Studio employees open up about coronavirus measures on set: “No one is on the same page”

A new report claims a number of studios are leaving COVID safety to "ill-prepared assistants" who don't know what they're doing

A number of studio assistants have come forward to share their alleged experiences with coronavirus safety measures on set during the ongoing pandemic.

A new BuzzFeed report released yesterday (January 28) examined Hollywood’s safety precautions via the testimonies of employees from Warner Bros., Amazon Studios, CBS and more.

One out-of-work production crew member, who was offered the opportunity to be a coronavirus safety liaison on a Warner Bros. TV show, claimed they were underprepared for their new role.

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“It just feels like there’s no room for anything else in my life but this job, handling the crew, trying to get them through it, and get us through to the finish line,” said the unnamed employee, before explaining that they’re learning the best way to handle things as they go along.

“This pandemic is only a year old, so as we learn more, we have to change what we’re doing. The ripple effects are so chaotic, and we’re the ones who take the brunt of it. The executives at Warner Bros. sit in their at-home offices and issue these mandates, but we have to deal with the crew’s fears and complaints.”

A coronavirus compliance assistant on an Amazon Studios show alleged that they hadn’t been given adequate training for their role. “I have no formal training,” the anonymous source said. “I have no medical training. I don’t know anything more or less about coronavirus than the next person.”

Amazon Studios
An Amazon Studios coronavirus compliance assistant said: “I don’t know anything more or less about coronavirus than the next person”. CREDIT: Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage

The Warner Bros. employee said that while they received some training they still felt ill-equipped to handle every possible scenario.

“There are so many situations that are unprecedented. They can train you to a certain point, but at the same time, you just have to be really good on your toes,” they explained. “I would get really frustrated at first about the lack of communication from higher-ups until I realised they just want me to solve all of the problems and questions. They just want me to govern the show. Once I understood that, I stopped looking for someone else to tell me what to do.”

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Going on to allege non-compliance among peers, especially when trying to get superiors to follow the rules on sets, the Amazon Studios employee added that while it may be unrealistic to expect a standard for COVID safety across all television and film sets there should at least be clear guidelines on each show.

“The way I’ve been told to handle things changes depending on who I’m speaking to,” they said. “No one is on the same page. There’s not a lot of clear communication going on. I don’t know if my superiors have even properly communicated with each other.”

The Amazon Studios employee also claimed that main cast members “operate under a different set of rules” because they’re tested more often, while adding that the power dynamics with more senior colleagues doesn’t help matters.

“Some people act frustrated when I try to just do my job — it’s very much an ego thing in that regard,” they said. “I try to calmly reiterate and explain what I’ve been tasked to do, which also isn’t much. I’m just trying to operate on the minimal instruction I’ve been given.”

Coronavirus
A CBS COVID safety officer said: “Putting a cotton swab up your nose for 10 seconds every day is a heck of a lot better than potentially contracting a deadly virus and spreading it to your friends and family.” CREDIT: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Offering a different take to the Warner Bros. and Amazon Studios employees, a COVID safety officer who recently worked on a CBS sitcom said they had a more positive experience with safety measures.

“Universally, this is something every industry is going to have to learn,” said the employee, who also declined to be named. “We’re trying to make this work as much as possible, and from what I saw, people were more angry and disillusioned at hearing that the production was in danger of getting shut down because other people weren’t being safe than they were angry about having to abide by the rules we created.”

They added: “We didn’t want to come from a place of, ‘You have to do this,’ but we explained the reasoning behind it. Putting a cotton swab up your nose for 10 seconds every day is a heck of a lot better than potentially contracting a deadly virus and spreading it to your friends and family.”

Responding to comment, Amazon Studios told BuzzFeed: “The health and safety of our cast and crew are our highest priority. We have strict protocols on all of our sets and locations, and we are constantly monitoring and ensuring that all necessary guidelines and procedures are closely followed.”

The report noted that Warner Bros. declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Tom Cruise hit out at crew members last month on the set of Mission: Impossible 7 for breaking COVID-19 guidelines.

The Sun first reported that Cruise scolded two crew members who were seen standing too close to each other in front of a computer monitor, saying: “If I see you do it again you’re fucking gone.”

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