V.P. David Gale interviews V.P. Angelica Alejandro, and members Anett Rumanoczky and Pearl Sun, who’ve worked in background or done stand-in work with COVID safety protocols. While they report everyone is happy, excited and grateful to get back to work, they also share their stresses, confusion, frustrations, wishes and tips.
- Don’t touch me! Crew should use verbal instructions when moving BG performers. It is not safe or respectful to touch them.
- Face shields for performers might be preferable to masks, as performers would need fewer make-up touches. Performers in all work categories are the only crew members frequently taking their masks on and off.
- Fellow performers, please keep your masks on between takes to protect your colleagues.
- Not being able to see people’s lips move under a mask can make it challenging to understand instructions. Could someone please invent a see-through mask? 😉
- Bring your own snacks. This has always been a good idea, but it is even more so now that buffet-style craft tables are gone. Snacks vary between productions. Take care of yourself. Don’t count on the snacks provided by production to meet your needs.
- Expand your kit bag. You might need wardrobe, layers, make-up and hair supplies, documents, your COVID kit, snacks. Allow yourself sufficient time to make sure you come prepared.
- Go to COVID check-in before you go to BG holding.
- As the paperwork goes electronic, take a photo of your paperwork on your phone for back-up.
Performers working in all performance categories have talked about being confused by the differing testing and safety protocols on different productions. Some sets require COVID testing three times a week; others do not. Background performers can work on a number of different sets in one week. When a performer has to take separate COVID tests for each production, it can limit the number of full days of work a performer can accept. Note, though, that performers are paid for two-hours of work when production requires them to be tested for COVID.
Oh, by the way, everyone agrees that pre-ordered lunches are awesome!
V.P. Alejandro hopes the lessons learned and changes made during COVID can help make production run more efficiently and safely after COVID. Looking toward the new year, Anett wonders how productions will adapt their safety procedures to working on indoor sets in winter.
Even if you don’t work in background, we hope you’ll take the time to watch the discussion, and read the note from stand-in Ellen Oatmeyer below the video. It’s important for all union members to understand the unique challenges of doing stand-in work, or working in background, and many of the discussion points are relevant to all work categories.
And, as always, be reminded, if you see something that looks unsafe, please, call ACTRA.
I am proud to be a member of ACTRA. I acknowledge you, David Gale, and all your associates at ACTRA, for all you have done to get productions up and running safely and ACTRA members back to work in a safe and positive manner.
Here is my input regarding COVID on-set protocol.
What was your biggest concern about going to set?
My biggest concern was and, still is, not contracting COVID at work.
How did you deal with it?
I abide by the safety measures enforced on set. I wear a mask all the time and a shield as much as possible. I sanitize and wash my hands. I stay a distance from other people on set as much as possible. I keep my personal bubble very small; I do not go out, nor do I attend any indoor activities. Basically, I isolate while not on set. I do go for mandatory COVID tests every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
What is the atmosphere or feeling on set?
Tense at first. Everyone is respectful of keeping masks on as much as possible and staying clear of the performer zone. When in the performer zone, masks and shields are always in place.
What are some of the changes or adjustments that you have had to make on set and how did the changes impact your performance?
I wear a mask 10 hours of my workday — the entire time I am on set.
Staggered 1/2-hour lunches are GREAT. It gives everyone enough space and time to hydrate and nourish. Also, it shortens the workday. Better balanced life. I do have to listen harder (funny how much I read people’s lips).
Crew seems to be more focused and respectful. Less socializing and more focused work.
Masks, physical distance and handwashing are the three best ways to stop the spread. Are you seeing these enforced on set?
Masks and shields are enforced. Physical distancing is difficult while rolling. Performer zone space is always tight. Difficult to physically distance cast and crew. Crew is very respectful of keeping masks and shields on for the day, especially in the “Red Zone”/performer zone.
Extensive medical evidence shows the spread of COVID 19 is airborne. What we really need on set is clean, pure air. As the weather gets colder, more filming will be happening in studios and lunch space will have to be created indoors, where people have to remove their mask to eat, it is imperative we have pure, clean air (e.g. https://surgicallycleanair.com/).
I am grateful for all you and your associates at ACTRA do to keep ACTRA members safe and protected as we all work through this unprecedented time on set.
Keep up the great work, ACTRA Toronto!