NZFC CEO Annabelle Sheehan. 

The New Zealand screen industry has developed a set of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, endorsed by government, paving the way for production to restart.

Funded by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), the policies were developed by ScreenSafe with a team of industry experts, and are housed online for production companies and producers to draw from.

The protocols include guidance on physical distancing and hygiene, covering topics like site entry, close working arrangements, meetings, eating arrangements, toilet and changing facilities, traveling in vehicles and hand washing. The protocols advise that work that cannot be carried out in a ‘contactless way’ cannot be carried out i.e. any work within 1 metre, such as make up.

The document also addresses mental health and wellbeing, acknowledging some crew members may be at significant risk of distress during the pandemic.

Every production is required to complete a registration with ScreenSafe in order to with government contact tracing and monitoring, and producers must still create their own individualised health and safety plans and site plans.

All production was put into hiatus in New Zealand when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a lockdown on March 23 – one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. Since then, the country has had success in flattening the curve, and is now gradually easing restrictions, though social distancing measures remain place.

In announcing the protocols, the NZFC noted that some local productions were already safely back underway.

The hope is the documents will also pave the way for co-productions and international productions once the NZ government has reviewed border restrictions; among the NZ-based productions suspended were James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series.

ScreenSafe will also soon release a full health and safety production toolkit, including scenarios, templates and contacts.

NZFC CEO Annabelle Sheehan said “The NZFC’s focus and commitment since the industry hiatus, has been the health and safety of all those who work in the New Zealand film industry and the ongoing sustainability of the wider screen sector. We are heartened and grateful for the commitment and partnership of the Guilds who have worked to get this document completed so quickly.”

“Working with WorkSafe and wider sector consultation and feedback enabled us to work swiftly together to get this document out and our local industry back working again.”

In Australia, AFTRS is leading in partnership with industry the preparation of back-to-work protocols, to be put forward to the office of Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.