COVID-19: What’s Changed for Assistant Directors?

Are you working in a safe and secure working environment as an AD? AD Guild explores how different productions are working in a post-COVID era, particularly as new health threats emerge.

In line with the Government’s ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan, the British Film Commission has updated its Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance to help productions continue to manage the risk of COVID-19 as part of their overarching Health & Safety considerations. Productions have been asked to use this guidance to consider specific risks and decide which mitigations are appropriate to adopt. We hear from AD Guild members on how they are experiencing health and safety on-set, as well as the latest updates in social distancing, mask wearing and other safety measures.

In a post-pandemic world, defined by the ‘new normal’, it seems clear that there are still plenty of measures in place throughout the production process. However, these do not seem to be practiced to the same extent as they once were.

“I have not experienced social distancing, however mask wearing is a must on set!” shared one AD Guild member, although they admit it has certainly become more relaxed. Others stated that in theory social distancing and mask wearing were encouraged, however in practice rarely occurred. “On stages and interior locations, but in practice no” an AD Guild member shared, as well as acknowledging variables such as whether these were exterior or interior shoots with “small crew in an expansive space”.

Although the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test has been removed by the government, it has in turn meant AD’s are faced with greater health risks, where environments on-set are much less controlled. Likewise, with routine government contact-tracing ending, it now requires self-reliance throughout the production process including taking sensible precautions.

Many AD’s have welcomed the idea of going ‘back to normal’, and have been grateful for the COVID-19 testing procedures that were once in place. These have made the working environment on-set feel safer and more secure for many AD’s. “Wearing masks and being tested regularly has kept me and my colleagues much more at ease during the last two years” states one member of AD Guild.  

However, since the threat of Monkeypox, which has dominated UK headlines, it seems little has changed in regards to health and safety. With many AD’s left without the financial security of sick-pay (which varies between productions), the latest ‘health scare’ comes with its own concerns. “My last contract stated that if you can still fulfillyour role from home, then you will remain on full pay”, shared one member. “However, if you become too incapacitated, it was at the discretion of production whether or not it would be full or half pay [while sick]”.

The consensus from AD Guild members is that they are raring to get back to normal, with some feeling ‘very strongly’ that mask wear outside, and other outdoor precautions, are no longer necessary. With this being said, and as the production industry moves into a more dynamic stage post-COVID, “Living with COVID” and other potential health risks require a resilience across all members within production, with appropriate risk assessments being vital as we move forward.