Covid-19: Spotlight on filming safely


“Remote filming still needs to be organised and safe."

The Covid-19 crisis has seen production in the UK halted across most genres, with a knock-on effect to service providers within
the industry.

The Knowledge spoke to Paul Greeves (pictured), MD of First Option, safety consultants to the media and entertainment industry, about how studios and sets could operate safely once restrictions begin to be lifted.

Paul described the impact that that the pandemic has had on his company, but also offered expert insight into how the advice the company supplies has had to be fast-moving and adaptable.

First Option’s current client roster has changed dramatically as scripted productions are in limbo.

The shows that the company is working on now are generally fast-turnaround commissions, filmed remotely in the presenters’ homes or presented from a studio but with contributors linked in remotely. However, these productions still need professional health and safety advice, adapted to encompass the current government guidelines. Paul explained:

“Remote filming still needs to be organised and safe. Social distancing needs to be maintained, cameras need to be rigged up, then eventually taken down – the kit has to be got in and out. Does the crew stand outside, can there be separation, say, in a garage or in separate OB trucks?”

First Option is closely monitoring the government advice, as well as that from the Health and Safety Executive, to develop a
series of protocols for current productions and for when restrictions start to be lifted.

According to Paul, these could include:

“Monitoring of staff. This could be done with daily temperature-taking, either with infra-red testers which we could supply, or by a protected professional medic.”

“Health declarations. This would involve self-declaring, whether you have had symptoms, or been in contact with people who have etc. This would be done with an undertaking that you would let the right people know if you develop symptoms etc.”

Although major scripted productions have shut down, there is still filming taking place around the country, and for these clients First Option is advising on methods of travel, social distancing, PPE for crew and minimising crew sizes.

Paul described this as a “hierarchy of control” – eg eliminating certain things, substituting them with other activities then
mitigating them with PPE as a last resort.

We asked Paul about how he saw the lockdown coming to an end and how it might be managed on-set and in studios.

“Whatever form the easing of the lockdown takes, I think it will be necessary to have many of these requirements in place for a
very long time to come, to bear down on the rate of infection. We think many of these protocols will apply even when productions get fully up and running again."

First Option is among the many companies to have embraced new technologies to adapt how it delivers its service – an upside that Paul believes could be permanent.

“The financial pressure is on us all – production has fallen off a cliff. One of the upsides is that we are finding the time to do
things we wouldn’t normally do, such as develop our online resources and tools and move our training online, instead of face-to- face.

“We have been using Zoom, and so far have trained over 60 people in groups of 10-15 and have bookings for over 100 more this week and next. We may well keep the online training as a permanent offering.”

Many thanks to Paul Greeves of First Option for his help in compiling this article.

Covid-19: Spotlight on filming safely
Paul Greeves
Covid-19: Spotlight on filming safely
Paul Greeves

The Covid-19 crisis has seen production in the UK halted across most genres, with a knock-on effect to service providers within
the industry.

The Knowledge spoke to Paul Greeves (pictured), MD of First Option, safety consultants to the media and entertainment industry, about how studios and sets could operate safely once restrictions begin to be lifted.

Paul described the impact that that the pandemic has had on his company, but also offered expert insight into how the advice the company supplies has had to be fast-moving and adaptable.

First Option’s current client roster has changed dramatically as scripted productions are in limbo.

The shows that the company is working on now are generally fast-turnaround commissions, filmed remotely in the presenters’ homes or presented from a studio but with contributors linked in remotely. However, these productions still need professional health and safety advice, adapted to encompass the current government guidelines. Paul explained:

“Remote filming still needs to be organised and safe. Social distancing needs to be maintained, cameras need to be rigged up, then eventually taken down – the kit has to be got in and out. Does the crew stand outside, can there be separation, say, in a garage or in separate OB trucks?”

First Option is closely monitoring the government advice, as well as that from the Health and Safety Executive, to develop a
series of protocols for current productions and for when restrictions start to be lifted.

According to Paul, these could include:

“Monitoring of staff. This could be done with daily temperature-taking, either with infra-red testers which we could supply, or by a protected professional medic.”

“Health declarations. This would involve self-declaring, whether you have had symptoms, or been in contact with people who have etc. This would be done with an undertaking that you would let the right people know if you develop symptoms etc.”

Although major scripted productions have shut down, there is still filming taking place around the country, and for these clients First Option is advising on methods of travel, social distancing, PPE for crew and minimising crew sizes.

Paul described this as a “hierarchy of control” – eg eliminating certain things, substituting them with other activities then
mitigating them with PPE as a last resort.

We asked Paul about how he saw the lockdown coming to an end and how it might be managed on-set and in studios.

“Whatever form the easing of the lockdown takes, I think it will be necessary to have many of these requirements in place for a
very long time to come, to bear down on the rate of infection. We think many of these protocols will apply even when productions get fully up and running again."

First Option is among the many companies to have embraced new technologies to adapt how it delivers its service – an upside that Paul believes could be permanent.

“The financial pressure is on us all – production has fallen off a cliff. One of the upsides is that we are finding the time to do
things we wouldn’t normally do, such as develop our online resources and tools and move our training online, instead of face-to- face.

“We have been using Zoom, and so far have trained over 60 people in groups of 10-15 and have bookings for over 100 more this week and next. We may well keep the online training as a permanent offering.”

Many thanks to Paul Greeves of First Option for his help in compiling this article.

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