How To Manage A Shoot During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Production Techniques During Covid


Medical risk assessment and risk mitigation directives for film production

We asked our Medico Dr Jeremy Cumpston MBBS to give us his professional advice on this vexing subject. Jeremy is no stranger to film sets. He is an accomplished Firm Director his latest being “Bilched,” only recently released. Additionally he is an experienced actor with past roles in a number of famous Australian Drama series. These days Jeremy juggles his Directing and Acting work with his thriving Sydney Anti-Ageing Medical Practice .For his professional advice regarding your next shoot and risk mitigation, email him at

The issue for film production worldwide is how to physically meet demands of script whilst complying with local laws surrounding social distancing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Australia is uniquely placed at the time of writing (April 21) in that we have managed to “flatten the curve” largely through lockdown and contact tracing of “imported C-19 cases”.

The challenge in ensuing months in Australia ( as has been shown in other countries such as Singapore and Japan) will be trying to contain community spread of the disease. This is the so called second wave. This cannot be achieved without widespread aggressive testing in workplaces and if found to be positive, strict isolation and contact tracing with testing.

Accepting that Covid-19 infection is a risk in any workplace (including film and tv production) is key to successful reboot of all industries worldwide.

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Each production, no matter how large needs to follow basic principles in order to minimise the risk of an infection occurring in the workplace. I re-iterate “minimise” because not enough is currently known about the incubation periods and transmission of the virus. These health safety initiatives will cost extra when budgeting the overall cost of the production. However, using them will serve to mitigate health and safety risks, and cover your insurance liabilities.

Notwithstanding this, the general principles for film production in Covid-19 pandemic are best explained giving an example of a simple production shoot:

Production Shoot⎼ For example let’s look at two US commercials for toy market that require 2 x 2day shoot in studio with ten or less actors and crew

Production Shoot ⎼ XYZ AGENCY – AZC Film company – A 2day shoot: Product Zapper Toys

The shoot is ideally in a home or studio to maximise production values and increase efficiency.

There is concern that shooting in a house or studio increases risk of latent virus being able to infect crew.

This risk is completely mitigated by performing a “terminal clean” using 70% ethanol on the studio 1 day before shooting. The studio or house must be immediately vacated and not opened until shooting (the next day). During the shoot all surfaces need to be continually wiped down with 70% ethanol solution and normal hygiene procedures need to be employed by cast and crew.

There is concern that crew and cast might transmit Covid-19 to each other and potential legal ramifications could ensue.

This risk is mitigated by:

  1. Following strict pre-production and production protocols for limiting risk of Covid-19 transmission between all film production workers (cast / crew/ production staff etc)- see below
  2. Having all film production workers sign release forms indicating they have followed the strict pre-production/ production protocols and accept the risk that they may still develop Covid-19 – for instance on their way back from set on final day of shooting

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7 days prior to shoot all cast/ crew and production team to stay or go into lockdown (isolation).

All cast/ crew/ production team need to be tested at start of isolation:

  • using both pcr naso-pharngeal swab and
  • rapid immunoglobulin test (10-minute finger prick blood test that gives information relating to immediate exposure ( IgM antibodies) and whether the individual has had previous exposure ( IgG antibodies) – and is thus for all intents and purposes “ immune”.

Any cast or crew who is positive on initial testing with pcr swab will need to be replaced.

The exception is a worker who is positive on pcr swab but also positive on rapid test in IgG- this indicates the worker is immune but still has dead viral particles in the back of their throat or nose. (The limitation of the throat/nose swab is that the pcr test will show positive for up to 6 weeks after no longer being infectious- dead viral particles remain in cells in nose and throat.

On the day of the shoot all cast/ crew/ production staff need to arrive in private cars and be tested outside of set before entering with a rapid pinprick test that will show recent exposure ( IgM) or immunity ( IgG)

If negative or if immune the worker can commence days production.

Art end of first day of shoot all workers return to home isolation before next day’s shoot.

Ideally cast and crew at end of second day of shoot on Trolls would return to home isolation for five to seven days and have a repeat pcr swab test 1 day before return for first day of shooting “Furreal”

Again, the cast and crew all arrive in private cars- all are retested on first day only with rapid pin prick test before entering the set (that was terminally cleaned 24 hrs earlier).

So, the basic principal is to undertake appropriate testing of all cast and crew AND understand the limitations of testing.

The limitations of the rapid immunoglobulin (pin prick) test is that it will not pick up exposure that occurred less than 7 days prior.

The limitations with the pcr test is that it will continue to show positive for up to six weeks after the worker in no longer infectious due to presence of dead viral particles in cells at back of throat and in nose.

Combining min 7day lockdown with testing at start of lockdown and prior to filming significantly mitigates risk of Covid-19 infection in cast and crew when combined with terminal clean of studio 1 day prior to shooting + normal hygiene when on set.


  • Nurse/ Doctor doing testing to have full PPE (gown/ glove/ full-face mask)
  • Crew to observe handwashing with provided 70% ethanol every 15 minutes
  • All crew to wear masks and cast when not on camera.
  • Masks to be changed 4hrly

Please feel free to contact Dr Jeremy for further detailed instructions regarding testing in home of cast and crew prior to lockdown (isolation), the terminal cleaning and transportation to and from set to limit risk of infection.



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