We know this is an uncertain time not only for our industry, but for the world at large. The spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19 is top of mind across the globe, and all businesses. One of the main pillars of AICP is to serve as a resource for facts and information so that our members can more effectively manage their businesses under any circumstances, and of course do all that we can to keep this industry running smoothly.
Over the next days and weeks, a great deal of information will continue to flow from all sources. In order to help our members to navigate these waters, we created this page on aicp.com that serves as a clearinghouse for information and resources that can serve as guidelines and best practices. It is divided into issues dealing with: Office/Facility Issues, On-Set Issues, Employer Responsibility, Insurance Issues, Business Affairs and Government Links.
We will be updating and adding as quickly as viable information becomes available, and we encourage all members to return to the page on a daily basis. If any members have questions they would like to see addressed and posted—or better yet, if you have tips or ideas for your fellow members - please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course, feel free to reach out to me or the appropriate AICP Staff member directly – all names and emails can be found here.
We are here to help advise, and to be the best resource we can be to help you and navigate these trying times. Please take the time to review this information, and please reach out with questions.
THIS PAGE WAS LAST UPDATED MARCH 12, at 5:30pm EST.
The coronavirus is expected to get people sick and cause some production delays (hopefully not many). Insurance was never intended for the expected but rather fortuitous losses. A fortuitous loss is a loss that occurs at a time and in such a way that an insured would not have anticipated. With the coronavirus it is just a matter of who of us get sick, and when productions are interrupted.
Therefore, the coronavirus should be treated much in the same way a production treats weather related delays. These types of production interruptions and how they are likely to occur are too unpredictable for the production companies to rely on collecting their out of pocket costs from their insurance carriers. One of the carriers has already indicated that they will not be obligated to pay production interruption or cancellation claims arising from a government quarantine. The other carriers are being silent and saying claims are case specific and to submit the claims when they occur.
Most extra expense coverage within the production package policy requires that there be direct physical loss to property used in production from an insured cause of loss before there is any claim obligation under the policy. With the coronavirus there will not be any direct physical damage to property. The wrap-up policies and some larger production companies who opted to buy the “commercial producers indemnity endorsement” have coverage beyond direct physical damage to property used in the production, but even with this endorsement there are policy terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions that will still apply and give cause for concern.
Cancellation/Postponement vs. Force Majeure
On February 28th, and again on March 1st, AICP issued a notice and an amendment to use with any production agreement or bid during these uncertain times. Click here to view. One of the key points in the memo is that AICP has longstanding and generally accepted practices when a job is booked, and subsequently cancelled or rescheduled (See AICP Guidelines for Live Action Production, Digital Production and Post Production). With the outbreak of the virus, there have been many unknowns regarding cancellation and how it may be categorized with respect to insurance coverage, “Force Majeure” classification and corresponding costs.
In the case of cancellations, the source dictates if it’s a Force Majeure event or a regular cancellation.
If there are government issued travel restrictions that would prohibit travel to the location, it would be a Force Majeure event. If there are no governmental travel restrictions and the agency/advertiser doesn’t want to travel for whatever reason, that would be a regular cancellation. If crew members don't want to travel, the production company should secure other crew members locally or who are willing to travel.
At the moment, travel from Europe (with the exception of the United Kingdom) is banned for the next 30 days. This is a rapidly evolving issue, and the CDC has yet to post details about this on their travel page. We recommending checking this site frequently for details, and we will update as soon as more information is available.
If there is a government mandate restricting gatherings of more than 50 people, it would be a Force Majeure event. If there is no government mandate, then it would be a regular cancellation.
In both instances above, the production company may suggest moving the shoot to an unaffected location, in which case the cost of the move would be a Force Majeure event.
If a government authority revokes the permit, or restricts travel to the location, the production company would suggest alternative locations, the cost of which would be considered a Force Majeure event not unlike a weather day. It would be up to the agency/advertiser to accept alternative shoot locations, or cancel/postpone the production.
California has an updated policy on gatherings to protect public health and slow the spread of Coronavrisu/COVID-19. Gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March. Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from Coronavirus/COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.
The state’s updated policy defines a “gathering” as any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.
This guidance applies to all non-essential professional, social and community gatherings regardless of their sponsor.
Essential gatherings should only be conducted if the essential activity could not be postponed or achieved without gathering, meaning that some other means of communication could not be used to conduct the essential function.
The full policy can be found here.
It is advisable that you consult with the relevant permitting agency that issued your film permit for the most up-to-date information, as they would ultimately enforce any restrictions imposed in the jurisdiction where you are filming.
