Two days after the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) released the proposed guidelines TV and movie companies should adhere to when production of shows and movies resume, the Inter-Guild Alliance (IGA) also came out with their own set of guidelines, sparking confusion among industry workers on which list of protocols to follow.
“Why did FDCP release its own protocols and guidelines even if they know that the Inter-Guild Alliance is already drafting a more thorough and worker-approved set of guidelines and protocols?” asked movie director Erik Matti on Facebook. “Why isn’t anybody from the Inter-Guild Alliance acknowledging this blatant disrespect of FDCP on the efforts made by the people who drafted the detailed IGA guidelines and protocols?”
The FDCP is the government-supported lead agency that oversees the Filipino film industry. The IGA is a community-based network of various groups representing sectors of film, television, and advertising industries in the Philippines.
Matti’s social media post pointed his readers to a statement from the influential Philippine Motion Pictures Producers Association (PMPPA)—or the “funders of all forthcoming projects.” The statement basically questions why the FDCP had to publicly issue its Interim Guidelines on Safety Protocols for the Conduct of Film and Audio Visual Production Shoots to Mitigate COVID-19 which was “released prematurely and without final consultation with the producers nor the guilds.” The statement ends with the PMPPA saying that it “detests any action that undermines the efforts of the real workers in the industry” and that it will uphold the guidelines prepared by the IGA as “the primary document that will guide its film productions in the coming months.”
By Tuesday evening, the Film Academy of the Philippines has also composed its message of disagreement with the way the FDCP had issued its list of protocols. The message said that policies of the FDCP are decided by votes of the council’s members, and the FAP is a voting member of the FDCP. “FAP has not been consulted, or, been a part of, in deciding policies recently released by FDCP for film industry workers.” It added that it stands by the PMPPA “in its quest for a fair, reasonable, and, worker centered guideline that will meet every aspect of health and safety for film industry workers.”
Whose guideline is it anyway?
On May 17, the IGA proposed a set of comprehensive protocols surrounding the resumption of work in the film, TV, and advertising industry—essentially to keep the people involved in production safe, while they continue to earn a living.
When the entire Luzon was placed under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), on March 15, almost all production activities had to be immediately postponed or halted. By the end of April, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) asked the different agencies and organizations to propose policies that should be implemented when the lockdown shifts to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
The IGA came up with a more than 35-page document. IGA representative, Patti Lapus of the Alliance of Producers, Line Producers and Production Managers, tells ANCX through email that everything happened in around five weeks.
The first zoom meeting was held April 28. At the time, guidelines from international film commissions and production companies had started circulating among the different sectors. “The groups naturally formed to discuss, based on these documents, what's workable in the Philippine context from a production-staff perspective,” Lapus says. “The informal discussions became regular Zoom meetings, which became department-specific protocols.”
The IGA proposal was publicly released on May 18.
The groups that were involved in the IGA deliberations include the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI); Lupon ng Pilipinong Sinematograpo (LPS); Production Designer Technical Working Group; Assembly of Assistant Directors and Script Supervisors; TV and Film Screenwriters Collective; Alliance of Producers, Line Producers and Production Managers; Sound Speed Philippines; Filipino Film Editors; and a network of post-production companies.
They also gathered vital input from the Philippine Motion Pictures Producers Association (PMPPA), Commercial Production Houses Group (CPHG), and Philippine Independent Producers Group.
What about the FDCP protocols?
The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), headed by its chairperson Liza Diño, submitted to the government their own interim guidelines on safety protocols for the conduct of shoots.
The latest draft, a 24-page-long document, is similar to that of the IGA’s set of protocols, but there are glaring differences. FDCP, for instance, required that the maximum number of personnel on a set should only be 50 (IGA’s cap is 70). FDCP also obligates the production team to provide replacement masks after eight hours—this is not stated in IGA’s list. Also according to FDCP, the shoot may only resume 24 hours after the location’s decontamination.
Speaking again on behalf of IGA, Lapus says that FDCP has been having town hall meetings since April, and that some of the IGA members were in attendance. IGA presented their draft of the general guidelines to FDCP through a Zoom meeting last May 4. After consolidating all of the feedback from their members, the guild submitted their proposal to FDCP on May 18.
Why did they decide to write their own draft of guidelines?
“We felt that Philippine productions have their own set of nuances and work dynamics, and international filming guidelines cannot be easily adaptable to the Philippine context,” says Lapus. “We also appreciated the various inputs from production workers in terms of what is workable in their respective departments, including from producers in terms of what is cost-efficient for them at this time.”
