Statement on COVID-19
At this time, I am willing to work on film sets where 100% of the cast and crew are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the CDC, "It typically takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. You are not fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after the 2nd dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after a one-dose vaccine."
I don't have any hard rules about whether or how this should be enforced. However, I recommend:
- All cast and crew should be informed, at the beginning of their engagement, that this is a requirement for the production. For a two-dose vaccine, it takes six weeks to become fully vaccinated, and it may take some weeks before that to schedule. Therefore, everyone should be informed at least eight or ten weeks before the first shoot date.
- Someone on the production staff should be made responsible for individually verifying with each cast- and crewmember that they are (or will be by the first shoot date) fully vaccinated according to the CDC's definition provided above. This might include visual verification of CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards.
- Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine because they are immunocompromised should be excluded from this requirement.*
Some individuals may not wish to be vaccinated because of beliefs they hold about the vaccine or their rights. That is their choice, but I do not wish to be on a film set with them during the pandemic.
Even with full vaccination, it is probably a good idea to continue to follow COVID-19 protocols for film productions, since they are beneficial against the spread of other infectious disease, and I am certainly willing to do my part. *If anyone on the set is immunocompromised, then full COVID-19 protocols should be implemented.
[Insert link to document about COVID-19 protocols]
May 8, 2021
The last time I was on a film set was March 15, 2020 for "Death Scene". The pandemic was coming, though there had only been a couple of cases in our area, and we were doing the best we knew how with handwashing and care about how meals were served.
I don't earn my living in film, so I could just stop. However, the full-time professionals I know have continued to work, perhaps at reduced throughput. There is a protocol now, involving masks and gloves, liberal application of disinfectant, and as much distancing as is practical. Films are being made, television is being produced, but at a much reduced quantity.
Amateur filmmaking hasn't stopped completely. It's very difficult to stop doing what you love. I needn't discuss the rationalization for this. I periodically receive queries about whether I will help out with film productions, and each time I answer simply that I am staying off of film sets during the pandemic. A couple months ago, when the vaccine was beginning to roll out and it seemed for a moment that the pandemic might soon end, I received many such requests.
One of them asked me, in effect, how I will decide when it is safe to resume filmmaking. I didn't have an answer then, and I am still struggling with it now.
I and everyone in my household are fully vaccinated. The Moderna vaccine I received is supposed to have something like 95% efficacy. Perhaps more importantly, study results are beginning to come out that show the effectiveness at preventing transmission and serious illness is even higher, possibly in the 99%+ range. One could debate that it is reasonably safe for me to be on a film set.
However, most people are still not fully vaccinated. As of May 7, only 32.8% of the US and 29.27% of Missouri are fully vaccinated. Setting aside the matter of my own safety, if there is a film production, more than two-thirds of the cast and crew will be at risk. The COVID-19 protocols adopted by the film industry can reduce that risk, but it seems clear that they cannot be nearly as effective as vaccination, so even if they are fully implemented on an amateur set, the cast and crew are at significant risk.
It seems unethical to me to put anyone's health at risk for something that is not necessary to their livelihood.
I can't stop other people from producing films during the pandemic. However, if my participation in a film production is an enabling factor that allows it to go forward, then I am contributing to the risk of others. Therefore, it is unethical for me to participate in a film production that puts anyone at risk of infection.
That suggests two options for me:
- Resume filmmaking when new cases drop to essentially zero (the result of so-called "herd immunity").
- Participate only on film productions where 100% of the cast and crew are fully vaccinated.
We certainly haven't reached the first condition yet. In the US on average during the last week, there have been 45,817 new cases daily (648 in Missouri). So far, the data shows no sharp downward trend.
Which leaves option #2. I guess that's my announcement. Starting today, I am willing to work on film sets, but only if 100% of the cast and crew are fully vaccinated.
Infectious disease experts are warning that we may never reach herd immunity in the US. This is because so many people are refusing to be vaccinated, and because the mutation rate is currently so high that it is inevitable that a mutation will manifest that is not covered by the existing vaccine immunity, and the pandemic will start all over again.
For now, I am willing to wait and see, and while I wait, it's option #2.