Art Directors Guild Releases COVID-19 Protocols for Filmed Entertainment, Commercials
Nelson Coates, president of the Art Directors Guild
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The Art Directors Guild (ADG) has released its set of key recommendations and protocols for adoption in the workplace. These recommendations are intended to address the day to day experience of ADG members and are supplemental to the Industry-Wide White Paper, and the Safe Way Forward with respect to testing and department-specific protocols related to employees represented by DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters and the Basic Crafts.

The Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800, takes the health and safety of its members across the country very seriously.  In this time of ongoing pandemic, and especially in light of current spikes in cases throughout the U.S., the ADG is focused on ensuring its members are in work environments that are crafted to provide the maximum level of protection and disease prevention possible.

ADG president Nelson Coates remarked, “We are extremely encouraged by progress being made in industry-wide talks with employers. Considering that commercial production continues, and other forms of film and television prep and production are gearing up even remotely, publishing specific departmental guidance for our members and their employers was prudent and necessary until industry-wide agreements are in place.”

The ADG’s protocols are a living document which will be periodically updated based on the real-life workplace experience as members begin to return to work.

ADG Executive director Chuck Parker noted “While no document will ever address every issue or situation our members encounter, we believe these recommendations will provide an additional layer of protection and safety as they specifically address the unique world of the art departments in filmed entertainment and commercial production.”

Here’s a rundown of ADG recommendations.

The health and safety of the general public and all cast and crew is the highest priority. Re-opening the industry and returning to work are also significant and important priorities.

  • All local, state, and federal (CDC) public health protocol guidelines must be followed. Medical expertise must always guide our decision making with respect to testing, contact tracing, symptom screening and similar protocols that raise medical questions. The most effective and broad-based testing and screening must be put into place as part of any return to work protocols.
  • To the extent possible, physical distancing shall be maintained. When physical distancing is impracticable, other risk mitigating measures shall be taken as described below.
  • Regular, periodic testing of cast and crew for COVID-19 is critical for a safe return to work.
  • Universal symptom monitoring, including temperature screening, may be used to further mitigate risk.
  • Appropriate and adequate PPE will be provided to cast and crew by the employer. Disposable masks will be replaced each day and reusable masks will be cleaned each day. Employers shall also provide proper means of disposal for all PPE.
  • Infection prevention measures will be developed and applied, including physical distancing at all times when possible, enhanced sanitation (high-touch wipe down, disinfection of equipment), and hand hygiene (increased access to hand washing stations, alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
  • One or more autonomous COVID-19 Compliance Officer(s) with specialized training, responsibility and authority for COVID-19 safety compliance and enforcement will be in the workplace to address issues as they arise.
  • Thorough training on principles of infection prevention, PPE, physical distancing and signs/symptoms of COVID-19 will be provided to all, with role-specific additional training as needed.
  • The judgment of Department Heads and their crews, in collaboration with Unit Production Managers (UPMs) and Assistant Directors (ADs), will be considered when structural and logistical changes are made to accommodate the new working practices.
  • Individual rights under applicable laws intended to protect against discrimination must be respected and safeguarded to support the maintenance of a non-discriminatory workplace.
  • Adequate staffing and space for physical distancing is essential for an effective health and safety plan.
  • Limiting crew size and/or attempting to combine jobs leads to inefficient, unsafe work practices. Department Heads and their crews, in collaboration with Line Producers, UPMs and ADs, remain in the best position to manage the staffing needs and scheduling of their departments to achieve the quality and efficiency necessary.
  • Resuming production during this time may be highly stressful and cause anxiety. The implementation of mental health resources to support the wellness of those participating in a production may be necessary.
  • Cast and crew are encouraged to report problems, ask questions, and suggest solutions to enhance the safety and productivity of the workspaces.
  • No one should have to waive their rights or assume liability in order to go back to work.
  • If people are sick or caring for others who are sick, they must have a paid sick leave option that allows them to stay home without undermining their economic security and forcing them to make dangerous choices.
  • Workplace practices that compromise the health and immune systems of employees and contribute to the vulnerability and illness of employees should be eliminated. Limit the duration of workdays and excessive consecutive workdays whenever possible and extend rest periods whenever possible to ensure cast and crew main healthy and receive adequate rest.
  • Training to properly implement and adhere to Covid-19 safety guidelines, including the proper utilization of PPE, must be built into each production schedule and budget.

These recommendations are intended to apply to all Local 800 classifications on and off set as appropriate.

1. All persons engaged on the project must complete a health declaration form prior to starting and/or returning to work, declaring that they are free from symptoms, that those in their household are free from symptoms, that they have not knowingly come into contact with anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 in the previous 14 days, and that they should not be self- isolating for any other reason laid out in governmental guidelines.

