President’s Message – June 2020

Returning to set in the time of COVID-19

June 30, 2020

Dear ACTRA Members,

ACTRA Branches have been meeting with union leaders, industry stakeholders and governments across the country to establish COVID-19 guidelines that will help to protect the health and safety of cast and crew as the industry reopens and work opportunities return. Although specific and slightly different guidelines are being released in each provincial jurisdiction, they all share similar priorities and two main goals: (1) keeping people healthy; and (2) keeping productions shooting. Film sets are complicated environments, with a large number of people working closely together and crossing paths throughout the day.

Each performer must assess their own risk tolerance when returning to the workplace and make their own decision regarding accepting work. Those with underlying medical conditions should consult with their physician about any increased risk. Performers are especially vulnerable as they move from Hair and Make-up, to Wardrobe, to Holding, to Set, to Lunch, to transport and back again, coming in contact with many individuals. They also have the added risk of performing on camera with others without the protection of masks or physical distancing.

  • Productions cannot discriminate against those with a higher risk from COVID-19 when hiring.
  • Productions cannot demand a performer waive any contractual or other rights when accepting work, including a right to compensation or health support should they contract COVID-19 in the workplace or inadvertently spread COVID-19.
  • Productions will be open to feedback from anyone on set as to how health and safety measures can be better supported, however, performers should recognize that different productions may achieve the same goals through different methods.

Most guidelines call for a dedicated COVID-19 staff person on each set who will ensure safety and cleaning protocols are being followed. Find out who the dedicated COVID-19 staff person is on every production on which you are working.

Performers should expect to be educated daily on the COVID-related protocols being followed on the set. These may include:

  • social distancing;
  • hand-washing;
  • pre-packaged craft service items;
  • boxed lunches; and more.

Crew members will be wearing masks and/or face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE). This is to protect themselves and the performers. Our job as performers is to be professional and to understand and adhere to the set guidelines, keeping ourselves and others safe.

If you are feeling unsafe, your first contact should be with the dedicated COVID-19 staff person or your supervisor. Maybe you see an area that has not been sanitized, or a person who does not seem to be following protocols. Speak up in a respectful manner and help to support the health and safety of everyone.

If you feel unable to speak up, ACTRA members (excluding our UBCP/ACTRA members) can call HAVEN Helpline* (1-855-201-7823), ACTRA’S 24/7 bilingual critical incident reporting line. You will speak with a live person who can pass on your concern to an ACTRA staff member who will be in contact with you and the production as necessary. During business hours, you can also reach out to your local Branch Representative with your concern. Note: under provincial labour law, you have the right to refuse unsafe work.

In British Columbia, our members should always notify their supervisor first, otherwise, for immediate assistance, they should call the Studio Safety Hotline. Members can always reach out to the Union Representative for the production or, outside business hours, they can E-mail (it is monitored and you will get an auto-reply that provides 24-hour contact information in case of unsafe working conditions (Studios and WorksafeBC).

ACTRA members should bring their own personal COVID-19 kit to set, including:

  • a mask;
  • a reusable water bottle;
  • hand sanitizer;
  • a few sterile wipes;
  • their own cutlery;
  • a pen; and
  • a few snacks (e.g. granola bars or fruit).

Although most of these items will likely be available on set, having your own may help you to feel safer in a sometimes chaotic environment.

Producers want these guidelines to work. They want to demonstrate to the world that Canada is ready and able to return safely to work. They want everyone on set to be respectful, safe and healthy. Their business depends on it, as does ours.

Please be safe as you return to the workplace. The challenges of COVID-19 are not over, but if we’re careful, we may be able to work at the craft we love while science works to get us all past this crisis.

In solidarity,
David Sparrow

*HAVEN Helpline, the Harassment and Violence Emergency Network, is also the place to report incidents of sexual harassment, harassment, violence and bullying in the workplace. Call 1-855-201-7823 for immediate 24/7 counselling. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.