When the two sets of protocols started to circulate, many members of the industry understandably expressed their confusion. Erik Matti not only questioned the FDCP’s protocols but also why the IAG is not clearly opposing the FDCP move. “If we stay neutral about what FDCP posted and will not say whether it is valid or not, which do we follow now as a common ordinary filmworker in the industry waiting on the the guidelines we need to get back to work?”
Lapus answers this question: “Producers, groups and individuals who helped us make the protocols and signed/attached their name to the document will implement these guidelines in their productions. But we created the protocols to be shared and hopefully be taken into consideration by everybody in the film, TV, and advertising industries.”
She adds that as filmmakers, they are affiliated with FDCP, although they are independent from the government agency. In fact, FDCP had asked for their proposal, and they were only able to submit a draft May 18. “Our members have a good relationship with FDCP,” she says.
The PMPPA submitted the IGA guidelines to the Office of the President on May 19, and as clarified by film producer, Atty. Joji Alonso on her Facebook page, IAG’s set of protocols do not need the approval of the IATF and are good to go.
Lapus admits that as the coronavirus evolves, so will the policies and guidelines. What’s most important now is the safety of everyone. It is also imperative that the industry work together, and set their differences aside: “We believe that as long as the community is united, as we have proved with the creation of this document, we can withstand any adversity.”
Redesigning film-making and TV production
It would be an understatement to say that social distancing in production would post a challenge, but the protocols require this of everyone. Virtual meetings, for instance, is highly recommended in the guidelines, specially for pre-production discussions.
Because of the several restraints, such as road closures, barangay coding, curfews, limited time in the set, etc., a detailed, “new normal” production calendar will be mandatory before production begins. This calendar will allow producers to minimize unnecessary activities and to minimize the number of people in a given production set. As per the IGA, personnel on the set should not exceed 70. This will include drivers and local government unit (LGU) officials, who are required to be present for Philippines productions. However, this is scalable, Lapus says, depending on the production requirements of a shoot.
“We want a strict implementation of a 12-hour working day, with a 12-hour turnaround for all phases of the production process,” she writes. However, since not everyone can afford to set up the day before the actual shoot, the maximum work hours can be extended to 14. All staff members that need to do face-to-face activities must be provided with accident and health insurance.
“This document also tangentially professionalizes the industry,” Lapus says. “Guidelines such as work-hour and turnaround-time restrictions, provision of insurance, etc. are in fact some of the things we've long been wanting as a standard for all workers in the industries we represent.”
She admits, however, that implementing these protocols will incur additional cost, which is why they had to get feedback from many producers. Most aspects of filmmaking and production will have to be realigned.
No visitors will be allowed on sets. No member of the glam team or entourage of cast members should be present on the set —unless absolutely necessary. Glam teams can perform their services at the private spaces of their clients. Actors and actresses should do their own touch-ups.
No sharing of make-up brushes, hair products, and any tool used in the props department. No central water and food stations, or buffet-style set-up. No disposable cups. No “lagari,” or working on several projects at the same time, to minimize cross-contamination.
An actor or actress may refuse to do scenes that require close contact or close proximity. In that case, the scene must be postponed to a latter date, when social distancing is no longer the norm.
IGA also recommends the implementation of a pod system, which organizes the production in separate units, limiting contact between people, and makes it easier to do contact-tracing, in case someone gets infected.
Since each essential production worker will be focused on their jobs, it is crucial that a separate Protocol Supervisor oversees the new safety protocols, and a medic must be hired to oversee health concerns.
The latest statement from FDCP
Liza Diño, chair and CEO of FDCP, clarified that the government agency has already reviewed IGA protocols, and endorsed it to DOH for consideration.
On a statement dated May 22, chair and CEO Liza Diño, seemed to have put an end to the confusion on which safety guidelines movie workers will follow. In the statement, FDCP made it clear that:
a) it “conducted several consultation meetings to gather suggestions and proposed recommendations from the sectors”
b) it has reviewed the IGA guidelines and endorsed it to the DOH for consideration
c) the FDCP is “working closely with DOH on the final draft of the COVID-19 Safety and Health Guidelines for the Film and Audiovisual Industry”, and
d) the FDCP Memorandum Order No. 6 on the Interim Guidelines On Safety Protocols for the Conduct of Film And Audiovisual Production Shoots to Mitigate Covid-19 shall take effect from May 16- May 31 or until the final guidelines from the FDCP and DOH are approved by the IATF-EID. For everyone's guidance and strict compliance.”