2. Upon the commencement of work, all members of the Art Department shall receive thorough training in proper safety protocols including training to properly implement and adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines including the proper utilization of PPE. Training time must be built into each production schedule and budget for all persons engaged on the project as detailed in the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force Proposed Interim Guidelines.

3. Employees are expected to immediately report to a designated person or persons (such as the COVID-19 Compliance Officer or such other person as designated by the Producer) if they are experiencing, or a member of their household is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. If an employee is experiencing symptoms or has come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 either on or off site, they must report to their employer and follow the employer’s contact tracing guidelines. The employee must take all mitigating measures such as staying away from work or being required to leave the place of work without fear of retaliation or limitations on future employment.

4. In the case that a single department member develops symptoms, the rest of that department must be isolated from the rest of the crew, and a further evaluation will made by the COVID-19 Compliance Officer.

5. Employees who can work remotely should immediately do so while contact tracing occurs.

6. PPE will be provided by the employer to all crew at no cost and meet applicable regulatory guidelines (CDC, Public Health, NIOSH, OSHA) as appropriate, Medical masks, cloth masks, and face shields reduce the transfer of saliva and aerosolized respiratory droplets to people close to the wearer.

7. All employees are required to wear provided PPE at all times when on site, on location or in the presence of other crew members or the general public, especially when closer than six feet (6’) for any period of time. An exception to this guideline would be when working in an area where no other employees are present, an employee may work without a face mask, but must have immediate access to a face mask so that it can be worn should another employee enter the work area. Consider wearing masks at all times in offices with an HVAC system recycling air through multiple offices.

8. Cleaning materials (EPA registered disinfecting methods and supplies) must be made available for any employee to clean surfaces as needed. Gloves may be worn as infection prevention PPE when touching potentially contaminated commonly shared equipment in unavoidable and equipment cannot feasibly be disinfected another way. Adequate training in glove use, including safe doffing, will be required. Non-medical (work) gloves shall be worn as usual when appropriate.

9. Hand-washing facilities for all employees must be provided at designated stations for regular hand- cleansing. Hand Sanitizer must be made available to each department / crew member / employee at all times, A touch-free Hand Sanitizing Dispenser shall be located at the entrance of every office or workspace occupied by more than two employees.

10. Maintain exceptional personal and professional hygiene practices, including:
• Washing hands with soap and water frequently throughout the day, and after each visit to the restroom, or re-entering workspaces.
• Use the Employer provided hand-sanitizing stations throughout the premises or carry personal hand sanitizer if you are frequently handling shared materials.
• Avoid touching your face.
• Clean all shared workspace surfaces with Employer-provided sanitizing wipes/spray after use.
• Observe all equipment and tool cleaning protocols.

11. Dedicated cleaning crews should clean common spaces at appropriate daily intervals.

12. Dedicated employee(s) to oversee cleaning of all spaces, and all items handled, such as samples, packages, & hardware received.

• Travel to and from sets and locations should be via personal vehicle when possible.
• When crew members must travel together in vehicles, face coverings should be worn by all occupants of the vehicle for the duration of the trip to protect driver and passengers. When possible, crew members should maintain the same vehicle seat for the duration of the trip and any return or subsequent trip in that vehicle. Consider less than full vehicle capacity to ensure proper spacing, so no one sits side by side.
• Golf carts (including keys), bicycles, hand trucks, and dollies/carts must be sanitized before and after each use. All equipment to be handled only by designated department members responsible for that equipment to avoid any potential cross-contamination. Written log of use to be maintained.
• On Lot Valet Parking – Disinfectant needs to be provided at valet stand.
• Designated parking spaces are needed for individuals who are in and out of the office multiple times during the work day (runners/PAs/Shoppers, etc) so as to minimize interaction with Lot valets.

As Art Department employees are typically part of the initial hires on a production, Heads of Art Departments need to take a leadership role in department safety and layout of furnishings and work spaces, and be diligent to make sure offices and office set ups can support physical distancing practices.

The judgment of Department Heads and their crews, in collaboration with Unit Production Managers (UPMs), and Covid-19 Compliance Officer(s) will be considered when structural and logistical changes are made to accommodate the new working practices.

Recommend assessment of existing HVAC, and office space air flow by Facilities / Studios / Covid-19 Compliance Officer(s) regarding existing HVAC. Clean air flow be examined and filters upgraded. Openable windows are of concern to Art Department employees. Provide One Portable HEPA air purifier per office / workspace.

Maintain all physical distancing practices as recommended by OSHA, including:
• Employees must maintain a 6’ distance between individuals whenever possible and wear face masks
when working or sharing space with others closer than 6’ for more than a few seconds.
• Clear acrylic shields between work stations should be considered where needed.

The primary purpose for considering staff to work remotely is to accommodate proper distancing in work spaces where possible and practicable. An additional purpose for considering remote workers during a Pandemic include employees with auto-immune conditions or family members with auto-immune conditions who may be impacted or compromised by the employee being in an office environment during the Covid-19 emergency.

