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Review: COVID-19 Guidelines for Media & Entertainment Industry around the World

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In India, the government has recently issued guidelines allowing film & other shootings to resume. World over, various countries have issued similar guidelines and have setup special schemes & financial packages for the Media & Entertainment industry. Here is a review.

Shooting of films, TV serials, web series, and other content for electronic & digital medium has been permitted to resume from 21 August 2020 in India. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued standard operating procedures for media production to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including physical distancing, mandatory use of masks for cast and crew except for actors, frequent handwashing, and practicing respiratory etiquette. 

India is the largest producer of films in the world. Not just in Hindi, but the film industry is active many different languages such as Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Odia, and even Tulu. TV serials, reality shows, web series, and other audio-visual content is also produced in multiple Indian languages. However, with theatres shut and the temporary ban on media production, the performing and visual arts industry has been severely affected because of COVID-19. 

The Media production industry is a source of livelihood for many

The performing and visual arts industry provides livelihood for many such as spot-boys, make-up artists, lights and camera team, music and sound recording, VFX team, writers and editors, stunt performers, directors, set designers, costume designers, crew for service in sets, and many others. Being a major economic activity and contributing substantially to the nation’s GDP, the government has decided to allow the activities of media production industry while laying down strict operating procedures.

Government of India guidelines for resumption of Media Production

The guidelines released by the Government of India are applicable to all media production including film shootings, television production, web series and all forms of content creation in electronic and film medium.  For media production, the presence of technicians and some crew members alongside actors during the shoot is inevitable. Hence, besides prescribing mandatory social distancing, use of masks, regular handwashing, and respiratory hygiene practices, the guidelines also lay down the following.  

  • Minimum number of cast and crew members
  • Mandatory usage of masks by all cast and crew except for actors in front of camera
  • Planning such that physical distancing is considered in scenes, set-ups, seating, and meals arrangement 
  • Designated entry and exit points
  • Regular sanitization of common areas (such as cafeteria, washroom, make up room), equipment, and props
  • Provision of PPE Kits to sanitization staff, make-up artists, and hair stylists
  • Minimum sharing of costumes, hair wigs, make up items, equipment
  • Avoid usage of lavalier lapel mics and direct physical contact with diaphragm of other mics
  • Usage of gloves by those using/ sharing common equipment

Apart from the above-mentioned guidelines, a designated supervisor/COVID coordinator is to be nominated among cast and crew to keep record of the workplace. They should also ensure that concerned persons have updated Aarogya Setu app on their mobiles. Observance of protocols, maintaining a record of medical and travel history of cast and crew, earmarking quarantine areas and contacting nearest health facility in case any of the cast and crew members develop symptoms, are the list of activities that fall under the purview of the COVID coordinator. No media production activity is permitted in containment zones. Unruly behavior or COVID-19 stigmatization will be dealt with strictly in coordination with local authorities. 

Source: PIB

In the USA, guidelines have been released by respective states

Filming in the United States is being regulated at the state level. Guidelines, similar to that issued in India, have been issued in Washington and Iowa. However, in Washington, those employees who wish to pull out from a worksite out of safety concerns, will be given access to certain leave or unemployment benefits. In the case of high-risk individuals, employers must be given a choice to avail employer-granted accrued leave or unemployment benefits if an alternative work arrangement is not feasible. Other employees are given access to expanded family and medical leave as per the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, avail unemployment benefits or access paid time off depending on the situation. Meanwhile, in Iowa, the emphasis is on limiting the size of crew. 

UK’s advisory is not mandatory 

The United Kingdom allowed filming to resume in June 2020. The British Film Commission released a comprehensive advisory listing out guidelines for different teams, which is not mandatory to follow. The UK government has also announced a temporary scheme worth 500 Million pound for helping TV and Film production that have been halted or delayed due to lack of insurance. 

Australia extends financial support for TV and Film production 

In Australia, the government released a set of guidelines in May. Besides the general preventive measures as laid down in India, norms for each department and different stages of production have been clearly listed out. Use of technological solutions is advised to allow for physical distancing in case of scenes requiring physical proximity. Cast members should also provide written consent to work in such scenes. Usage of color-coded equipment to identify whether it has been cleaned or ready to use is also a part of the norms. Further, a Temporary Interruption Fund was announced in June to help local production houses to start filming again in case the filming was paused due to lack of insurance coverage against COVID-19, like in the UK. Another COVID-19 Budget Support Fund is also in place to cover the additional costs arising out of implementation of COVID-19 Safety and Risk Assessment Plans for current green-lit projects. 

The Australian government has also announced a $400 Million incentive to attract film and television production industry to the country over the next seven years, with an objective to create 8000 new employment opportunities and attract an estimated $3 billion in foreign expenditure.

Singapore and China have also resumed media production work

Singapore has put a cap on the number of persons on set and those on screen depending on the performance. For instance, in case of ‘live’ singing, there can only be a maximum of 30 persons on set and a maximum of five persons on-screen without masks. 

According to reports, Chinese Film and TV industry resumed work gradually since February 2020. Crew had to take a slew of measures like preparing an epidemic prevention and control plan, mandatory local quarantine for 14 days prior to shooting, and limiting the number of people to 50 while shooting. The film and tv production companies were also given preferential financial policies by local governments and studios in Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang Province and Jiangsu Province. 

Media production continued in innovative ways amidst lockdown

The pandemic has resulted in postponement of shoots and release of many films and shows globally like Avatar 2, Batman, and Star Wars. TV channels had resorted to airing old episodes of serials and reality shows while some movies were released on OTT platforms. Video conferences,  shooting using phones at different locations and putting them together for producing movies and reality shows were some of the innovative measures adopted for producing content during the lockdown. 

Featured Image: COVID-19 Guidelines for Media & Entertainment Industry

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