Thank you to the more than 130 Location Professionals who joined us last week for our first digital quarterly Location meeting.
We received a lot of great feedback from those in attendance about the possibility of hosting these meetings in a digital format even after we are able to gather again in person; especially as we continue to see the Industry re-open. For those unable to join us, please spend some time reviewing the topics discussed from the meeting shared in this email. If you have any questions about what is provided here, please do not hesitate to reach out to Business Agent Ed Duffy for further clarification: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to take a minute to thank Arturo Pina, Adam Meyer and Adrian Fayan from FilmLA for joining us on the call to discuss updates and answer questions from our Members. We are grateful for their support during this time and for their hard work to ensure we continue to see filming re-open safely in communities throughout Los Angeles.
We also want to thank the Members of our Location Steering Committee, not only for their participation in last Tuesday’s meeting, but for their continued support and guidance during this time. We have been meeting with all of our Steering Committee’s regularly and their feedback is essential to make sure all concerns, ideas and issues are addressed. For our Steering Committee Members that have started back to work, your insight and feedback from your recent experiences shared on the call was invaluable. Thank you again to all Local 399 Location Steering Committee Members in attendance: Dresser Doug, Jessica Aichs, Diane Friedman, Eva Schroeder, Michael J. Burmeister, Robert Paulsen, JJ Levine, Greg Lazzaro, Greg Alpert, Lyons David, Steve Woroniecki, Justin Hill, David McKinney, Miranda Carnessale, Kent Matsuoka and Alasdair Boyd
Arturo from FilmLA reported that there is some light at the end of the tunnel as it relates to the COVID-19 Industry shutdown since mid-March. As many of you know, per the State, County and City, FilmLA was able to open as of June 15th. Since then, they have been seeing more permit requests and just last week they were able to open operations in all of their jurisdictions. They also reported that as of last week they saw an uptick in permit applications, indicating that work should be increasing.
- FilmLA Permit Operations is having a lot of conversations with Productions regarding new protocols and regulations as well as the role of the COVID-19 Compliance Officer. All productions applying for permits are directed to abide by Appendix J which can be found here on the FilmLA website. At this time, the City and County are not allowing any kind of signature surveys so they are vetting requests for extensions beyond 7 to 10 as they come through, having a larger discussion with the companies and reaching out to LAPD and any other permit authorities to figure out how to handle these requests. At this time, much of the decisions are being made on a case-by-case basis.
- The FilmLA Field Service department is still going out and monitoring sets and they are also abiding by Appendix J protocols of wearing a mask, social distancing, temperature checks and following any policies put in place by the COVID-19 Compliance Officers on set, etc. FilmLA is not sending a field service monitor to every set at this time as monitors are only visiting productions that would have previously required a monitor pre-COVID.
- FilmLA on Parking/Posting: At this time, they are trying to limit posting especially in multi-residential communities. For single-family neighborhoods they are trying to implement 300 feet maximum of posting. They are looking at every situation to see how to make it work, however at this time, knowing that many are working from home and that students are practicing remote learning these days, they are trying to be mindful of disrupting communities.
To see more updates from FilmLA in regards to COVID-19 head to: https://www.filmla.com/covid-19/.
They are keeping their site regularly updated to provide the most amount of information as things begin to get busier.
Secretary-Treasurer Steve Dayan provided a report to our Locations group that mirrored the general update delivered at our General Membership Meeting on July 26th. If you were not in attendance for that meeting, we encourage you to review the meeting recap shared here: www.ht399.org/5156-2/
Steve reported that things are moving along well and that we hope to see more productions continue to start back up soon, getting our Members back to work. At this time the Unions and Guilds are still in discussions with the Studios regarding standardized return to work protocols and we hope to have an update to share with the entire Membership soon. This process has been unlike anything ever done before in our Industry’s history as all Unions and Guilds are in discussions together with the Studios to make sure we return our Members safely to work and all of our concerns are heard and properly addressed. It has been remarkable to be in such solidarity with our Sisters Guilds and Unions in the Industry through this challenging time.
We recently hosted an MPI Webinar on “Understanding Your Health Benefits” to help Members better understand the resources available to them through MPI and the actions being taken by the Board of Directors, comprised of Representatives from Labor and Management, during this COVID-19 situation. Steve reiterated that President Kenny Farnell, Business Agent Joshua Staheli and himself all sit on the MPI Board as the Teamster representatives and shared that they are making decisions on a month-by-month basis to help all participants navigate issues and concerns with their benefits.
The first step that was taken when the COVID-19 situation hit was to top off people’s hours that were close to lapsing in coverage. They recently made the determination that it was more cost effective to put people on Cobra and pay the Cobra premiums than to top off the hours.
If you have questions about your hours, the best first step is to log into your account at: www.mpiphp.org. If you do not have an account, please create one, as there are many resources available to Members online.
Steve assured the Members that when it comes to health insurance, especially during this difficult time, the Board is doing all they can to protect Members when it comes to the benefits for Members and their families. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to MPI directly or the Union Hall and ask to speak to Josh, Kenny or Steve.
MPI Contact Information:
Ed Duffy provided an update on the situation surrounding the additional Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that recently lapsed. Back in June, the Assembly passed the HEROES Act that would have extended the PUA, as well as address other concerns for small businesses and worker safety, however it never moved past Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Another bill called the HEALS Act was proposed however this would have dropped the additional support from $600 to $200 weekly, and also didn’t address any of the other outstanding issues.
The HEALS Act was not passed and the Senate has gone on a 3-week recess, leaving workers in limbo as to what will happen to the additional unemployment benefits. The President did recently put out a proclamation to try to have the Federal Government pay for $300 of additional assistance and the State provide an additional $100 to make it $400 however there were many problems with this attempt. We will continue to share more on the situation as it develops.
