COVID-19 FILM RESOURCES
Last Updated: July 2, 2020
GUIDANCE FOR PRODUCTIONS
Austin is currently open to production business but there are safety orders in place that must be followed. During this unprecedented time, the health and well-being of our local community and industry professionals is vital. The City of Austin and Travis County's coordinated Stay Home – Work Safe Order initially issued March 24, 2020 to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The Stay Home-Work Safe Order requires residents to stay at home, except for essential activities, essential businesses, and businesses reopened under the Open Texas Executive Order. The City of Austin Stay Home-Work Safe Order was revised on July 2, 2020 making protective masks mandatory in public spaces and limiting outdoor gatherings to more more than 10 people. The order is in place through August 15, 2020 and is being enforced with strict fines. On July 2, 2020, the Texas Governor's Office issued an Executive Order which requires everyone to wear a mask in public spaces. This applies to all counties state-wide with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases. The Texas Governor’s Office has also issued an Executive Order limiting gatherings with over 10 people unless exemption is granted by the local jurisdiction.
Under Governor Abbott's set of Executive Orders known as Open Texas, On-location film, television and commercial production must follow the following Minimum Standard Health Protocols to be permitted:
Effective June 3, 2020, on-set/on-location media production may operate provided they can ensure at least 6 feet social distancing while working and comply with other safety recommendations. Because of the proximity between individuals and the collaborative nature of media production, stringent compliance with these protocols is strongly recommended. Generally, if the activity is outside, follow these protocols. If the activity is inside, follow the employer protocols except as modified herein.
The following are the minimum recommended health protocols for media productions choosing to operate in Texas. Media productions may adopt additional protocols consistent with their specific needs and circumstances to help protect the health and safety of all employees, crew, cast and independent contractors.
Please note, public health guidance cannot anticipate every unique situation. Media Productions should stay informed and take actions based on common sense and wise judgment that will protect health and support economic revitalization. Media productions are encouraged to complete the production registration form on the Texas Film Commission website, to ensure they will receive the most updated health and safety information and guidance.
Media productions should also be mindful of federal and state employment and disability laws, workplace safety standards, and accessibility standards to address the needs of both employers and employees. Productions should also comply with any applicable municipal production permitting requirements.
GETTING MEDIA PRODUCTIONS, EMPLOYEES, CREW, CAST AND CONTRACTORS READY TO OPEN:
- Notify employees, crew, cast and contractors of all COVID-19 processes and procedures.
- Limit the number of individuals indoors at any time to 50% of the building’s capacity; there is no maximum capacity for a production outdoors. To the extent feasible, maintain 6 feet spacing between individuals at all times.
- Production office staff not reporting to set should follow the Checklist for Office-Based Employees and Employers. Offices may operate with up to the greater of 10 individuals or 50% of the total office workforce provided the individuals in the office maintain appropriate social distancing.
- Productions utilizing a mill space for construction should follow the Checklist for Manufacturers.
- Provide health screenings for employees, crew, cast and contractors before coming into the production offices, mill and on-set each day. A medic or designated safety officer is strongly recommended.
- Send home any employee, crew member, cast or contractor who has any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
- Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
Do not allow employees, crew, cast or contractors with new or worsening signs or symptoms listed above to return to work until:
- In the case of an employee or contractor who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to work when all three of the following criteria are met: at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications); and the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; or
- In the case of an employee or contractor who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and does not get evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, the individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to work until the individual has completed the same three-step criteria listed above; or
- If the employee or contractor has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to work before completing the above self-isolation period, the individual must obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis.
- Take the temperature of all staff upon arrival at the set or other location.
- Do not allow an employee or contractor with known close contact to a person who is lab- confirmed to have COVID-19 to return to work until the end of the 14-day self-quarantine period from the last date of exposure.
WHILE IN PRODUCTION:
- Close sets to all visitors, clients, office personnel, and other non-essential personnel.
- Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable hand towels for employees, crew, cast and contractors to clean their work surfaces.
