivering the best possible outcome for show.

General

  • Hand sanitising stations and safe distancing signage are abundant both on and offset.
  • During pre production, al departments were set up with safe distancing in place. Desks etc are all appropriately spaced and departments are within bubbles. The Art department has a wonderful open warehouse and the other departments are broken up into smaller offices that meet safe work practices. 
  • All crew have to complete a daily survey before arriving on set / at work confirming that they: are symptom free; have not been near a hotspot; have not been near anyone who has tested positive or, on a flight.
  • All crew on set have temperatures taken on arrival.
  • Cast arriving from Victoria (escaping??) were put into 2 week lockdown locally and tested twice. Same goes for overseas crew and cast.
  • Where distancing is not possible (on set, in fittings, during rehearsals or meetings, etc) all crew are wearing masks. Wearing masks is essential around cast. 
  • Offset catering / craft services is nothing like it used to be. There are no shared jars of vegemite or slices of cheese. Snacks are all individually packaged, essentially like kiddies recess. All cutlery, cups, plates, bowls etc (unless individually supplied from home) is disposable. The dreaded plastic bottles of water have re emerged.
  • Catering on set is individually boxed for each meal. Coffees and hot drinks are made by an allocated Crew Member to limit touching of machines. Waters are all bottled. Cutlery and Crockery is all single use. Catering tables are marked with big X’s against areas crew are not to sit. 
  • Locations have been measured by the safety officer so he can maintain head counts / metre and remove crew / cast who are not necessary to get the job done. 

Major impact

For the Art department the major imapct we have felt is as a result of the QLD border closure. Our Vehicles Supervisor, Specials Effects Supervisor, Animal Trainers and Armourer were all based over the border. The key issue around the closure is the lack of budget to cover the mandatory two week hotel isolation in Queensland when returning from NSW. This has had a wide ranging affect on the production, Art Department has felt the affect as below.

  • We have been able to continue working with the Vehicles Supervisor but this has meant additional crew required on the ground and more pressure on the Art Director to oversee cars and their requirements. Meetings with our local team and our Supervisor have been held successfully within the bubble. The Supervisor hours have decreased somewhat, but he is still an essential member of our team. We have had to add budget to cover the additional team member required on the ground. Car deliveries ex QLD have been able to continue as these fall under freight / essential work. 
  • We have also maintained our relationship with the Livestock department as weeks of training had been completed before the border was closed. The animals team will come south to work and are then able to spend two weeks in the bubble with family before returning to Queensland.
  • SPFX elements had to be altered with the load being picked up by post and VFX. We have been able to meet SPFX Supervisor inside the bubble and collect simpler rigs that we are operating with the assistance of local crew. There has fortunately been a supportive response from Producers / Director to these issues. Major specials have been dropped from the scripts.
  • Armoury has also been altered around availability and will be ex Sydney. Superfluous weapons have been cut.
  • A small amount of buying over the border, with deliveries taking place within the bubble, has been possible. Our team travelling to the north and QLD vendors meeting us in the south. What has become very clear is how time consuming this has become and planning is tantamount as last minute requests are hard to deliver. 
  • We are all looking forward to the borders opening again!

Protocols

As per Guild and MEAA protocols, our production released it’s own and all seems to be ticking along safely. We have a Covid coordinator on set as well as a Nurse and Safety Officer. Our dressing team hand over and then leave. There has been minimal Art Department on set during shoot with the exception of the Designer, Art Director (as required) and Prop Master (as required). Standby team and vehicles have been managing set requirements and have been covid cleaning across the day between takes and touching. This has quickly become second nature.

– Alice Lanagan

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