POV (Perspective)
Casting In The Time of COVID
  • Friday, Oct. 16, 2020
Robert B. Martin Jr.

COVID casting is happening all over the U.S., especially in Los Angeles, Austin, New Orleans, and Atlanta, but with the re-opening of the industry comes major concerns about COVID protection in auditions and on-set. 

Casting directors are now forced to provide the protocols for auditions and on-set. Why? Because there are no “official” COVID protocols set for commercials by SAG/AFTRA. There are official COVID rules for both film and TV production, but there are only “suggested” protocols for commercials. Union projects can get a “cleared to shoot” confirmation only after SAG/AFTRA reads the script and “suggests” the COVID protocols, but it’s only “suggested.” It’s not enforceable. 

What about non-union productions? I have been very fortunate and lucky to have cast both, union and non-union campaigns during COVID, in all the states mentioned and the question remains the same from the performers, “What protections are production implementing to ensure my safety on-set?” Actors want to know this BEFORE deciding whether or not to accept the booking. This is very important. Decisions on COVID safety must be made in the bidding process.  There are numerous companies (producers) now in the COVID game, providing on-set COVID services, but casting MUST relay these procedures to the agents and actors before an audition or booking. The optimum time? The release of the breakdown. The typical cost for COVID compliance could be at least $50k for a basic shoot, but when is any commercial(s) basic? Deciding the COVID tactics after a bid is risky. It simply does not serve the protection of the entire set or a solid cast.

Casting is super-fast these days for many reasons. But even before casting directors can send out a request to self-tape, COVID standards should be in place.  Actors want to know if a COVID medic will be on-set monitoring temperatures, how many other actors they will be exposed to and what safety protocols are in place to protect them before they show up to work and what they are.

We have seen what happens when a major production company has failed to set standards for its shoot. 

After all there is not an “I” in team, but there is a “me” and you better bet actors are worried about the “me” in team, especially during COVID. 

Robert B. Martin Jr. of digital dogs casting began casting feature films for Oliver Stone, Steven Spielberg, and Ron Howard, and under Steve Jobs, Apple’s very first commercial campaign product launches including the iMac, iBook, MacBook Pro, OS X, Apple Store, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, & iPad.

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