- Disinfectants should come from this list: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n- disinfectants- use-against-sars-cov-2
- Provide hand sanitizer or a place to wash hands with both hot and cold water with hand soap, disposable towels, and a no- touch trash can.
- Individuals should, to the extent feasible, maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others.
- Consider placing readily visible signage at the entrance to the set, production office, and mill space with the phone number of the production’s safety officer and or the employee in charge of supplies for sanitation, etc.
- When possible, pre-production, production, and post-production meetings, location and technical scouts, and conferences should occur virtually.
- Consider limiting daily hours worked to allow for crew rest and time for proper sanitation of work spaces, equipment, costumes, props, and set decoration.
- Remove all unnecessary items from set, limit personnel congregating, and do not store equipment in common areas. Consider quarantining costumes, props, and set decoration until needed.
- Sanitize props and set dressing prior to filming use, during breaks, and upon completion and storage.
- Consider placing readily visible signage at each entrance and eye-level at stations notifying employees, crew, cast and contractors that people with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have recently been exposed to someone with symptoms must leave work immediately. Reminders to wash or sanitize hands and other safety practices should also be posted in common areas.
- When possible, crew members and contractors should not share equipment, and individuals should supply necessary tools from their personal kits. Any shared tools or equipment should be disinfected before and after use.
- Employees, crew, cast and contractors should wash or sanitize their hands upon entering the set or offices.
- Face masks or fabric face coverings should always be worn by employers, employees, crew, cast (when not on camera) and contractors when on-set even when individuals are practicing socialdistancing.
- On camera talent, who are not able to wear a mask while performing, should wear a mask or face covering before and after they complete their performance. Performers may be subject to additional safety requirements pertaining to their trade organization or guild.
- If at any time an employee or contractor touches their face, nose, eyes, cell phone, door or any surface they have not sanitized, they should immediately rewash their hands with soap and water.
- Use disposable supplies to keep from having to handle and disinfect multi-use supplies.
- Use disposable towels when possible and dispose of them after use.
MAINTAINING A HEALTHY SET:
- Wipe down all and disinfect surfaces daily and between use including computers, landline phones, etc.
- To minimize personnel on set, consider moving some departments off set to remote locations where they can still fulfill their functions.
- Fully sanitization workstations daily. This includes a complete wipe down with disinfectant cleaners or wipes of all surfaces touched and equipmentused.
- Clean and disinfect shared equipment and tools before and after each use.
- Discard single-use equipment and tools after use.
- Wipe clean and disinfect electrical equipment that cannot be immersed in liquid before each use.
- Store all clean and disinfected tools, equipment, and materials, such as costumes, in a clean, dry, debris-free environment when not in use.
- Store clean and disinfected tools and materials separate from soiled tools and materials. Ultraviolet electrical sanitizers are acceptable for use as a dry storage container.
- Thoroughly clean floors each day.
- Empty all trash containers daily, and keep the containers clean by washing or using plastic liners.
- Catering meals and craft service items should be individually packaged. Utensils should be single use.
- Individuals should eat separately and practice social distancing and when breaking for meals. Consider staggering meal breaks for crew and cast.
Offices are also allowed to open with 50% of the occupancy level. If you own or rent a production office or studio space with an office connected, it is applicable under this definition as long as all outlined requirements are met. You can find the minimum requirements for offices and the other Phase II businesses detailed by the Governor’s Office Open Texas website: https://gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas
Film, television and commercial productions in Austin should continue to observe and adhere to the health and regulatory recommendations of national, state and local public health officials. The Austin Film Commission is in close contact with regional public health officials and elected officials, as well as with international film associations, and is actively communicating with you as the situation changes.
City of Austin Permits are still currently being issued.
CITY OF AUSTIN RESOURCES
The City of Austin’s Public Health department is actively involved in the response to COVID-19. For the latest local news including safety information, emergency mandates and additional Austin resources, please visit www.austintexas.gov/COVID19.
The City of Austin is offering free COVID-19 testing. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you can use the link above to take an online assessment to pre-register for free testing and schedule a no-cost, drive-through COVID-19 test at a local Austin Public Health facility.
