Industry’s Internal Struggles and Union Turf Fight Slows Back-to-Work Plan Variety


Entertainment industry’s efforts to develop security protocols to restart production are becoming a brawl between major studios and Hollywood unions, which has delayed the industry’s return to work plan. national and local authorities. As Variety reported, restarting production amid the coronavirus pandemic will be complicated and costly.

The industry task force that met last month to resolve security concerns has generated a 30-page draft of a white paper to convince government officials to give Hollywood the green light to resume production. A copy of the plan was reportedly sent to the office of California’s governor Gavin Newsom, prompting Wednesday to announce that the state plans to release guidelines for the resumption of television and film production on May 25.

However, the white paper was not complete and was not approved by all participants in the task force, which sparked anger and finger pointing among union and studio leaders and the Alliance of Motion. Picture and Television Producers, the labor negotiation body. for large studios.

Some members of the White Paper task force hoped to be able to hand the project over to officials early this week, but amid rumors that the project was widely publicized – and first reported by Indiewire – a final version is not expected for at least a week, if not more.

A source in one of the major guilds said Variety that although they reviewed the guidelines, they did not participate in the writing of this plan. Another union source said that IATSE has hired its own experts and will be creating more craft specific procedures which are also expected to be released next week.

And a spokesperson for SAG-AFTRA said: “SAG-AFTRA has not yet signed a specific reopening procedure. “

“We complete a set of initial protocols with the contribution of our expert epidemiologists, industrial sanitation specialists, member leaders and staff, and work in collaboration with our colleagues and unions, and the industry,” added the porter. – word. “Our draft report will soon be presented to our Blue Ribbon Safety Commission and the member-led Executive Committee for review, modification and adoption.”

It remains to be seen whether each union will publish its own separate plan, which will cause further confusion. What is clear now is that the industry is not speaking with one voice on the billion dollar back-to-work issue.

The leak caused great tension with the IATSE and the DGA. SAG-AFTRA also examines the proposals in light of the challenges posed to performers, as detailed in the project. The whole process has been complicated by the fact that the AMPTP has juggled almost simultaneous framework contract discussions with the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA in recent weeks. In the light of the pandemic, AMPTP is also ready for what will no doubt be difficult working discussions with IATSE on the security problems linked to coronaviruses and the need to at least temporarily reduce the size of film and television productions traditional Hollywood to conform to social distancing mandates.

Unions have a lot at stake in these decisions. Job classifications and staffing requirements are closely controlled by the framework agreements that each union defines in three-year cycles in negotiations with the AMPTP. Tension is inevitable, as industry leaders want to get production back as soon as possible, while union leaders have an interest in protecting as many jobs as possible.

The task force’s draft white paper does not address the issue of reducing team size to minimize the number of people on the set – a change that other plans have taken for granted. Nor does it address how the inevitably high cost of extensive testing, cleaning and security monitoring will be covered, or who will pay. However, the process of developing the guidelines has been slowed down by the fact that so many ridings are asking for their say.

Netflix, meanwhile, has reportedly developed its own document for high-level production guidelines that have been presented to a number of film commissions in recent days. This is seen as another potential complication for the entertainment industry presenting a united front on how to safely roll cameras again, particularly in the home state of Hollywood. Ted Sarandos, director of content for Netflix, was the only major employer in the entertainment industry represented on Wednesday at Newsom’s virtual industry roundtable. Netflix is ​​not officially a member of AMPTP but has been in consultation with the white paper task force.

Sources familiar with the situation point out that the white paper is intended as a model for government agencies assessing safety concerns related to production. Individual entertainment companies and unions also develop their own specific guidelines at the same time. This is vital because safety and health decisions will inevitably have to be adapted on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature and place of production.

But the white paper is an important document because it represents the commitments that Hollywood studios make to the authorities regarding COVID-19 testing rules, social distancing measures, and cleaning and sanitation procedures. Informed sources pointed out that the working group members were dismayed by the wide dissemination of the project, as there had been a declared desire from the outset to bring together all the main stakeholders behind a uniform plan.

The task force was formed last month at the request of the office of New York governor Andrew Cuomo. For Hollywood, the target audience for the white paper is Newsom and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which has broad power to dictate when production can resume.

The working group of about 50 participants was formed by the Industry-wide Union-Management Security Committee, a long-standing entity that deals with safety and training issues related to production. The committee, which holds monthly meetings, includes security, physical production and labor relations officials from major studios and union representatives from SAG-AFTRA, DGA and IATSE.

For some studio executives, resetting production made necessary by the pandemic lockup is a natural time to take a close look at Hollywood’s production protocols. Many senior managers feel that team size is too large and that technology can allow teams to do more with less.

Unions, on the other hand, seek to ensure the safety of their members. And they want to prevent employers from taking advantage of social and economic chaos to cut jobs.

The white paper project paints a picture of a work environment with dramatic changes made necessary by the coronavirus epidemic. The new rules for television and film production on sound stages and on site will likely include a designated COVID-19 safety monitor present at all times and some form of daily health check. All participants in a production must be tested with a COVID-19 nasal pad two to three days before filming begins.

Daily temperature checks and the use of gloves are not recommended. The report states: “The logistical / operational aspects of temperature control are complex, and the benefits are probably worth it.”

All production participants, including animal trainers, must undergo COVID-19 safety training before production begins.

The working day will be interrupted for regular cleaning and wiping of sets and equipment. Meal service will be done on a staggered basis to avoid large groups of people eating together. Buffet lines for craft services will give way to actors and crew members picking up individually wrapped meals or portions.

The white paper also recommends that production of certain types of unscripted series and documentaries be halted until the COVID-19 threat has subsided. “Postpone the filming of certain shows and competitions where the teams must follow the competitors in the uncontrolled areas and interact with the public”, specifies the project.

The project suggests that creatives will be encouraged to minimize the use of actors under the age of 18 and to minimize the need for sex scenes, fight scenes and other close contact footage. Before filming intimate or combat scenes, the actors and stuntmen involved must be tested again for COVID-19 48 hours before the start of shooting.

Sources pointed out that the white paper, a copy of which was obtained by Variety, is still in the planning stage and the main elements are subject to revision.

Other notable recommendations from the preliminary report:

** Productions that require significant travel should consider charter flights rather than sales.

** For long shoots, producers should consider renting apartments rather than installing casts and teams in hotels to minimize interaction with the public.

** The use of paper should be minimized as much as possible, which means that scripts, call sheets and other documents should be processed electronically as much as possible.

** The use of the petty cash is not recommended.

** Staff gathered around the video village area should be limited as much as possible to the director, the DP and a script supervisor.

** Makeup bags must be designated for individual actors.

** Actors should be encouraged to do their hair and make-up as much as possible.

** When filming outdoors, productions must have adequate tents or other covered spaces so that the actors and the team can stay six feet from each other if they have to take shelter quickly to rain or other conditions.


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