Fair warning, dear reader: There is pretty much nothing about this story that’s not going to make you say, “Wow, we’re doomed, huh?” Unfortunately, that’s exactly why the latest from Vulture’s Anonymous In Hollywood column is essential reading for anyone interested in how the film and television industries are responding to the pandemic as work slowly begins again—or, you know, for anyone concerned about public safety.
Let’s fall down into the pit of despair together, friends. First, some context. As writer Kelsey Miller explains in her brief introduction to the piece, the pandemic has created a new role within the industry, though there’s no agreed-upon title for the position, nor, more troublingly, “any specific requirements to hold it.” Producers can install “anyone [they] deem adequate:
That ambiguity has led to confusion and an array of [Covid Compliance Officers] with varying backgrounds. Some productions hire union set medics, many of whom have experience with COVID-19, having spent the shutdown working in hospitals. Other productions hire CCOs with no training beyond a two-hour online course. There’s a growing industry of companies offering COVID-19 services and CCO certificate programs — not to be confused with a certification program. Those don’t exist. There is no formal regulation on COVID-19 safety, nor any consensus on what makes a set safe, or if that’s even possible.
And that’s just the intro! We’re so sorry. Here’s a violinist who ingeniously solved the problem of her kitten crying when she’s left alone on the floor.
Back to doom. The lack of regulation is perhaps the most concerning factor, as it links nearly all the problems acknowledged in the piece, but none of it’s great. Here’s a set medic who also works as a COVID officer relating his experience—and this is a good example, since he’s actually got medical experience.
People will continuously pull their mask down, forget they have it off. You have a safety meeting, and you tell them: “If you need to take a break, step about 20 feet away from people.” Then you find tight-knit groups of people smoking together, and it’s like, “What are you guys doing?”
He then mentions that the show he was on pre-shutdown had a lead actor come down ill; four people involved with the production later died. Just great. But again, that’s someone who knows what he’s doing fighting against human nature. Here’s what happens when someone who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing takes charge, according to an experienced nurse who works as a set medic and union representative. Before we get to her piece of the story, which we’ll include in its entirety, some additional context: This person has three decades of experience on set, spent two months working with emergency room patients at the peak of New York’s COVID-19 outbreak, and she is now “working on and off set to try and establish standards for safety protocol—and COVID Compliance Officers,” per Vulture. That’s the good news. The only good news.
There is no such thing as a real, verified COVID Officer certification. It’s just something made up to, I guess, generate revenue. These certificates are to create a way for people with no medical background to get involved. That’s honestly been one of the hugest drawbacks. Productions are using these “COVID teams” because they’re the cheapest option. The kids walking around, wiping things down — they’re not the issue. It’s the people at the heads of these teams. They’re trying to assess temperatures and explain how to wear PPE, and a lot of the information they have is completely incorrect. I’ll tell the crew one thing and they’ll tell them something else — or try to explain protocol to me. They’ll say things that are totally mythical, and don’t seem to know there’s no science behind it. The fact that they can walk up to someone with 35 years experience and tell them what to do — it’s distressing. And dangerous.
AHHHHHHHHHH. And yet the nightmare goes on:
One of the most disheartening situations was a production where there was a famous talent who’d flown in from a hotspot state. Production said that the governor had issued a waiver for this person, so they didn’t have to quarantine. I emailed asking for documentation, and they wrote back saying the governor’s office doesn’t provide documentation on this. So this talent came to set — walked into a public building and up to the floor — with no mask. And the whole crew is standing there like, “What’s happening right now.” I told the producers, “You need to walk up to her right now and tell her she has to wear a mask.” Their justification was, “Well, when they’re on camera they don’t have to wear a mask, and we’re going to be filming her all day, so…” That’s how they got around that. I was scheduled for two more jobs with them, but after that, I was summarily disinvited.
Wash your hands, folks. And maybe get used to going without new TV seasons for awhile.
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