Hailed as one of the most successful European countries in battling the covid-19 epidemic, Italy now has the lowest contagion rate and filmmakers and production companies are looking to base their productions there.
Safety protocols for filming have been issued by the European Film Commissions Network (EFCN) and also by some of the regional Italian film commissions. The regulations are in broad terms petty much the same. Comparing the protocol issued by the Lombardia Film Commission and that published by the EFCN, both require stringent risk assessment of the planned filming by qualified Health and Safety Officers and some form of safety training for crew and talent prior to filming. Both require the presence of a medically trained individual on set together with a Health and Safety Officer. Lombardia goes one step further by requiring that one member of the crew is nominated as a representative to present any concerns that staff may have during filming.
Both sets of regulations require strict protocols of hygiene on set and PPE. They recommend that staff have their temperatures taken at the beginning of each working day and that sets are closed to people who are not part of the staff.
The biggest difference between the two, however, appears to be the requirement by the EFCN that all crew and talent provide a covid-19 negative serological test prior to filming. By contrast, the Lombardia Film Commission requires testing only in the case of a crew member or actor who has recently been exposed to someone infected by covid-19. The LFC says that they can provide testing on set.
Certainly, the provisions required by both bodies will involve extra expenses. For example, transport vehicles need to be socially distanced, so more vehicles will be required. However, in terms of providing the medical personnel and testing, it may be possible for producers to get help from local authorities. Local fixers should be able to help with negotiating their regional bureaucracies to find out what resources are available.
The EFCN and LFC regulations have both been designed with large crews in mind, particularly for dramas and commercials. How documentary filming and shoots with small crews should proceed is a little more vague. No protocols have been issued for small-scale productions and when I spoke to the representative of the Tuscany Film Commission, I was told that filming with small crews has been going ahead for some time. Producers and their crews have simply followed the guidelines for the general population – hand hygiene, disposable gloves, masks indoors (not necessary outdoors) and social distancing of one metre.
Restarting the film industry in these strange and difficult times is certainly daunting. The protocol documents are heavy reading and headache-inducing. But, with a bit of perseverance, what producers need to do to protect their staff and talent should become second nature. And hopefully, soon we will all be able to get back to doing the work we love.
Marinella Nicolson is a production manager and fixer living and working in Italy.