The AICP amendement that deals specifically with Coronavirus/COVID-19 should be submitted with bids and production agreements. You should request to use the amendment until no longer necessary.
Agency contracts do not contain a provision for the production company to cancel at will.
You should not shoot a project without insurance. If the agency or advertiser wrap up policy will not cover a shoot, the production company may be able to insure the job itself and charge for the insurance in the bid. You should discuss this option with your insurance broker.
Workers Compensation Insurance
Workers’ Compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for negligence. What makes an illness an “occupational illness” and thus compensable under workers’ compensation? Please click here for details.
We also advise you to speak with your insurance broker and/or payroll company for specific information pertaining to your workers’ compensation policies.
ON SET ISSUESAs production continues, it is important that companies do whatever is possible to minimize exposure to germs of all kinds. To that end, companies should consider that their sets and offices have the following:
Precautions on Set
Bleach wipes readily available and used often on craft service table and other high traffic areas on set such as bathrooms.
Consider having a PA on set or in the office who is responsible for wiping down surfaces, etc.
All crew and staff should be sent links to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) coronavirus prevention guidelines and request that they confirm receipt of the email and have read the information in the links.
Remote Setup & Virtual Viewing
There are are services that allow for video conferencing, including Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, BlueJeans, and many others. These services generally have fees associated, so research carefully and make the agency and advertiser aware that they will be responsible for this additional expense. Please note, many wrap up insurance policies do not cover transmission failure, therefore you should identify this activity in the special risks exhibit of the wrap up insurance addendum, and/or have the agency imdemnify you for costs/delays incurred with respect to transmission.
EMPLOYMENT ISSUES & RESPONSIBILITIES
This section deals with frequently asked questions about employment issues dealing with staff, and freelance employees– union and non-union.
What if a key employee (such as a director) refuses to travel or come to a set?
If the director refuses to travel to the shoot location you should discuss this with your client. Would the client be willing to move the location of the shoot? Would the client accept another director as a substitute? If the director cannot travel due to illness, the client’s wrap up cast insurance may cover it.
Is it legal for us to ask crew if they have travelled to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 hotspot countries in the last month?
It is permissible to ask crewmembers if they have traveled to affected areas but make sure you ask all crewmembers, and not single out any one individual.
Can you deny employment to anyone if they have traveled to affected areas? Can you require them to wear a face mask?
Employers can impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine if someone has traveled to an affected area or who is exhibiting signs of respiratory illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised that face masks should be preserved for medical providers. While there may be a risk in taking an adverse employment action against a crew member (i.e., refusing work opportunities) based on where the crew member has traveled and/or whether the crew member is exhibiting signs of respiratory illness, we believe that given the nature of the work, where a 14-day quarantine is not a viable option, the benefit of mitigating against exposure to the virus outweighs any risk of a crewmember filing a lawsuit or grievance against the employer.
Are there any travel restrictions/advisories from the unions?
Unions and guilds have started issuing statements. Local 399 has issued this link. The IATSE issued a notice to its member directing them to this link. For travel advisory information, please consult this CDC link.
Should we send a message to the crew saying something like “if you are feeling sick please don’t come to work, notify us and we will help replace you.”
It is permissible for employers to direct crewmembers who are exhibiting signs of respiratory illness (i.e., coughing, shortness of breath, fever) to stay home from work. An employer may also require that if a crewmember has a fever, s/he cannot return to work until 24 hours after the fever has subsided. Generally speaking, non-exempt employees do not have to be paid for hours not worked, though the crewmember may be entitled to state or local paid leave and should be afforded the opportunity to utilize any paid time off under an applicable collective bargaining agreement.
If a crew member arrived on set sick, can we send them home? Would we be obligated to pay them?
An employer may send home an employee who is exhibiting signs of respiratory illness (i.e., coughing, shortness of breath, fever). Different states and collective bargaining agreements have call-in pay / report to work pay requirements. Non-exempt employees in California may have to be paid during a mandatory quarantine depending on the circumstances. Exempt employees must be paid their entire salary if they are performing any work from home. We recommend that employers seek counsel for specific situations.
Is it ok if we ask our crew members if they have any pre-existing health conditions?
No. This runs afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act and state and local disability laws.
Can we ask our crew to bring their own hand sanitizer if they have some?
You can ask but not require them to do so.
Should we have cast and crew sign special waivers regarding the Coronavirus (i.e. in that we are not responsible if they catch it while being on our set)?
