Working with remarkable speed, a screen sector task force and Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) CEO Nell Greenwood have completed a draft protocol setting out key principles and practices for a return to screen production.
The draft will be delivered to the office of Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy tomorrow and the screen sector roundtable chaired by Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason will convene again after that.
Depending on the feedback from Murphy’s team and consultation with Screen Producers Australia, state agencies, guilds and other stakeholders, the aim is to finalise and distribute the protocol in the next two or three weeks.
The document is expected to include a template for mitigating the risk of insuring productions and risk assessment while COVID-19 has been excluded by all insurance companies.
Several producers including See-Saw Films’ Emile Sherman and Film Finances Australasia CEO Dan Read have called on the Federal Government to underwrite that risk as a lender of last resort.
Greenwood tells IF: “We want to come up with an industry-wide set of principles and protocols that can get the sector back into production safely and practically in this new COVID-19 world.”
The document is expected to set out general guidelines for screen production across the board, covering such areas as safe distancing, the number of people on set, personal protective equipment, cleaning, medical advice and travel.
Safe distancing on the ‘Neighbours’ set.
The newly appointed AFTRS CEO volunteered to take the lead on collating information for the protocol and liaising with industry bodies after attending the screen sector roundtable two weeks ago, which includes reps from SPA, the MEAA, Ausfilm, the ADG, Fremantle, Endemol Shine Australia, the ABC and SBS.
“The remit of the school is to serve industry; that is what we are here for,” says Greenwood, who is working closely with AFTRS head of producing and production Lyn Norfor and head of screen business Peter Herbert and their teams.
“We are able to provide a resource to industry that can be of real value and assistance in that we can do some of the thinking, research and collating of information that other, more pressured screen businesses don’t have the time and resources to do.
“By collectively agreeing on a protocol with the big brains in the industry, that’s a resource that the smaller production companies can depend on and it will give a level of confidence to cast and crew.”
The innovative, safe-distancing production processes that Fremantle has adopted for Neighbours has helped inform Greenwood’s approach.
The Melbourne studio has been divided into quadrants with an operational hub, three distinct production teams and only three actors allowed to cross between the units.
No more than 100 people per day are allowed in any area and there is a one-and-a-half-metre social distancing rule. Male cast don’t wear make-up, a nurse is on set and there are no intimate scenes.