Positions to be considered for remotely working should include the following positions, as well as any other position agreed upon by Production Designer, Art Director, Producer, and Production Manager. Primary Consideration for Remote Working

Graphic Artist(s)
Storyboard Artist
Illustrator / PreVis
Clearance Coordinator
Product Placement
Digital Asset Management
Set Designer(s)
Model Maker(s)
Secondary Consideration for Remote Working
Assistant Art Director(s)
Set Designer(s)
Model Maker(s)
Positions that cannot work from Remote locations effectively
Production Designer
Art Director(s)
Art Department Coordinator – though not represented by Local 800
Art Department PA - though not represented by Local 800
Discussions will need to occur regarding the Technical Support necessary for efficient remote work.

• Equipment must be disinfected prior to use or transfer, or after use with an EPA-registered agent
• Personal Computers and personal equipment should not be shared.
• Blueprints, drawings and samples should be transmitted electronically where practicable. When physical prints, drawings and samples are required, make separate copies for the use of each individual involved.
• Shared workspaces such as Food and Water Areas, Plan Benches, Worktables, Water Supply, Sample / Materials Areas, and Conference Areas, should receive a thorough disinfecting on a regular basis as practicable and necessary.
• Identify and utilize a dedicated delivery point on the extremity of Departmental offices to minimize office traffic from vendors and crew from other departments. Sanitize all deliveries (i.e. Materials / Samples / Hardware).
• Identify Dedicated Storage for Art Department equipment boxes needed to keep those items sanitized
• In any shared work space, such as cutting area, use separate marked containers with individual crew member names to segregate tools and expendables.
• Establish a dedicated Sample Room / Presentation Room away from main work areas to minimize outside interaction with Art Department office employees, so as to avoid congregating in common areas.

Off-production offices, meeting rooms and other workspaces should have best practices infection control protocols for use, especially when used for providing impromptu meals, snacks and coffee. Likewise, utilize best practices protocols for break rooms and all appliances such as refrigerators, microwaves, coffeemakers. Delivered food packages will require cleaning protocols and deliveries will require physical distancing. No sharing of dishes or utensils. Encourage single-use paper products.

Limit the number of people interfacing in person with other departments.
Meetings between and among Directors, Producers, or any other members of Production with any members of Art Department staff (Prod Designers, Art Directors, Storyboard Artists, Illustrators, PreVis Artists, etc.) are encouraged to take place remotely when practicable via:
• Phone
• Electronically – computer interface via internet
• Dedicated Office space with proper PPE and social distancing The sharing of Office Space(s), Stages, Sets, Locations, and Backlots, between independent productions must be reviewed, coordinated and approved by All Covid-19 Compliance Officer(s) of participating productions.

Potential locations should be evaluated / cleared prior to measuring, surveying, and departmental scouts.
Measuring / Scanning / Surveying should occur prior to any Tech scout to facilitate social distancing.
• Virtual Scouting should be prioritized.
• Transmit mobile video from a single person (such as a location scout) to group conferences with Key Department Heads before assigning the location a priority to tech scout.
• Self-drive to scouts to eliminate crowded vans. Employer shall provide parking.
• Limit the number of people at one time inside scout locations as per location size. Tech and Director scouts may have to be done in waves as per location size.
• Scouting a set or location prior to its construction or prep being completed may require others to stop work and clear the area to facilitate social distancing during the Director, Director of Photography and Production Designer scout.
• Tech Scout in smaller groups, such as:
Group A – Director, Production Designer, Director of Photography, Assistant Director, Producer, Location Manager
Group B – Art Department, Set Decorator, Leadperson, Construction, Paint, Greens, Props, VFX, Location Manager
Group C – Director of Photography, Gaffer, Key Grip, Rigging Gaffer, Rigging Key Grip, Location Manager
Group D – Gaffer, Key Grip, Best Boy Grip, Best Boy Electric, Location Manager
Group E – Logistics – Representatives of Art Department, Electric, Rigging, Transportation, Construction, Location Manager

Limit the number of teams prepping on a set at the same time.
• UPM(s) and Covid-19 Compliance Officer(s) must approve scheduling to keep crews segregated.
• Strictly one department at a time working within the physical constraints of a set at any one time. For example, Art Department completes construction, painting, and dressing before grip and electrical department light a set. Still Photographer is allowed access and enough time to work unhampered by other departments.

Discuss the need to create more space between new sets as constructed to help with work flow and promote social distancing, such as 6’ fire lanes and inter-set lanes. Discuss stage layouts with Covid-19 Compliance Officer(s).
Touchless dispensers / handwashing stations at all stage entrances.

