As the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, carrying “late in the horror movie when you thought you were safe, but are actually fucked” energy as it goes, Hollywood studios are seeking to evolve strategies to allow them to continue filming despite the renewed surge of the pandemic. Today, Netflix took a big step toward possible management of the disease’s impact on the entertainment industry, issuing the first mandate requiring that anyone working on the set of one of its U.S. productions will have to be vaccinated in order to stay.
Specifically, the mandate refers to workers on “Zone A” of productions, i.e., the bits closest to where the actor people are walking around (usually sans PPE, due to the requirements of the scene), doing and saying their actor things. Per The Hollywood Reporter, this new mandate from the streamer falls in line with guidelines issued a few weeks back by industry stewards in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the DGA, and the Teamsters, which drew a heavy line around vaccination as the deciding factor on whether productions would be allowed to go forward. Netflix is the first studio to take advantage of the offer, made by the guilds, to allow producers to demand workers on their sets be vaccinated against COVID.
News of Netflix’s adoption of the new policy comes shortly after actor Sean Penn made headlines by demanding that everyone on the cast and crew of his Starz show Gaslit should be vaccinated in order to work. The THR article does note that “exemptions for medical, religious or age reasons may apply on Netflix sets,” which feels ominously loophole heavy, and also quotes a source suggesting that existing and currently productions might try to wiggle around instituting a strict mandate. Still, it’s a prominent step forward, and a clear indication that, despite hopes for a “normal” 2021, COVID concerns are likely to continue to dictate the shape of Hollywood sets for months, if not years, to come.