Below are the minutes from the Production Manager's Zoom call on May 25th. Many thanks to Saoirse Anton for minuting the meeting.
Moving forward it is my intention to distill these minutes down to their core observations, arguments and suggestions from those on the call. The intention with these then is that it allows for us to move forward towards formulating informed and concise working protocols, as well as allowing organisations outside of the AIST see the road blocks within the industry as identified by the expert professionals within the industry.
The distilled minutes will be posted on this forum once they are completed, and from there we can collectively draw up an official document stating the position held by Production Managers and the AIST with regards to the problems facing our industry and how we suggest they ought to be tackled.
Underlying H&S/Social distancing conventions that inform all subsequent tasks and topics
- 2 main means of spreading C19 – contact with infected person, and contact with contaminated surface.
- Main means of stopping spread – Social distancing, good respiratory and hand hygiene, good cleaning and disinfecting routines in workplace, PPE (as last resort).
- Peter Jordan – Programmers and producers are going to be risk-averse. Can’t see being in a venue this side of the new year. Outdoor productions are more likely. It’s easier to put public in the space than work in the venues.
- Public perception is important – people will need to buy in to what you are doing.
Will COVID 19 Compliance officer be a role that falls to the PM - Should it?
- Needs to be two separate individuals – a lot for a PM to handle on top of regular duties. There should be one for the production company and one for the venue, as each would have different responsibilities.
- Important for the production company to have a dedicated C19 officer, for continuity across productions and departments, and that the responsibility is not put on the PM or SM.
- Noted during Tech Management meeting that there needs to be early and thorough communication between venue and production.
- Who should this role fall to in pop-up and/or smaller companies? Could there be C19 consulting officers for independent productions. As with other companies, there will need to be early communication to ensure everything required for compliance is in place.
- Support from venue C19 officer in early stages of the tour for independent productions. Something to discuss with AC about building this into venue funding.
- Most venues currently aren’t programming, still working through cancellations. Current problem with programming is occupancy. NASC are talking about live event streaming, but no one is really looking at much programming outside of one-man comedy/music gigs. Programming will also have to depend on what producers are putting out for touring.
- BGET is currently programming small enough Irish productions from October at the earliest.
- Priority is currently for productions that have as few people and as few things as possible on stage, which is a problem of course.
- Landmark had two large productions due to go out, but are now just looking at a two hander in autumn. Just not feasible to run larger productions with such limited capacities and restrictions on space for working.
- Producers aren’t likely to put something out that doesn’t work with a house rig and black box space. People won’t be making money off any of this for a while. Can’t put out productions that will just lose money, even if those productions are made and ready to go. For the moment it’s about keeping our heads above water.
- As it stands, musical theatre, standing gigs etc. are a big no.
- At the moment arts centres can be looking at becoming hubs for the arts in an area, rather than the only venue available. Looking at supporting performances in alternative spaces, with the arts centre as a base/hub.
Crew H&S + wellbeing
- How do we look after freelancers as an industry? Due to instability of income and work, freelancers are less likely to call in sick.
- What else could we be doing with this time while we can’t work in venues etc.? Can we support freelancers with training and so forth.
- Very clear contracts are needed between freelancers and companies.
- Clear documentation of work and of plans is needed in case any crew member becomes ill. Making sure that colleagues know what you’re doing and what you need to do so that if you become sick the production can continue.
- Need to consider C19 requirements from white card stage, and build compliance into set. Potential for investing in more hoists and manual loading and rigging aids etc.
- Venues need to produce clear, up-to-date, easily accessible tech specs and paperwork so that production companies can plan thoroughly for each venue.
- Need a streamlined standard that venues have all agreed to so that requirements for compliance are consistent throughout venues. This was discussed in the tech manager meetings. We also discussed what other info the venues will want to know before a production arrives, such as dressing room breakdowns, further in advance than usual.
- This quiet period is the time to get this paperwork up to date, and to look at ways of improving comms, paperwork, info etc.
- Times regarding get-ins and production desk are going to have to change, as discussed in the Tech managers’ meetings.
- Adequate crew needs to be booked.
- How might first aid provision change? Internet cut out here, so I missed a some of the conversation regarding first aid.
- There will be C19 specific first aid training. Top up to existing training.
- Mouth to mouth is out. Chest compressions only.
- Should there be one separate C19 risk assessment, and it should be taken into account in other assessments. Could risk lack of joined up thinking
- This is the moment to create standard procedures for this kind of event like Asian countries have. An opportunity to fix parts of the industry that are currently broken, and create a template for future procedures to be prepared for something like this happening again in the future. Need to set standard protocols.
Pre-Production + Rehearsals
- Design being created practically with compliance in mind from white card stage.
- Longer lead in time, full team pulled together earlier.
- What kind of leadership will be needed to bring a production through these phases?
- Baz: Anything smaller than 2.5m long or wide, should be a 1-person lift.
- Can we set criteria for designers to try and work within?
- Is it the production managers place to pass on the HSA guidelines and safety criteria to designers, or does that fall to the C19 officer?
- PMs need to be making representations to producers and funders for the necessary money to make things work. Need to also set reasonable limits of where to say “No, that’s not currently possible.”
- Looking at a longer fit-up time to allow for fewer people to work in the space at a time. Potentially running department by department.
- Running a fit-up over more days inevitably leads to more hire fees and crew hours.
- Pre-rigs will be necessary, and this should be written into contracts. This time is on the venue, as part of the standard working week for salaried venue staff. As much as possible done by venue staff in advance to ease pressure on incoming production crew when they arrive to fit up.
- Usual time constraints of quick turnarounds will not be an issue for the moment as there will be lower density programming for a while.
- Frank discussions between programmers and tech managers were encouraged in the tech managers meeting, to set expectations of what will be needed for get-in scheduling and gaps in programming. This then needs to be carried through to discussions with tour bookers to ensure that there is space left in the touring schedules for this time requirement.
- Could the AIST formulate guidelines for programmers and tour bookers regarding reasonable and necessary time requirements for producing work in post-C19 landscape? This sort of clear guidelines and messaging helps with individual conversations
- Worth bracing ourselves for the possible skills drop off and talent loss that will likely follow this lockdown. We will lose freelancers to other industries/to the danger of losing the C19 payment.
- For a lot in the entertainment and event industry, the most feasible means of surviving until the festival season kicks off next June is to lobby for the C19 payment to continue. Committee currently working on this lobbying.
- Census being carried out of entertainment and events industry: https://forms.gle/whRNwFHvgTszeQuL9
- Reasonable and sustainable working hours is as always important for people’s personal health. Overworked = Weaker immune systems = harder to bounce back from illness.
- There will be a website for the Sophie group up in the following few days for the census results.
- There is also fundraising going on to develop a hardship fund. Share around as much as possible once it’s live.
- Could we integrate an industry awareness standard across the country into inductions at the start of the day in venues?
- If there’s a way that PM group freelancers can see how venue staff and orgs can be of help, do communicate that.
- Another meeting in a few weeks’ time. Following next HSE meeting regarding social distancing, and once things have moved forward a little.
- Should the model be moving towards venues bringing people on to staff part-time to relieve pressure on freelancers? Depends on continuation of C19 wage support.
- Look at longer run of shows with reduced capacity.