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Meet the Sunderland academic who has landed new ‘Hollywood’ role

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Published on 20 November 2020

Protecting and staying safe on set
Protecting and staying safe on set

It may not quite be the glitz and glamour expected of a new role in tinsel town but nonetheless Gary Stubbs takes on a critical job that keeps everyone safe from coronavirus on film and television sets.

The University of Sunderland Programme Leader for MA Media Production (Film & Television) has successfully applied to become a Covid-19 compliance supervisor.

The pandemic has created the need for the new job in Hollywood and on film sets around the world, as film and television productions started to return to work after the first shutdown.

The role of Covid-19 compliance officer/supervisor was originally created under an agreement between the US entertainment unions and an alliance of producers.

Producers and crew members who are used to working on crowded and messy sets are now having to adapt to new arrangements and are looking to compliance supervisors to keep them safe and to keep productions going.

The demands of the new job include sanitisation, testing, safety equipment and distancing. Cast and crew are split into different zones, based on the frequency of testing and ability to wear masks. The compliance supervisor is responsible for making sure these groups don’t mix and must intervene if crew members crowd together and masks slip.

The compliance supervisor is also responsible for training other crew members, such as first assistant directors, so they can pass on safety directions to their units. They must be always available during working hours, according to the agreement.

Critically, this person has the power to stop a production if there are concerns about safety and can discipline or even fire safety protocol violators. Given that shutdowns on large productions can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a day, that is a big responsibility.

Gary said: “When the UK originally went into a nationwide lockdown our MA Media Production Film & TV programme was only three months into the course so we took what we could online but had to find a way of working remotely. Our MA is very industry-focused, so my immediate thought was how is the industry working during the lockdown, after some research and speaking to some industry contacts I decided to use ITV’s Isolation stories as a blueprint to how we could work.

“As the film and television industry began to return to work, I looked into what Covid-19 training was available for production crew. I originally attended a ScreenSkills short course on Coronavirus basic awareness on production training. It’s a free course delivered online by Screen Skills and I would suggest anyone interested in working on productions attend it.”

He added: “The challenge is that we are now living in a new world and the way people are doing their jobs on set has changed dramatically.

“The industry is expecting to work with Covid safe guidance for at least the next two to three years so it was important that I knew what we would need to put in place for students returning, working on productions both on location and in our studios as well as the normal government guidance we also have student who need to work within a production environments in a safe and responsible way so I decided to apply for the Covid-19 Supervisor/ Compliance Officer advanced level training.”

After completing the training and passing the exam Gary was able to use and continue to use the knowledge gained in implementing safety across all areas of production from pre-production to postproduction.

He said: “The most important thing is to keep the students safe, but production students also need to spend time on set. We are all entering a new way of producing creative content for the film and television industry but by the implementation of this important training for the film and television the Covid-19 supervisors will be keeping themselves, their colleagues and their equipment safe in what can often be a high-pressure environment of a set or location.”

Students or staff who would like to know more about basic level training for production can follow the link below:


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