Generally speaking, in order for a waiver to be enforceable, there needs to be some type of consideration above and beyond continued employment and job compensation.
Can we take temperatures of people on set as they walk in if it is voluntary?
No, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes the position that this is an impermissible medical examination under the ADA.
Post Production Employment Issues
In the event that an editor does not want to work on a job, it is important to note that if the editor or artist is named in the contract or purchase order you must obtain permission from the agency to use another artist. If the agency refuses to use another artist, the job may cancel and force majeure should apply. If the artist is not named in the contract/purchase order, you may use another artist.
For upcoming jobs, propose a back up editor or artist for any project going forward and name them in your contract/ PO. Include language to protect for remote sessions and identify Force Majeure as applying.
You can always start by proposing remote sessions for your artists as a potential stopgap measure in case of quarantines. If the contract is already in place, propose an amendment now, whether work has started or not.
If a job is cancelled beucase the client, agency, production company or other key player is quarantined, you should refer to the force majeure/cancellation provision in your contract/purchase order for any type of delay/cancellation. If there is not, please refer to the AICP Guidelines.
Now is the time to think about remote workflows. Many businesses have implemented some level of remote capability in recent years, but those have primarily been to facilitate optional, by-choice, remote workflows. Given that we may now be facing mandatory remote work, it is important to be thinking about what it looks like when you are genuinely cut off from your office.
There are a number of measures that businesses can start prepping now to help make the transition less painful, whether that transition is simply to accommodate a single, quarantined editor, or an entire office closure.
Preparing for Artist Quarantines
Start putting some of your staff offsite now, see what breaks and what needs addressing. Better to understand the stress points before they are un-addressable.
Assess key creative staff’s current home bandwidth. Talk with your Service provider (or theirs) to understand what options will be available immediately, and what options might require some lead time should you need to increase their bandwidth offsite.
Create portable drive backups at the end of each day and send them home with the artists responsible for the work. You may not know that you won’t be coming back tomorrow.
If you work on a laptop, bring it home at night.
Take inventory of what software remote artists will have available to them and plan to distribute software as needed.
Are your licenses served on the local network or tied directly to machines? Do you need to contact software providers to be ready to move licenses? Be sure to have IT do a serious inventory of plug-ins for products that make liberal use of them (After Effects, etc) and be ready to move or acquire new licenses. The same is true for fonts, dongles, etc.
For new jobs, consider having a plan to substitute creatives should it become necessary. Speak with your potential clients regarding creative options and bring them on board with solutions prior to commencing work. Keep any backup or substitute talent in the loop on the job.
For jobs already in progress, think about ways to integrate that same thinking – can you start having an idle creatives shadow the job so they are at least acquainted with the job before they need to pick up the work.
Introduce your clients to the other staff – assistants, other creatives to make them more comfortable should they need to interact with new people.
Start to canvas your clients now as regards supervised sessions. Put plans in place so that they are prepared if you need to switch to remote supervision.
Preparing for a Full Office Closure
Make sure that you have redundant, off-site storage for your data. That may mean buying additional drives and backing up twice at the end of each day. If the drives are leaving the facility, be sure you are considering any non-disclosure or other legal complications should the data be somewhere someone unauthorized may have access. You may want to password protect off-site portable storage.
Buy extra drives now. If things get wonky, everyone will be doing the same
If you use cloud-based storage, inquire about your service provider’s Disaster Recovery (DR) protocols. These are often upgradeable, assess whether that is a meaningful step given your systems.
Consider forming an alliance with other local studios for short term mutual support. This could take the form of storing your redundant backups at each other’s studios, or sharing scheduling information and having an agreement in place about studio 4-walling.
Train additional people in the basics of your IT structure and machine rooms so that a single sick employee can’t bring down the whole operation. Consider that it may be worthwhile contacting a 3rd party IT support provider so that you have back up if you need it
Remember that your building could close due to the contamination of an unrelated company on another floor and that this could happen quickly. What safety measures should you be taking to be ready to leave your office uninhabited for 14 days (or more). Do outlets need to be covered/ coverable? Make sure that systems are on UPS power and be prepared to shut down anything that needs to be shut down if you are not able to monitor it in person.
Delegate specific staff to do things like clean out refrigerators or check what is on or off when shutting down.
Delegate specific staff to enter the building should they be allowed in order to perform specific functions.
Create task-specific checklists so you can move quickly when needed.
Is there anything in how you manage receivables, payables, accounting or legal which will be hampered by not having access to the office? For example: Does accounting print checks using any special peripherals? Be ready for accounting to move off site.
