film companion

One of the biggest questions facing the film industry right now is when film shoots can resume. And even when they do, how do film crews, which usually have upwards of 100 people, maintain social distancing and high sanitation standards? We asked Dr. Maherra Desai and Dr. Rajesh M Parikh, the authors of ‘The Corona Virus: What You Need To Know About The Global Pandemic’, to help devise a list of strict dos and don’ts that should be observed on a film set to create a safe work environment.

Dr. Maherra Desai, M.A. (Clin Psy), M.Sc. (Psy), Dip. Cl. Res, is a clinical psychologist and medical researcher, at Jaslok Hospital & Research Center in Mumbai. Dr. Rajesh M. Parikh, M.D., D.N.B., D.P.M., F.I.P.S, is director, medical research & Hon. neuropsychiatrist, at Jaslok Hospital. Here are their 25 rules for how to conduct a film shoot during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Evaluate the need to work

Group gatherings are prohibited during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider working on projects from home or delaying them for a safer time. Once the lockdown lifts, risks will continue for some months.

2. Reassess scripts/storyboards

Consider travel restrictions, minimize extras, and comply with physical distancing norms while re-evaluating the script/storyboard. Avoid scenes that involve close proximity (breathing the same air). Ideally, physical contact between actors should be avoided and physical distance of at least one meter should be maintained. If this cannot be avoided, consider quarantining actors prior to the shoot.

3. Reassess shooting schedules

Make allowance for disinfection and cleaning routines, physical distancing and other precautions (e.g. costume and lighting can happen at different times). Consider one-way systems in high- traffic areas (e.g. lifts, stairways, markings on the floor). Travel outside city limits may require permissions. Foreign actors or crew may require governmental approvals and should follow local guidelines.

4. Consent from crew

The production company should obtain consent from crew members in writing. They must be informed of the risks of fieldwork during the COVID-19 pandemic, precautionary measures, insurance and liability coverages. In case the crew comes in contact with anyone who is later found to be COVID-19 positive, they must inform their supervisor immediately.

5. Medical doctors

The production team should assign two doctors who are accessible to the crew members at any time. Arrangements for COVID-19 testing and treatment of crew should be planned and specified.

6. COVID-19 supervisors

Safety training and regular COVID-19 updates for all crew members (addressing specific concerns for various roles) should be provided prior to starting a project, as well as on a weekly basis or earlier if a significant update is available. Crew should also be trained regarding cleaning and disinfection procedures to be followed on returning home. A dedicated COVID-19 supervisor should be assigned to the set. Each sub-department should have a member take responsibility to ensure COVID-19 compliance.

(From left) Dr. Rajesh M Parikh, Dr. Maherra Desai and their book ‘The Corona Virus: What You Need To Know About The Global Pandemic’.

7. Health status

Each crew member should submit their medical history. High-risk individuals (identified by the doctor) should not be signed for the project. Daily checking of the health status of crew members is recommended. An unwell crew member should not report to work and should inform the supervisor. If at work and feeling unwell, the COVID-19 supervisor and/or doctor should be immediately informed.

8. Contact tracing protocols

The production team is responsible for daily maintenance of lists of crew members with their contact numbers, times of signing in and out as well as how and with whom they travelled.

9. Minimum staff

The production team must ensure minimum staff. Personnel could take on multiple roles. Crew should be on a long-term basis with adequate back-up. Story and filming should be modified to minimize extras. Sets should be closed to the public, including relatives and friends. Crew timings should be staggered so that there is no crowding during entry or exit, and minimum crew is present at any time.

10. Maintaining staff records

Personal device app-based log in systems should be considered instead of fingerprint biometric systems.

11. Staff protection

Everyone must wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water on reaching and before leaving work. Hand sanitizers should be provided to each crew member and/or should be placed everywhere. Appropriate handwashing with soap outside dining areas and toilets is important (no common towels; instead single use disposable tissue papers along with closed trash bins with lined bags). Work appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) should be provided to the crew. Greetings must not involve any physical contact (no elbow or foot bumps).

12. Disinfection practices

Appropriate cleaning and disinfection of spaces before and after work on the set, especially closed spaces (good ventilation is critical) is mandatory. For open spaces, consider disinfection sprays. Specific personnel should clean and disinfect all objects on the set (furniture, microphones, ports, costumes, wigs, props, etc.). Avoid sharing props between artists. Equipment should be kept on site. Toilets should be disinfected after every use by specific additional staff.

13. Catering

Pre-prepared single use meal boxes are preferred to buffets. Water should be provided in single-use disposable bottles or by dispensers with foot pumps. Staff should bring their own bottles. Mealtimes should be staggered. Shared spaces like kitchens and dining areas should be cleaned and disinfected after every use.

14. When physical distancing cannot be maintained

Make-up artists, costume designers, sound crew (when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet is not possible), should wear appropriate PPEs. Masks should be changed every 4-6 hours, or when moist, damp or dirty, whichever is sooner. Actors should carry their own make-up, to be handled by make-up artists with single-use gloves. Extras to apply make up for themselves if possible. For actors, including extras, who appear before the camera, wearing PPE is not possible. When physical distance cannot be maintained during shooting, frequent testing should be provided to test for COVID-19, the duration of which can be predetermined by the doctors.

15. Irreplaceable crew members

The director, lead actors and irreplaceable crew should wear PPE when feasible and maintain adequate physical distance with separate bathrooms, dining areas and fitting rooms.

16.Waste Management

For disinfection waste and potentially infectious materials, special biohazardous protocols must be followed for disposal.

17.Meetings, preparations and team discussions

These should be online if possible. Workstations/desks should be kept at least 4 meters apart.

18. Increase Awareness

Posters and regular awareness campaigns for the crew should encourage handwashing, respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, use of masks and other precautionary measures.

19. Transport Vehicles

All vehicles should be sanitized every 6-8 hours or after each journey, whichever is sooner. Vehicles should operate at 50% capacity to ensure physical distancing. The liquid/spray used during sanitization must be compliant with approvals. Attention to be given to high-contact surfaces like door handles, seats, steering wheel, gear stick, and windowpanes. Avoid air conditioning and use open windows. If AC is used, it should be on fresh air rather than recirculation setting.

20. Location lockdown while filming

Necessary permissions and police reinforcements to ensure there is no crowding during shooting and physical distancing norms are not violated by the public.

21. Housing

If the crew is at an on-site shooting location, housing arrangements should ensure adequate physical distancing. Segregation of irreplaceable staff is recommended with separate bathing, restrooms, dining areas.

22. Deliveries

Dedicated staff for receiving deliveries should keep adequate distance from vendors/suppliers as well as other crew members at all times. Staff should wear gloves when handling deliveries, and safely dispose of them. All  items should be disinfected prior to being taken in or out of set.

23. Smoking

All smoking should be done in a designated area or off-site. Crew should be advised to wash hands before and after smoking, as well as to maintain physical distance while on a smoke break.

24. Postproduction

Should be from home as far as possible. If required to come in to work, strict physical distancing measures should be implemented. Offices or studios to be redesigned to ensure 1-meter distance between workstations with no face-to-face seating.

25. Go paperless

Avoid sign in and sign out logs, call sheets, paper scripts, bookkeeping and paper receipts. Move operations online when possible using shared documents or apps on personal devices.


The information is of a general nature and not intended to address specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Specific advice should be sought from qualified professionals prior to relying on information in this document. Additional Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be prepared to meet specific needs. 

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