Film, TV productions resume with limited workforce

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 11) – Your favorite TV shows will be back with new episodes, but major changes must be implemented behind the scenes.

New rules released by the Department of Health, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, and the Department of Labor and Employment dated June 7 detail the major changes which must be implemented in film and audiovisual production sets as they are allowed to resume operations.

Joint Administrative Order 2020-001 limits the number of on-site workers for production sets to 50 people at a time, covering all crew members such as equipment operators, extras, stuntmen, support staff, and actors. This covers movies, TV shows, animation, advertising, and other audiovisual content.

All other employees can tap alternative work arrangements such as doing the post-production at home. Those who will report on site must be a regular crew, rather than short-term hires for easier monitoring and contact tracing.

"Operating establishments are mandated to comply with minimum public health standards at all times. In the absence of a vaccine or definitive cure for COVID-19, these non-pharmaceutical interventions remain the most effective ways to prevent the spread and mitigate the risks of COVID-19," read the guidelines published online on Wednesday night.

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An occupational safety and health officer must also be present to enforce minimum health standards including mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, temperature checks, and health declaration forms, on top of the usual job of compliance to usual workplace safety and the provision of first aid if needed. An ambulance must be on standby to take suspected coronavirus patients to the hospital.

Hand soaps, sanitizers, disinfectants, and foot bath mats must be available on the set.

Actor etiquette

On-camera performers are required to fill out COVID-19 health declaration forms, and actors who feel sick or have flu-like symptoms should not report to work.

Sets must have barriers to separate actors in between takes to minimize contact. These temporary barriers can only be removed "right before the take," the rules prescribe.

Performers can also go to work with their own hair and makeup done to limit close contact with hairdressers and makeup artists. Waiting areas should also be provided with markings to observe ample distancing. Actors may also choose to wait in their cars when not needed on set.

Production houses can also consider running COVID-19 tests on performers.

"For kissing, sex scenes, or scenes that require one actor to touch another's face or body, full and explicit consent must be secured from the actors involved. Otherwise, actors may refuse to act or participate in such scenes," the rules added.

Those aged younger than 21 or are 60 and older, high-risk pregnant women, and talents with preexisting ailments are discouraged from taking part in these shows for now.

Meanwhile, casting calls and auditions should be done through online video conferencing, as well as pre-production and technical meetings.

Cast and crew may also be billeted in hotels or special lodging to "avoid bringing illness to and from the set."

FDCP chair Mary Liza Diño earlier told a Senate committee that thousands of film industry workers have been displaced, with many freelancers who earn on a per-project or per-appearance basis left with no income during the lockdown.

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Prior notice needed

All scheduled production shoots must be reported to FDCP and DOLE at least seven days before the shooting day, with health declaration forms required to be filled up by all production members. Workers who live with or had close contact with confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients, as well as those who exhibited symptoms of the disease in the past two weeks should undergo self-quarantine.

Apart from national rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, production houses must also follow local COVID-19 protocols imposed in their shooting locations such as curfews, the guidelines added. Shooting venues are required to undergo deep cleaning before and after each shoot.

All violations of COVID-19 policies must be immediately reported to FDCP, DOLE, and DOH.

If possible, staff members are also recommended to wear personal protective equipment and include markings to indicate social distancing. Smoking, vaping, and the use of electronic cigarettes are banned from the workplace, except in designated areas within the vicinity.

Producers are banned from letting in visitors and from allowing bystanders to watch the taping live, with the agencies saying that locations must be considered as closed sets. Studio-based shoots are encouraged for better control, while public venues like streets and markets should be avoided.