Developing a Communications Strategy
Clients, staff, creatives, vendors and freelance labor may all need different sorts of communication. Try to establish a chain of command for communication. Know who should be in charge of communicating what to whom. Does your EP really need to communicate information with the entire IT staff, or is it smart to establish a hierarchy of communication? Ie: EP to Systems lead, Systems Lead to IT staff etc.
It’s pivotal to keep people in the loop, but some people need more (or less) info than others. Consider creating specific group emails for the duration of the crisis:
• Senior Management (All communications)
• General Staff
Ask yourself what sort of information you should be sharing with your clients - It is advisable to give a head’s up to current clients that you are taking positive, proactive steps to protect against significant impacts on their projects. Potential clients, too, will be made more comfortable knowing you are planning ahead.
Consider if and how your sales reps will help you to communicate these preparedness measures you are taking
Consider a pre-emptive email to agency contacts letting them know that you are well prepared should they need help.
Solicit input from your staff. They may have questions you are not answering. They may also have observations that can guide smart planning.
If you do not currently use any form of instant messaging (Slack/ Skype/ Messages, etc.), put it in place now so that staff can get in the habit of using it routinely.
Staff Benefits/Pay Issues
Ask questions now of your insurance plan – make sure you understand what is and what is not covered
Let your staff know what your policy will be as regards sick days, PTO etc. Right now you are probably going to be better off waving sick day quotas in the interest of making sure that people who are not well do not try to come to work anyway and infect others.
Freelancer booking policy should be examined: Most freelancers assume that a booking is a firm commitment. What will the policy be toward these bookings should the office close or a freelance employee become quarantined? Consider adding policy guidance and information to all booking emails/ contracts / conversations. This is true for both bookings going forward as well as bookings already in place.
Day to Day Issues
Do you have employees / permalancers, etc who are routinely paid by check in person at work? See if you can get their direct deposit info and transition them to that now – or start mailing checks and get them used to that time lag.
Consider any planned large gatherings and make decisions now about their status – are they going forward? Are they pushing, cancelling, changing? Make sure the staff knows you are on it if it affects them.
Think about how you are handling staff meals, client services etc. Serve wrapped items instead of open buffets.
Try shifting the workday hours to take staff out of rush hour public transit. Can you start at 11?
Germ spread via surface contact is a big concern, try to enforce the habit of hand washing when returning to the office from outside or arriving first thing.
Government Resources & Advisories
The following entities can provide guidance as well, and should be checked daily. If you have any government affairs questions, please contact David Gonzalez, Director of External Affairs, at email@example.com.Coronavirus Government Resources
World Health Organization
• COVID-19 Outbreak - On this website you can find information and guidance from WHO regarding the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
• Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - The CDC is the nation’s leading public health agency conducting research and providing information on the COVID-19 outbreak.
• Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers - This interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. The guidance also provides planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19.
• Information for Travel - This page includes information about COVID-19 for travelers and travel related industries.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
• Resources and Guidelines for Business - The U.S. Chamber provides information to help ensure employers are ready to implement strategies that protect their workforce from the Coronavirus while maintaining continuity of operations.
• Information, resources and guidance from the State of California on COVID-19
• Updated Guidance for Schools, Colleges & Large Public Events
• More than 22 Million Californians Now Eligible for Free COVID-19 Testing
California State Resources for Employers and Workers
• California Labor Commissioner’s Office - FAQ on laws enforced by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office as they relate to COVID-19.
• Cal/OSHA - Interim guidance for employers and workers on preventing exposure to COVID-19.
• Labor & Workforce Development Agency - Guidance for employers and workers regarding paid leave, unemployment insurance, etc.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
• Information, resources and guidance from L.A. County on COVID-19
• Information, resources and guidance from the State of New York on COVID-19
New York City Department of Health
• Information, resources and guidance from New York City on COVID-19
Directory of Local Health Departments
• National Association of City & County Health Officials (NACCHO) - A search engine for local health departments in your area.
• U.S. Department of Labor Offers Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for Coronavirus
• COVID-19 and the Fair Labor Standards Act Q&A
• OSHA: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
• OSHA COVID-19: Workers' Rights & Employer's Responsibilities
This information is designed as a service to AICP Members and is intended only to provide general information on the subject covered and not as a comprehensive or exhaustive treatment of that subject, legal advice or a legal opinion. Members are advised to consult with legal counsel and other professionals with respect to the application of the subject covered to any specific production or other factual situation.