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3 New Tips For Working Actors Going To Set In The Time of Late COVID

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I’ve been incredibly blessed to work on several sets during this unusual time. The protocols set in place by the unions are all in the BEST interest of actors, crew, and everyone coming/going on and off the set. I’m happy to honor the code of conduct, but even more happy that the health guidance in place makes it possible for the work to continue for the hundreds of thousands of artists and engineers dedicating their life to this craft as a whole. Small issues ripple out to topple big projects. So what we do on small projects may have lasting effects on how big projects operate. We gotta keep the line strong and do our part.

One my first set, I had to get the hang of the new process and keep mental notes on how to change up my routines (If you haven’t been to set YET, Click HERE). On my second set, I thought I had it down and started to slip. Don’t do that. Don’t think you’re gonna remember and do everything as safely as possible without a refresher. On that note: It’s a novel virus, so continually getting details on transmission, local infection rates, and day-to-day health guidance is not an attack on your ego but a professional responsibility. You must hold yourself to a unique standard never asked of you before.

Why are these tips unique to “late COVID” you ask? Because early COVID was more about learning how/where/why for restrictions, but late COVID is filled with people who think they have a handle on things and they remove their mask and hang out with people they know well a few feet from set. People are not distancing naturally as it’s not new to be around people. People are getting sloppy, not because they don’t care, but because time passes and more jobs are happening in a more efficient way and thus there are more moving parts. Just generally more moving parts AND more personal responsibility when no one is looking.

But what are the protocols??

The DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters and AMPTP Announce Tentative Agreement on Adjustments to COVID-19 Safety Agreement Reflecting Vaccines and Latest Science

Agreement is Short-Term; Parties Continue to Monitor COVID-19 Developments

Los Angeles (July 19, 2021) — With the ongoing goal of keeping casts, crews and all set workers safe, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the Basic Crafts, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), together with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP), today announced they have a tentative agreement on adjustments to the COVID-19 Safety Agreement reflecting vaccines and other scientific advances.

read more at sagaftra.org

So, once you’re up to date, remember that DELTA has scaled us back to relying on masks and isolating whenever possible. We are all on an industry-wide team keeping each other safe and productions running so big financiers and networks don’t scale back again. Just because the rules may loosen-up doesn’t mean we’re in the clear.

Here are the three big takeaways from my newest set experience:

1. Making a Mental Map of your Sound Stage/Location Set-Up

This past job, I was escorted everywhere (I usually am), but occasionally I was on my own for brief moments to make my way between the hair trailer and the make-up trailer AFTER I had been to set and the trailers were blocked by a new trailer addition. You must be ultra flexible! But because I am an actor, I cannot just walk up and expose myself to any tier or group. I have to be much more self-sufficient and exacting in my approach. I was left alone to exit a hot set and make my way to cast holding (where the chairs with names are gathered) on the next stage to request my shoe exchange from wardrobe before I could walk back to my trailer. I was asked to go from hair to make-up and back to my trailer several times through many twists and turns as trailers are not always stagnant all day. You cannot just walk up to anyone in a group to ask for help, your job is to stay isolated. Contact tracing depends on your isolation. So, be on alert for the strict area guidelines in which you must operate to maintain the integrity of the tier system. No one is standing around waiting to tell you what to do anymore, you gotta stay on top of your exposure.

2. Your Hair and Make-Up Will Be Touched Up, Just Wear the Damn Mask

On one movie, I was given a shield that maintained the hair and make-up look long enough to get to set and work with minimal touch ups. But a shield doesn’t provide the same level of protection as certain masks. On a bigger budget and on a larger set, I was asked to wear a mask immediately after make-up. The mask smeared my make-up and messed with the sides of my hair. I was extra sweaty and it limited my range of warm-up (vocal and physical). Everything about the mask is crappy. However, it is vital. So, touch ups on set took a little longer than I had hoped (giving me TONS of anxiety about transmission on set in those moments which are arguably much more dangerous since so many people are RIGHT THERE). But I recognize that 3 extra minutes of touch ups (even though it felt longer to my dramatic brain) is a small price to pay for masking throughout set inside and outside of stages. Make-up will smear, but whatever, anyone really upset about it knows it can be fixed in post (hahahaha).

3. You Cannot Effectively Network On Set The Ways You Are Used To

My fav *touch* that made me stand out as an actor was bringing Starbucks card gift packets with my business card in it and handing it out to everyone who touched or handled me throughout the day. I cannot do that now. I don’t even see wardrobe in person outside of set anymore and I may never see my hair person after first meeting since they are handling another actor later and I cannot ‘go say bye’ anymore. And I’m really bummed about it, but I want to respect the process. A good way to maintain an edge is to save your call sheet and slowly reach out to public work social media accounts connected to those names and write them a digital thank you card (respect their privacy, only public pages or places they don’t mind work messages: BEST example is LinkedIn). Another way may be to write a general note in the evening to leave in your trailer asking the AD to post this thank you note in a common area (by crafty) where most of the crew may see it later. You can get creative, just remember that very little people have seen your face and your name/character recognition will be what you lead with.

Bonus Tip

Don’t complain AT ALL about anything to a COVID Compliance Officer, you’re complaint is old news and they take crap all day long. Be kind. I have a friend who is doing some CCO work on the side and he told me the things people say to him all day long and I cannot imagine being a CCO and taking that in every day. So even if you have a tiny complaint, don’t share it. Their job is the worst kind of customer service. Give THEM the Starbucks gift cards, they deserve some love.

Learn more:

What have you learned on set in the time of late COVID? Message me: IG @JennicaRenee

Jennica Schwartzman, Managing Partner at Purpose Pictures Productions, Co-Founder of Little Sister Entertainment, and a member of The Producers Guild of America, SAG/AFTRA, and Moms-In-Film LA, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution as a multi-hyphenate actress-writer-producer. Jennica has been published in the Producers Guild Magazine "Produced By," Legacy Arts Magazine, Paragon Road, Bustle, and she is a guest writer for the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion Pictures' #WomenKickAss Forum, and WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a workshop teacher for The International Family Film Festival's Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has produced ten feature film releases. Jennica and her husband /producing partner /writing partner Ryan have two kiddos and reside in Hollywood.

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