The number one priority of 4D Legacy Studios when filming our feature film, Pride Jewel, during a pandemic, was making sure our crew and cast felt as safe as possible while on set. We wanted to do everything in our power to provide our team members with a safe and clean environment so we created an exhaustive list of precautions and guidelines to prove it. We referenced and implemented best practices recommended by both the CDC and "The Safe Way Forward" SAG guidelines.
While this is not a comprehensive list of all measures we took to safely and successfully film, we wanted to share some of the steps we took to encourage others within the film community to believe that filming can be done safely during this time.
One of the more obvious and proven ways to avoid the spread of COVID-19 among a group is to require testing. All cast and crew were required to get tested for COVID-19 within one week of their first day on set. Our amazing Production Manager, Megan Thill, collected proof of negative results from each and every team member and made it clear that no one would be allowed on set until they provided proof of testing negative for COVID-19.
Another proven method to eliminate the risk of spreading COVID-19 is wearing a mask when around others. We provided our cast and crew with clean masks daily and required their use at all times unless actors were being actively filmed.
Daily Temperature Scanning
Our production manager used a no-touch forehead thermometer to check everyone’s temperature daily upon their arrival onsite. Here’s a link to a highly-reviewed and affordable option on Amazon.
Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Oh, and then sanitize some more. Sanitizer spray bottles and personal sanitizer bottles were always within a hands reach of our team. Our crew, each armed with a bottle of sanitizer, constantly encouraged frequent hand washing and sanitizing throughout the day. And we weren’t just sanitizing our hands. We made sure to spray down our crew’s equipment, door handles, props, microphones… basically anything you could get your hands on.
To limit the amount of hands touching the props, we made sure each actor had their own personal box to store their props. Our crew regularly sprayed and wiped down props with sanitizer as extra precaution.
Minimal Onsite Team
To minimize the amount of people on set each day, we encouraged our crew and cast to wear multiple hats. In our recent blog post “Film Casting During COVID-19” we explained how we utilized some of our crew as supporting cast members or extras.
Although we kept our team small and, at most times, had plenty of space to stay spread out, we still enforced maintaining a 6’ distance from others at all times when not filming and whenever possible. We also asked our crew and cast to practice social distancing when off set.
When scouting locations for the film back in March, we carefully considered which scenes could be filmed outside rather than in an indoor setting. While we originally envisioned a pivotal wedding scene inside the beautiful interior of St. John Armenian Apostolic Church of San Francisco, we ultimately decided on an outdoor space that would let us safely allow the use of a group of extras as wedding guests.
Typically, film sets rely on using communal hot food buffets to feed their teams. While buffets help keep catering costs lower and food warmer, we decided it’d be much more sanitary and safer to provide pre-packaged individual boxed meals. So in addition to adjusting our budget to include the need for PPE, we also increased our budget for catering to accommodate the need for pre-packaged individual boxed meals.
Outdoor Green Room
While green rooms offer a space for the cast to relax, rehearse, gather and socialize, we were concerned about limiting the amount of indoor contact our team would have with one another within small spaces. Our creative solution? We utilized the space immediately outside our RV as a “green room” hub. Luckily, we had California weather on our side throughout production. Each and every day (and at each film location) bright and early, our amazing production crew would pop up several tables right outside the RV with all the green room essential items - chairs, snacks, drinks, and of course, coffee. Our amazing caterer, Zandonella Catering, would drop off a fresh delivery of boxed meals each day at our outdoor green room.
While COVID-19 provided us with many obstacles, our team took an abundance of caution and always prioritized the health and safety of our all-star cast and crew. By following the experts’ advice, adhering to strict guidelines and our team’s responsible dedication, we successfully filmed a feature film in two weeks with no reported cases of COVID-19!
As a final thought, it will be interesting to see when things “get back to normal” if any of these safety precautions get adopted as a norm on set.