For those still having issues collecting your unemployment, the best course of action is to reach out to your Assemblyperson to have them assist on your behalf. Please let Ed know if you need any help getting connected with your Assemblyperson.
GOING BACK TO WORK?:
We cannot stress enough, if you are going back to work, please CALL in your job to the Call Board and let them know what you are working on.
Some productions are handling new protocols very well, whereas others are not. Please get in touch with Ed regarding any and all concerns surrounding returning to work.
ON DUTY FIRE OFFICERS:
At this time they are taking the position that the on duty Fire Officer does not need to be tested and that they should still be able to visit the entirety of the set as long a Zone A cast & crew aren’t present. Ed is currently in discussions about how we can ensure the safety of cast and crew, while also working with their requests. When an update is available regarding this discussion, we with provide more information.
LOCATION STEERING COMMITTEE UPDATE:
During the meeting we heard from multiple Steering Committee Members that have returned to work on productions ranging from large to small in Commercials, Features and TV. Each Steering Committee Member had valuable advice to share from their experiences, however it is apparent that each situation should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Below is a brief recap of some recent experiences from some of our Steering Committee Members that have returned to work:
Production Example #1: Small Production with Crew of 10 People:
- Incredible to see how much could be accomplished while keeping a smaller crew.
- Everyone working on the production was in pop-up tents separated from one another.
- Posting was only allowed right in front of the house we were shooting in.
- Cleaning and sanitization happened regularly throughout the day.
- Most people in the neighborhood – with one small exception – were excited to have us back and see the Industry returning to work.
Production Example #2 – 4 Days on a Large Production:
- Working with a crew of about 160 people
- 3 Days on Location and 1 day on stage.
- There were 3 weeks of meetings prior to shooting just to make sure everyone was on the same page. Locations took feedback from all department heads and asked questions and took feedback regarding how to handle each aspect of a COVID-19 environment.
- Some challenges: Wearing a mask for 10 hours a day and having a safe area to break the crew.
- Zones were organized by Red, Yellow and Green zones, which worked really well to keep necessary departments together but limited unnecessary cross over.
- We were able to get extended hours of filming, however we were not in a special conditions area.
Production Example #3 – Location Orientated Production:
- Working closely with FilmLA to find locations that fit but can have an easier time limiting public access.
- The Location Manager worked alongside the COVID-19 Supervisor to help them out but ultimately making sure they are the ones in charge of making the decisions that pertain to COVID-19 safety.
- COVID Supervisor/Monitor should be making the decisions of where to place additional hand washing stations, bathrooms, AC units, etc. The Location Manager is there to help implement their plan as it pertains to ordering, not enforcing or placement.
Production Example #4 – Commercial
- When taking a job, make sure you feel safe.
- A recent commercial had a Director that set the tone for the whole shoot. The Director was adamant that safety take precedence over the aesthetics and he sought to create their own version of an NBA bubble.
- It was a two day shoot that partly took place downtown.
- Commercials are not requiring all productions to test, however on this commercial it was made available to crew and extended to site reps, security and LAPD personnel.
- The Director’s involvement in the safety logistics was what ensured this shoot ran smoothly.
- We hired Clean Sets as our Compliance team and they went above and beyond to make sure everyone was safe and equipment and areas stayed clean.
ADDITIONAL TOPICS IN STEERING COMMITTEE DISCUSSION:
COVID-19 COMPLIANCE OFFICER SHOULD BE ITS OWN POSITION:
Steve Dayan mentioned that the Union’s position is that we want Department Heads to assist COVID Compliance Officers, however we are adamantly against having our Members be required to perform two jobs – that of COVID Compliance Monitor, and in this case, Location Manager. Steve stressed, if you are hired as a Location Manager, that should be your only focus on set. Steve also mentioned that production may hire our Members to fulfill the role of health and safety supervisors on set, in which your pay would be that of what is indicated in the collective bargaining agreement, however if hired for that role, you should not be expected to also act in a Location Department role.
The Union’s position is that we want our Members to draw a clear line in the sand as to what role you are being hired for and it should not be to fulfill two jobs. We know there will be Producers that will be cheap about this, however the Union is on your side and will help you have these discussions. Please reach out for support if put in this position.
HEALTH SCREENING QUESTIONNAIRE VS LIABILITY FORMS:
When returning to work, companies may ask you to complete a health-screening questionnaire, which should be completed. You should however not fill out any sort of liability release forms that waive your rights. We saw this happening more in the early stages of re-opening however if asked to sign any form that is a release of liability, please reach out to the Union.
TESTING IN COMMERCIALS:
We are finding many commercials at this time are reticent to testing. It is important to reach out to the Union if you feel unsafe.
DOWNTOWN BIKE LANES:
Ed provided an update that since downtown was experiencing much less traffic, Metro/DOT took it upon themselves to escalate their plans for the next two years regarding bike lanes and protected bike lanes and they started installing more bike lanes throughout the area. Ed confirmed that if you need to move them in certain highly filmed areas, you do not need to pay for it. Simply contact them and they will remove and replace. If you are planning to shoot downtown and haven’t been down there for some time, it is recommended that you check it out for yourself as a lot has changed since the onset of COVID.
SOCIAL DISTANCING IN VANS:
At this time, there is no official set maximum number of people in vans however many have been seating between 2-4 with the Driver. It is important that all are wearing masks, sitting as far away from everyone as possible and windows are open. The Drivers will be keeping the Vans clean and there should also be additional sanitation measures taking place. When the discussions are finalized with the Studios, we should have more information to share.
Steve stressed that as much as we are discussing the importance of safety, we are also being mindful of protecting the work of our Members. It’s a delicate balance, but we not only want to ensure that cast and crew is safe, we also must protect our work and the jobs of all of our Members.