With teams undertaking required safety protocols as they work in isolation, small groups, or pods to complete their work on sets and locations, the timeframe for set deliveries will lengthen. The additional time required needs to be incorporated into production schedules.
Having scripts in a timely fashion helps avoid the challenge of accomplishing last minute changes, and mitigates the potential for mis-steps in safety protocols.
Discourage the use of Double Up or Triple Up Days to lessen the interaction with multiple crews.
Consider Block Shooting to assist in reducing the amount of activities involving stage facilities and locations, and to reduce the number of in- person meetings.
Certain processes will require more time to accomplish within the parameters of social distancing and remote working. For example, drawings, set plans & corrections, printing samples of largescale graphics and getting colors matched or approved, are just some of the creative elements which take longer when not working in the same space.
Secure shredding procedures for remote workers should be discussed with and covered by production.

For sharing information and having meetings with a remote workforce noteworthy programs include:
• Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Facetime, Google Docs, Flock, etc
Zoom is good for conferencing and screensharing of desired programs, like SketchUp, AutoCad,
Vectorworks, etc.
The cost of enterprise level platforms must be included in budgeting discussions.

All printer keyboards and control panels should be sanitized after each use.
All documents for distribution should be digitalized, and digitally distributed when possible.
When physical working drawings / blue prints are required, one department staff member should be responsible for printing and sorting working drawings / blueprints.
After printing, sheets should be stored out of main work space (in hallway or exterior) for pickup to minimize office traffic. Paperwork should be placed in designated holding container for individual department pickup.

• Establish a written, worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan at every office location, perform a comprehensive risk assessment of all work areas, and designate a person at each office workspace to implement the plan.
• Regularly evaluate the office workspace for compliance with the plan and document and correct deficiencies identified.
• Investigate any COVID-19 illness and determine if any work-related factors could have contributed to risk of infection. Update the plan as needed to prevent further cases.
• Identify close contacts (within six feet for 15 minutes or more) of an infected employee and take steps to isolate COVID-19 positive employee(s) and close contacts.
• Failure to adhere to these guidelines could result in workplace illnesses that may cause operations to be temporarily closed or limited.

Additional Art Department Protocols will need to be established for the design and implementation of productions such as LIVE SHOWS / GAME & COMPETITION SHOWS / AWARDS SHOWS / SHOWS
INCORPORATING AUDIENCES / REALITY SHOWS and the integration of the public into designed environments.

Local 800 Protocols & Recommendations for Commercial Production During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In addition to the Local 800 general protocols, Industry-wide protocols, Union protocols, and company protocols, the following should be considered for commercial productions.

• Effective and early communication of agency scripts and client goals will give all departments a greater chance of assisting the director and producers in achieving these objectives.
• To encourage streamlined pre-production, client approved mood-boards should be included in Agency Director’s Brief.
• The Production Designer should be brought on board during the bidding process to assist with developing a realistic timeframe, workflow and budget.
• Identify points within the job timeline where crew will need to be staggered, or more time will need to be allocated, will inform budget conversations.
• Consider pre-dressed locations to minimize dressing and cross contamination.
• When shooting on location consider access and egress as well as size of the spaces relative to the size of the shooting crew. This should include additional ventilation, multiple access points etc.
• Set decorators and property department should be provided additional time to adhere to safety protocols at prop houses and retail store environments; this may include staggered entry, virtual shopping, limited staffing availability and limited stock.

In recognition of longer timelines to achieve objectives, slowdowns are likely to manifest in:
o Longer response times from vendors to obtain materials
o Less set decorating achievable within each day due to the likelihood of staggered entry into prop houses and retail stores
o Fewer pickups or returns achievable within a day due to likelihood of timed slots for pick-ups at vendors

• Production will be responsible for having PPE available for all personnel on their date of hire. To the extent feasible, departments should be staggered in order to work in isolation from one another. Construction, paint, dressing and special effects crews should, when possible, work in isolated shifts, while adhering to established protocols.
• On-set presence of art department should be limited to only necessary personnel, including but not limited to the Production Designer and/or Art Director.
• Production will provide for environmental cleaning.
• Environmental cleaning of a location or studio must be performed prior to the space being occupied by the any personnel.
• Any environmental cleaning between shoot periods, if required by multi-day shoots, should be conducted by the dedicated cleaning crew provided by Production.
• Environmental cleaning of a location or studio should be performed after the art department has concluded their work.
• To mitigate loss and damage, the art department should be consulted before any disinfecting products are applied to props, set dressing, greens or scenery.
• When necessary, during shooting, allow additional time for cleaning of hand props. This may add time in the shooting schedule.
• Off-site return of rental items may require more time, due to the potential of staggered entry to rental houses.
• Due to prolonged timeline of returns, consider longer art department wraps.
• Establish protocols for product inventory and un-returnable purchases prior to the end of the shoot.


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