The City of Austin Economic Development Office has a number of Economic Recovery Resources in place or coming online soon:
- City of Austin’s ATXrecovers.com - One-stop resource to help individuals, businesses, and non-profits recover from the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The website features up-to-date lists of resources for businesses and individuals; updates on local, state, and federal recovery policies; and economic indicators for the local economy.
- City staff are creating a spending framework for the $170 million that Austin received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The details for a portion of this spending framework will be shared publicly during the May 21 City Council meeting.
- In the coming weeks, the City of Austin will make announcements regarding the Creative Space Disaster Relief Program with grants for Austin creatives financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
STATE OF TEXAS RESOURCES
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) oversees the state's unemployment benefits system. If your employment has been affected by COVID-19, you can apply for those benefits. TWC will investigate why you lost your job and mail a decision explaining whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits. Applications are accepted via:
- Online through the Unemployment Benefit Services Portal (24 hours a day)
- By phone through the TWC Tele-Center at: 1-800-939-6631 (open 8am to 6pm, Monday - Friday)
TWC is aware that there may be the long wait times due to the unprecedented increase in filings and are working diligently to accommodate these requests. TWC have set some recommendations to help ease the backlog in applying.
On March 27, an emergency relief bill known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law to help order to help bolster the U.S. economy through the following initiatives:
- The federal government will send a one-time economic stimulus payment that will be direct-deposited (or mailed) based the filing of 2019 or 2018 taxes. The federal government is sending up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, depending on your income.
- Through the Small Business Administration (SBA), there will be a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) up to $10,000 that may convert to a grant. Click here to apply.
- The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. All loan terms will be the same for everyone. Click here to apply.
The US Department of Labor has issued new workplace protections through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has changed the federal income tax filing and payment deadlines to July 15 to assist the economic impact of COVID-19.
Directors Guild of America (DGA) – Loans & Waivers
The DGA is offering interest-free loans to members in need of financial aid and is waiving all patient costs for coronavirus testing for individuals that use the guild’s health plan.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) - Relief Fund
IATSE National Benefit Fund has waived all fees for COVID-19 testing for a number of membership health plan levels and is extending its annuity hardship withdrawals to include members who need Coronavirus financial aid from job losses.
Producers Guild of America (PGA) – Members Relief Fund
The PGA Members Relief Fund is being administered through The Actors Fund which offers resources and assistance for entertainment professionals in all areas of the industry.
Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) – COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund
The SAG-AFTRA Disaster Relief Fund aids members with basic expenses, including rent, mortgage payments, medical bills, and utilities.
- Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP): COVID-19 Health & Safety Best Practices Guidelines
- Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP): COVID-19 Workplace Guidelines & Considerations
- National Set Medics: COVID-19 Guidelines
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA): Job Hazard Analysis Guidelines, Guidelines for Controlling COVID at Work, Return To Work Guidelines
- DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE & Teamsters’ Committees for COVID-19: The Safe Way Forward Guidelines
- The Actors Fund: COVID-19 Resource List
- AFF at Home
- American’s For the Arts: COVID-19 Resource & Response Center
- Art-House Convergence: Pandemic Preparedness Resources
- Creative Capital: Arts Resources During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources
- Dear Producer: Resources For Artists During COVID-19
- Entertainment Partners: Free Webinar Series
- Forbes: List of Banks Offering Relief During COVID-19 (updated)
- Spark & Seed Film Festival Survival Pledge
- Sundance Institute: Free Online Courses
- Texan’s For the Arts: COVID-19 Resources
- Texas Accountants and Laywers for the Arts (TALA) COVID-19 Response Program
- Texas Film Commission Resource List
- TXMPA Resource List
- Vimeo Virtual Event Planning
- The Actors Fund
- Alamo Drafthouse Family Fund
- All Together Austin
- American Documentary Artist Emergency Fund
- Art-House America Campaign
- Freelancer COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- Freelancers Relief Fund
- Motion Picture & Television Fund
- Stand with Austin
- Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund
Where can I get a COVID-19 test?
