Meet the newest job in Hollywood that’s part hall monitor, part cleaning crew
The hefty (and pricey) health and safety protocols on Hollywood sets as TV and film productions try to keep the cameras rolling amid a worsening pandemic have added a new job to the call sheet: COVID Compliance Officer.
But in the months since cameras turned back on, little has been known of just what these officers do. The role was created as the result of a six-month collaboration between the various unions and studios.
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Per the agreement, the Compliance Officer’s job is to ensure that all regulations are strictly followed. TheWrap spoke with one of them who has worked on multiple TV and film productions, who explains the role goes much further than that, describing what sounds like a cross between a school hall monitor, cleaning crew and principal.
“There’s a whole list of things that we do, but I will say that I would be lying if I said a COVID compliance officer functions as a sole entity,” said Demerie Danielson, a CCO for VIP StarNetwork, a health services and technology company that has partnered with studios including Netflix and Amazon. Some of the productions Danielson has worked on include Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall” and Barry Jenkins’ “The Underground Railroad” for Amazon.
“We have a whole team. We have a health and safety supervisor. We have a health and safety manager. We have the monitor that also helps us out,” she said.
Danielson describee workdays that can be as long as 18 hours and, depending on the production, can stretch into the early morning hours. “[Compliance Officers] could start as early as 4 in the morning and go [until] 9 or 10 at night,” she said. “And then on the opposite end of the scale, start at eight, nine o’clock at night, and go until three or four in the morning…. depends on the setting of the movie or film.”
The set’s COVID compliance team typically begins its job the day before preproduction starts. It includes implementing the testing cadence and making sure there is enough PPE for everyone on set. Once filming begins, the number of people on set can balloon from the five-to-six-person Health and Safety team to as many as 800 people over the course of filming.
Each day starts with temperature checks, Danielson said, as well as an app that everyone has to answer basic questions about how they’re feeling and if they missed any of their testing days. How many times someone must be tested depends on which “zone” they fall in, she said. For example, people in “Zone A,” who are those who will be less than six feet apart and not wearing PPE at any given point (aka the actors) are tested daily. Others might be tested between one and three times each week.
The COVID compliance officers are among those who are tested daily.
Sets are split into zones. “We have different zones, where people are able to eat within the green zone,” Danielson explains. She says there are “always the two yellow zones and a red zone.” The colors mark the strictness of the area. This is where the hall monitor aspect of her job comes in.
“We walk around and make sure people in this specific zone have on PPE appropriate for their zone. We make sure that we have signage of occupancy,” she said. “If we’re in a house, we’re gonna make sure that, if they were filming in the living room, we want to make sure that the living area has the appropriate occupancy based on the square footage of that living space.”
The sets are sanitized multiple times a day, including between scenes. One of the ways they do that is with a static electricity gun, something frequently used in cleaning medical devices.
“The static electricity gun is a big one; we’re able to sanitize in between scenes. If they were in a bedroom, we’re able to sanitize pillows, the flooring, the bed, the walls. Within 30 seconds, we can use our static electricity gun and make sure everything is completely sanitized,” Danielson explained.
Though the agreement between the unions and the studios require only one person to serve in the role, Danielson said the full “COVID team” on sets is more often anywhere between three to 10 people. “It could be that you could have a COVID compliance officer and then a health and safety supervisor and then we have team leads and the monitors,” she said. “It depends on the needs of the set.”
The majority of the people that make up the COVID teams — at least the ones VIP StarNetwork provides — have some type of medical background. For example, Danielson is a former nurse. But they provide a training program that can last between two weeks to a month for anyone new they bring aboard. Having medical experience is not required, but Danielson argues their training program accounts for that. “We have special training that is tailored just to the film and entertainment industry.”
It has not been a smooth ride for productions, as anyone listening to Tom Cruise’s outburst on the “Mission: Impossible 7” set can attest. Many have had to halt filmmaking for a day or two when someone tests positive. With cases in Los Angeles spiking to terrifying levels, many productions have paused filming but are set to go back starting Monday. Danielson said that VIP StarNetwork is already beefing up its protocols, including increasing testing and making everyone wear surgeon-style booties.
“Our purpose is to help create these protocols, using our team of healthcare providers and CDC guidelines. And so we’re actually involved in creating these protocols for further productions,” she said. “We’re wearing booties; we’re wearing bonnets; we’re wearing not only goggles but face shields.”