If set safety measures fall short, will crew leave? They should.

Guest Post from The Ask-A-Producer!

We all have a breaking point, that point in which we declare, "I'm out." Have you considered what your breaking point is in relation to set safety during a pandemic?

Things have gotten strange. Our production lives are no longer predictable, and we don't know what to expect. Will we be safe on set? Will PPE be available, and will there be ample space to keep a safe distance? Who could have imagined set safety becoming so urgent?

I want my crew to know that I am doing everything possible to keep them safe. I've spent the last few weeks (months? What day is it?) on the phone, in zoom meetings, and attending webinars with producers, lawyers, accountants, and insurance agents. I'm creating policies and procedures for set safety to share that we all will follow.

Behind the scenes photo on a beach with pop up tents, strobe lighting, and a lot of light stands. Set safety during this shoot meant not getting sand in the gear.
Behind the scenes production for Country Music Television in St. Petersburg, Florida. See the final shot here!

We each need to define our line in the sand and then be prepared to enforce it. If you don't feel like there are enough (or any) safety policies and procedures in place on your future productions, are you prepared to leave?

The decision to leave set is a struggle and leads to worries about the loss of income or the burning of bridges.

Avoid the dilemma altogether by asking what the Covid-19 policies and procedures are in advance of the shoot and request practical deal memos.

I issue deal memos for most jobs I produce. A deal memo establishes our working relationship, at what rate, for how many hours, overtime rates, kit fees, kill fees, etc. Effective deal memos protect us all by making our communications and intentions clear.

My deal memo now includes policies and procedures regarding Covid-19. If you are working on a production that doesn't issue deal memos, consider creating one for yourself that outlines expected safety protocols. Start with the measures you are taking personally, to set a tone of collaboration. I've attached a sample deal memo at the bottom (below the resources), feel free to steal it.

Request a pdf of the production's Covid-19 policies and procedures before accepting the assignment. If none are available, that is a red flag.

Plan an effective exit strategy now before you find yourself in an awkward spot. Discuss it with your head of production, and put it in writing. That way, if you see your line in the sand (and I hope you never do), you'll know what steps to take. Stay safe out there and happy production!

Behind the scenes of a portrait studio with a white paper seamless background and lights on stands. Set safety back then mean not tripping on extension cords.
Waiting for improv genius Colin Mochrie to come to set. See the final shot here!


Here's a link to the best guide I've seen yet, created by ASMP lawyer Tom Maddrey. This page is the master article for links and materials related to ASMP’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic specifically focused on Health, Safety, and Legal matters.

Wondering what how to be prepared when assignments cancel? Read my last post, "Photo Assignments Postponed – Take These 6 Steps Now To Protect Yourself".

Therese is the executive producer at Andy Batt Studio, and she is the founder and lead producer at Ask A Producer, a production company for photographers and directors. She also provides consultation, estimation, and negotiation services, and teaches workshops and seminars. When she's not on set or at her desk, you'll often find her surrounded by friends, laughing with a glass of champagne in her hand.