Cinematographers Guild Leaders Discuss Work That’s Underway To Reopen Film & TV Industry

Reopening the film and TV industry “is not going to be linear and it’s not going to be simple,” said Rebecca Rhine, executive director of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, in today’s video message to her members. “We’re just gonna have to keep looking at all the different variables and come up with the most effective way to keep people safe, and there’s nothing more important than getting this right.”

Watch the video above.

Local 600 president John Lindley said that one of the main instruments through which the industry will reopen is the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee, which has been active for decades in developing safety protocols for film and TV production. Lindley noted that the Safety Committee met last week and will meet again next week “to talk about a real set of safety protocols to allow us to get back to work.”

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He said that a real-world set of protocols is necessary because “Lately we’ve been buried under an avalanche of safety protocol documents from around the world, and they run the gamut of completely vague and meaningless to being so thorough that you can’t imagine ever using them on an actual set.”

Lindley said that when he speaks at the Safety Committee meetings, he stresses that he is “confident that our members can create the quality product with the efficiency standards that the producers require, and that we’ll do that with full crews.”

“And one of the things that we’ve tried to do at Local 600,” Rhine said, “is anchor those discussions in a certain group of principles which allow us to keep people safe. So we talk about having a safety officer on set; we talk about making decisions based on medical expertise; we talk about avoiding discriminatory practices, or HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations if people’s health care or age are brought into the discussion. We talk about crews that are robust that include all of our classifications that are still working because of better planning and because we know how to move people around. Nobody knows how to do that better than our members on the set.”

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Rhine also noted that “there are many other groups in our industry having this conversation, and we’re also reaching out to them, or they’re reaching out to us” – including the American Society of Cinematographers, the Society of Camera Operators and the Production Equipment Rental Group. “There’s a whole group of people looking at this, and we want to make sure that every element of the work we do is covered.”

To illustrate the changing landscape, Lindley pointed to two shows that he heard about just this week. “One of them is a feature that was supposed to start up again in September, and now the director has decided not to start up again until there’s a vaccine, which is a long ways away. Another show I heard about is a streaming feature that’s now targeting August as their start date, and they’re confident that they’ll make that date. Different genres have different methods. We’ve heard about quarantining and we’ve heard about testing.”

But Rhine noted that “even testing, let alone a vaccine, is complicated. Is their saliva testing? Is there blood testing? Do you test in the morning? Do you test at night? Do you need lab capacity? And the medical experts that we’ve talked to said that the conversation about testing is going to be different in a month than it is today. So all of this serves to remind us that this is not going to be linear and it’s not going to be simple.”

“And during all this, it’s still a very emotional challenge for a lot of us,” Lindley said, noting that at a recent Safety Committee meeting “a representative from an Eastern region local that has really suffered from illness and some death, just broke down talking about how difficult this is. And we know that it’s very difficult for all our members in every region.”

“The good news,” he said, “is that all this discussion about safety protocols is a sign of everybody’s eagerness and willingness to get us back to work.”

Rhine ended by saying that this historic moment has presented an opportunity “to talk about a safer culture in the workplace and ways to protect people that we’ve tried to talk about for years – but this is a moment in time when that conversation is being joined by everybody else in the industry.”

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