Life on Set with COVID-19: Health & Safety
Earlier this year, COVID-19 completely changed every aspect of the ways we interact with others. In an industry like film, being in close proximity to each other is in the very nature of the work we do. While health departments, film commissions, studios, guilds, and unions began issuing safety guidelines to help our industry navigate this new landscape, the reality of life on set with COVID-19 has taken some getting used to.
We spoke with one crew member who has taken her experience in public health and found a new career in the film industry helping to make life on set a bit safer. Adriele Fugal is the Owner and Public Health Specialist at Fugal Public Health Consulting which helps productions implement safety guidelines on film sets. We asked her about what it’s like on film sets and what advice she has for crew returning to life on set with COVID-19. Read more of our conversation with Adriele below.
When did you start working in the Utah Film Industry and what is your current role?
I started working as a Public Health Safety Supervisor on film sets back in March when the pandemic hit Utah. I have a B.S in Community Health from Utah Valley University and I am currently finishing my Masters in Public Health at the University of Utah. I had been volunteering with the Utah Poison Control Center as a COVID-19 Information Specialist, answering phone calls from concerned Utahns about the current disease and its implications. At the time, my husband, Bryan Fugal, was producing a commercial when it was announced that gatherings would be limited to 10 people or less. With no pre-existing guidelines for the film industry, I drafted a COVID-19 safety guideline for his production and I started getting hired as a Public Health Safety Supervisor to implement the guidelines on various sets.
What production(s) have you been working on since Utah reopened in May?
I have worked for many amazing production companies including commercials for Harmon Brothers and Creatably, as well as a short film titled, ‘Peter Painter’, and more projects slated through the early Fall. Currently, I am working on presentations for two workshops with the Department of Arts, Communication, and Media at Salt Lake Community College.
How have your job duties evolved/changed in response to the pandemic?
When the pandemic started, I drafted a Safety Procedures Guideline for the entertainment industry in Utah. We used that document until it was replaced by the Safety Guidelines put out by the Utah Film Commission, as well as the SAG-AFTRA ‘The Safest Way Forward’ document. Back in March, there was a scarcity of tests and only people who had main COVID symptoms (including dry cough, fever, and difficulty breathing) were allowed to get tested. Today, we have many types of rapid tests available that are being used on many productions, as recommended by SAG-AFTRA. Lastly, when I started working on sets I called myself Public Health Safety Supervisor and I carried upon myself all the safety responsibility on set. Now, SAG has recently created two new positions for productions, including a Health and Safety Supervisor (HSS) and Health and Safety Manager (HSM). The HSS must have a background in Public Health or Epidemiology, and the HSM (who helps execute the plan on set) must at least have film-related experience.
Since this change, I have been working in SAG qualified productions in this new position as an HSS, and my duties include creating a COVID-19 safety plan with the producer during pre-production. During a production day, I am responsible for screening all cast and crew to make sure they have no symptoms. I am responsible for the testing process, including hiring the company to do the testing for the production. I buy and distribute PPE to the cast and crew, and make sure there is enough for the entirety of production. And lastly, I monitor every department for guideline compliance, and I make sure the locations have adequate airflow.
What day-to-day precautions are new normals on set?
The day to day precautions I follow on set are guided by the CDC, OSHA, WHO, the State of Utah, and Film industry guidelines. I send a COVID-19 Screening Questionnaire before production day to assess the health of the cast and crew, as well as to identify if any extra measures need to be implemented in order to keep everyone safe. During production, I check the temperature of everyone on set daily. As masks are a requirement on set, it is my job to explain to everyone the correct way to wear a mask and do compliance checks throughout the day. All sets need to have hand washing and hand sanitizer stations, although sets become busy, every 45 minutes I bring hand sanitizer to all cast and crew to ensure they disinfect their hands. Another normal procedure during this pandemic is disinfecting highly touched surfaces. Between setups, I open doors and windows in order to let fresh air flow if we are indoors. I disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, kitchen and bathroom faucets, and any other high-traffic areas. Lastly, I continue to make sure only essential cast and crew are in close proximity for shooting and that everyone is maintaining social distance.
What advice would you give to those who aren’t sure what to expect returning to set?
My most important piece of advice for anyone returning to set is to follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines given by the production you are working with. These guidelines are put in place to keep the cast and crew safe and should be taken seriously. All we know and implement on set is backed up by scientific evidence, so please keep any personal opinions at home and let the COVID-19 Compliance Officer or Health and Safety Supervisor do their job, which is to keep everyone – including you – safe.
To learn more about Adriele’s experience in the film industry, check out her Crew Listing in our Utah Film Directory.
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Allie Russell is the Marketing Coordinator for the Utah Film Commission. For any press and media inquiries, contact the Utah Film Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.