Here is a list of Austin area COVID test sites and the requirements for each facility as far as getting the test along with turn-around times and contact details. These test sites are for the general public but tests can also be gotten from some personal physicians and medical practices too.
What actions are being undertaken in Austin, following news of the positive cases?
Austin Public Health is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation in coordination with the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local and regional public health and healthcare agencies. APH has developed a five-phase plan to coordinate COVID-19 response activities. We are currently in Phase 4:
- Phase 1: Persons Under Monitoring
- Phase 2: Persons Under Investigation (Testing in Progress)
- Phase 3: Confirmed Case(s) (No Person-to-Person spread)
- Phase 4: Limited Person-to-Person Spread (Close/Household Contacts)
- Phase 5: Sustained Person-to-Person Spread in the Community
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
APH has also activated our Department Operations Center to allow for enhanced response coordination, provided symptom monitoring for residents returning to Austin/Travis County from travel abroad, and provided prevention messaging to health care professionals, businesses, schools, and the general public. Additionally, the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center (ATCEOC) has been activated.
What the public do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
The CDC recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of COVID‑19:
- Wash hands often for 20 seconds and encourage others to do the same. If no soap and water are available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Practice social distancing. This includes avoiding crowds and minimizing physical contact. Stand at least 6 feet apart.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Cover your face around others. Cough and sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
- Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs, and other places touched often.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you can.
- If you are sick and think you have been exposed, stay home and contact a healthcare provider for advice.
Where can I go with urgent questions related to COVID-19?
If you think you are sick with COVID‑19, read more here about what to do. Should you have urgent questions for Austin Public Health about coronavirus information which haven’t already been addressed online or through regional updates, please call or email their team at 512-974-2000 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
The film and television industry is hurting. How can I help?
Though it does not seem like it at times, taking part in Stay Home-Work Safe is helping stop the spread of COVID-19.
You are right, the film industry supports many local businesses and jobs. If you can, please take a few minutes to fill out the American for the Arts: Economic Impact of COVID-19 Survey to support the entertainment industries. The survey is designed to collect information about the financial and human impacts that the spread of the coronavirus have had on workers within the industry parsed by specific geographic regions, artistic disciplines, and budget categories.
Support your local businesses! Now is a great time to buy a gift certificate or membership for one (or two, or three) of the local cinemas temporarily shuttered due to COVID-19. Get a badge for one of the over 30 amazing annual film and television festivals that are held right here in Austin. Maybe you have the itch to create... If it's time to buy or rent equipment to make a your movie, get your filmmaking tools from one of the many amazing Austin-based vendors!
Now is also the time to update or create your Austin Production Directory listing, be it a for your business or or your freelance crew member entry. The listing is free! Market yourself for those employment opportunities are around the corner. Get your contact details out there and let producers know about your skills and previous credits. The directory is also very helpful for us to track industry freelancer and businesses in the region, so when we are working with legislatures to get a more competitive film incentive, we can let them know how many constituents are impacted.
IATSE are gathering signatures for online petition asking Congress to include displaced entertainment workers in the COVID-19 relief package.
So I am stuck at home... What do I watch?
Austin content of course! For over 50 years, feature films and television series have been produced in Austin. We have a rich history of big and small screen stories told by Austinites and made by hard working, talented local technicians who are our friends and neighbors. There are hundreds of those titles streaming online. There is literally something for everyone. Keep Austin state of mind. Be sure to share with your friends and family too! Here is where to find Austin streaming titles online:
- We have weekly recommendations for you via the Austin Insider Blog, looking back decade-by-decade at what #madeinAustin films are out there to stream.
- The wonderful Screens staff at the Austin Chronicle have curated daily film recommendations via the Now Streaming In Austin series.
- The Austin Film Society (AFS) Cinema is offering some of their anticipated programming via AFS Cinema Virtual Screenings.
- The Violet Crown Cinema is working with distributors to offer a selection of films online via Violet Crown Virtual Screenings.
Food and film go hand in hand! Make it dinner and a movie if you can, please support your favorite local restaurants offering take out and delivery options!