Film and TV Production in the Times of Coronavirus Part II: New Normal Production Protocols for Filming in Mexico

This is the second on a special series of posts in which we will be discussing how the Coronavirus pandemic is slowly changing the film and TV industry. Us being a Mexican film production company, this time we will highlight the shift on the Foreign film and TV productions shot in Mexico.

During the Coronavirus pandemic and while we transition into the new normality, writers, creatives, directors, photographers, art designers and all the creative people involved in the audiovisual arts have been working from inside their homes, and when we say from inside we also mean from the depths of their minds, hearts and souls. Maybe they’re alone, maybe they’re happy, maybe they’re frustrated, maybe they’re focused; whichever emotions they are feeling right now they will soon be turned into new emotionally charged audiovisual works as a consequence to this crisis that not many of us had ever lived through before. It will be a new generation filled with creations made during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Until the creatives do their part, we as a production company are working hard to create new filming protocols in order to ensure the safety of our cast and crew, which is an enormous task without a doubt. We have to take into consideration masks, safety glasses, protective suits, scheduling, extreme hygienic measures and most importantly, maintaining a safe distance between the members of the whole crew working behind the curtain.

The global Coronavirus lockdown varies greatly from country to country, or even from state to state, or municipality to municipality. Therefore, Film and TV productions depend heavily on the local orders of their current filming location. Filmin Cancun has been working closely with national and local regulations in order to make easier the evolution of the new normality production system.

While we wait for the foreign crews to come film in Mexico with us, Filmin Cancun has created “Remote Shooting” packages which generate many benefits such as no foreign crew travelling from other countries, therefore using only local crew and staff, meaning that significant production costs are reduced, and mainly and most importantly: we avoid contagion. Our Remote Shooting packages include as many pre-production zoom meetings as necessary, streaming during scouting and streaming while shooting so that that the director, producer and creative team are able to guide the shoot and offer their input. Foreign production companies do not need to worry; the safety of the local crew will be our complete responsibility.

The following guidelines are some of the most concrete regulation steps we have traced as part of a safety plan in order to avoid COVID-19 contagion when working remotely, all while taking into account the WHO health recommendations and other government restrictions:

  • TESTING. Approximately, 7 days before shooting begins a serologic test should be applied to all crew members who will take part on the filming. This test is used to detect all of those individuals who are already immunized. Also, 2 days before shooting a PCR must be applied to all crew members who are not immunized according to the serologic test previously applied. Main actors will need to have this test applied once every 7 days in order to continuously identify if there has been any contagion between those crew members that do need to have physical contact.
  • TEMPERATURE. Body temperature will be measured to every crew member before they access the working space. Such measurements will be done using an infrared thermometer that does not require any physical contact. If the body temperature ascends to 37.5 °C (99.5 °F) or more, the crew member must be sent to their home residence or to a health center so that the fever’s origin can be diagnosed.
  • TRANSPORTATION. In the case that the vehicle provided by the production company is not used, it is recommended to travel by individual transportation, with only one person traveling per vehicle. If more than one person is travelling, the safest distance possible must be obeyed, with one person per row of seats.
  • BACK-UP. Every essential crew member must have a back-up or substitute. In the case of an indispensable sick leave, the production company will have to decide if all of the shooting will be postponed, or if it is possible to substitute the crew member on leave for another teammate.
  • CATERING. A continuous mealtime schedule will be established so that the crew can take turns to have their meal. Following the sanitary orders, the food will be distributed in closed personal lunch boxes to avoid unnecessary manipulation and it will be consumed on set, taking into account the recommended social distance of 2 m (6 ft).
  • SET. On set, only the essential technical and artistic team members should be allowed to be up close, the rest of the crew members will be able to watch the filming remotely through special devices (Q-take, GoPro, etc). It is recommended that all of the isolation and hygiene measures are enforced between the workspaces and shooting personnel that have been disinfected so that the security and cleanliness on the film location, make up sets and other are guaranteed. Besides, it is recommended to establish different access points for the shooting crew and the rest of the team, while increasing hygiene and disinfection of the shooting spaces.
  • COMMUNICATION. Aiming to ease the communication between crew members while taking into consideration the healthy social distance of 2m (6 ft), communication devices like walkie talkies and the team members’ own cell phones with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi should be used. If possible, all of these devices should be of personal use only, and they will be disinfected accordingly before and after every full working day.

At the end of the day, following these recommendations is not a 100% guarantee against a COVID-related event that requires a further shutdown of production, and each production company is entirely responsible for its decision to begin production. Our job as a production company is to support our employees in the road towards this new normality. It may take some time getting used to the new regulations but step by step we will learn together as a team. The new Coronavirus health protocols will drive the production companies towards using their creativity and aiming for technological innovation in order to keep everyone safe all while easing each of the crew members’ tasks. This new vision that is inclusive, sustainable and rewarding of creativity will help taking the current filming techniques to the next level. What we are experiencing right now is the revolution of film and TV as we know it.