Shooting on location, post-lockdown

Following the introduction of Covid-19 industry guidelines, we were asked to scout and manage locations on a recent TV Commercial shoot. With the location provided by our location Library, Location Management and Covid Marshalling by Locaters Darren Pratt and Nick Williams, we asked the guys to share their thoughts on their first time shooting on location since Lockdown began.

Here’s what they had to say:

What did the shoot entail from a locations point of view?

Nick: “There was a crew of thirty three plus two cast (they were a couple in real life so could be together safely on set and not have to remain two metres apart). The location was a large private house with plenty of space, both inside the house over three floors and outside with a front lawn and large back garden. There was one prep day and two shoot days.”

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Nick: “Working to APA guidelines but having to do so within a budget was a challenge, we had to work out practical solutions to fit within the budget. Keeping a one way system was one of the biggest challenges even though the house was massive there were still areas where people had to pass each other closer than two metres. Encouraging people to wash their hand more often and spraying and cleaning down equipment was a challenge too with constant reminders needed.”

Darren: “I had some initial worries about presenting the locations as I expected the brief would still override the new guidelines but after the Director’s recce it became apparent that the smaller houses would be far too difficult to operate in under the new guidelines. It became clear that we would need a large house with lots of rooms, a big garden, good ventilation and as many entrances and exits as possible. Ideally the house would be empty or the owners could be accommodated elsewhere but this often isn’t practical. We settled on isolating the owners to certain parts of the house that were not being used by the production once the pre-shoot Covid clean had been completed. The house we used luckily had a top floor with two bedrooms and two toilets. They were allowed to go in and out but agreed not to enter any of the rooms being used by the film crew and they were given a take away meal allowance. When they did have to go in and out, they wore PPE.”

Was there anything you felt was easier than anticipated?

Nick: “I had expected there to be difficulty enforcing the new guidelines but generally the crew were happy to comply with a little bit of encouragement. 

Darren: “My main concern was that Location owners would be worried about Covid being brought into their home but after explaining our procedures to them they all seemed fairly relaxed. I was surprised at how often the crew washed their hands and were pretty good with keeping masks on. I thought the logistical side of the cleaning would be harder.”

How did people respond to the new guidelines?

Nick: “On the whole everyone responded with positivity, especially when they started to realise that the pace of work could be slower, they seemed to relax and work at a safer pace, allowing social distancing to be observed more easily.”

What were the key things you’ll take away from the experience?

Nick: “The mobile washing stations were great and staggered call times worked really well. Having areas for cohorts to keep their equipment and base themselves as a team worked well. We also implemented toilet allocation lists on the WC doors – we had three WCs with 10 people allocated to each loo.”

Darren: “One of the main takeaways for me is that people don’t want to eat in their cars so it’s best to make sure there is plenty of space for them to eat lunch two metres apart. Luckily the house had lots of different areas to allow for this. Minimising the tea table helped with the amount of rubbish during the day and one runner managing the tea table worked well. The staggered call times also helped a lot as it allowed the location owners to get sorted before everyone descends.”

And finally, anything you’ll be keeping in mind for next time?

Nick: “Going forwards, it’s going to be essential to plan thoroughly and a prep day is key to ensure the location ready for the crew to arrive and start working safely. We had an E-Z up for the Medic at the entrance to the drive so crew could wash their hands, have their temperature taken and be briefed on the guidelines, where their allocated WC was and where their cohort / equipment area was before being allowed on set. We made sure there was lots of signage around the location to make things crystal clear.”

Darren: “The prep day before the shoot was essential for a production of this size. We had 11 E-Z ups to put up, preparing make-up and costume areas, and putting in lots of signage and floor covering. We also spent more time on the production recce which allowed for more thorough preparation. The Medic was very helpful in calming people’s concerns and he could check temperature on arrival and hand out PPE. Lots of bins are key – we had one in every toilet for hand towels and then by each wash stations, all with lids and foot accessed plus separate bins for PPE.”



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We caught up with the owner of one of our favourite locations, Brown House, for an insight into her experience of recently hosting a multi-media shoot during lockdown.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to host a shoot during lockdown?

Personally I was happy with the idea, however some of the family were concerned about strangers coming into the house who might bring infection, so we thought about it quite a bit. It made an important difference that the shoot was in the garden rather than in the house.

What were your main concerns ahead of the shoot?

The shoot itself was to be outside, but of course the crew would need access to the kitchen and the loo, so would not be entirely outside. The main concern was if the crew were not careful, they could inadvertently bring infection into the house. They were reassuring that they would be very restricted where they went and we decided we would disinfect the surfaces in the kitchen and the loos after everyone had left.

How did the experience of this shoot differ to pre-pandemic shoots?

Everyone was absolutely delightful, as always! On the recces, everyone wore masks, used hand sanitiser and kept their distance. They spent very little time inside the house, for instance they waited for each other and talked outside, rather than all being in the house at the same time.

How was your experience while the shoot was happening?

I was in the house to start with, but out for most of the day. The team were thoughtful, for instance they suggested opening up the side gates to give most people direct access to the garden, which limited the number of people who needed to come into the house. And they brought a winnebago, which was used as a green room instead of using a room in the house. During the day, someone needed to make a call – rather than just go ahead and use the study, they phoned me to ask if it would be OK for that person to sit in the study to make that call, which of course was fine.

Did you feel that the Covid-19 safety precautions put in place by the production were adequate?

Yes, very much so. Everyone was wearing masks, including outside even though it was hot. Most or all people were outdoors most or all of the time, they set up tents outside, so there were just a few people in the kitchen. Covid warning signs were also put up,  reminding everyone to wash their hands and the loos were clearly signed so no-one would go into the wrong rooms – they were very careful. And the house was left immaculate afterwards, as always.

What advice would you give other location owners, ahead of hosting a shoot in the current climate?

It’s a personal choice, people must make their own decisions. However I am happy we did it and this was a few weeks ago, the virus was more prevalent then than it is now. When we got back in the evening, we wiped down with disinfectant all the doors and surfaces where people would have been, it didn’t take long.

Any further comments or interesting tidbits you’d like to add?

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