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Nov 30th, 2020

Working on Set During These Strange Covid-19 Times

LED Light Drone

Written By  |  Tom Comet

Obviously we are all a long way down the garden path of this Covid-19 “new normal” but it has only been a couple of months that my Team and I have been actually working again and we are just now back into the swing of things.  I thought this would be a good time to recap some of our experiences flying drones and working on professional film sets here in Canada during the Covid-19 Pandemic.  What’s changed.  What has not.  What’s weird…. Here you go…

Things that are Different on Set During C-19:
Crew scheduling is an absolute nightmare as entire projects and specific drone shoot days move around like a writhing mass of angry snakes.  Crew scheduling has always been a personal nemesis of mine but it is about ten times worse now.  Argh!

My Team and I get C-19 tested many, many times a week.  This negatively impacts scheduling as well but it is one of the many new requirements for work so we do it…  We are a “specialty act” and, as such, we are not any one set every single day.  Rather, we are “day players” who work on multiple productions over the same time frame providing our high-end specialty services as required.  Obviously this movement from set to set makes us both high risk of catching and of potentially spreading C-19 so this constant testing provides piece of mind to everyone involved.  Every professional film set that we work on has different C-19 testing protocols but ALL of them require some form of testing.  Most require TWO tests before we can even come to set and if we are playing multiple days on the show then we are usually tested every 72 hours for that one production.  And we are on multiple productions each week so…. LOTS OF TESTING!!!  Luckily these tests are the new ones and not the super deep, mind numbing (literally) public tests that we received from the hospital when this whole thing started.  These are the new “bilateral nasal” tests where they swab just inside both nostrils for ten(??) rotations with their fancy cue-tip thingy.  It usually makes me sneeze.  This testing is done by private labs and is performed at the studio, on set in special trailers and, quite literally, on the side of the road as required.   Due to us working multiple productions some of us have had up to five tests in a single week.  Wow!

Before we arrive on set we are required to fill out a medical questionnaire where our general health is determined.  This is usually done through a custom app.  Green is good!

Upon arrival on set my Team and I have to check in at the C-19 desk / tent / trailer where Production confirm that we have 1) been C-19 tested prior to arrival 2) the test was negative 3) we checked in with the app prior to arrival and 4) our temperature is within the appropriate range (Pro Tip – don’t drink a Grande Latte just before arriving on set).  Then we get issued a wristband and are usually handed a C-19 goodie bag with the appropriate N95 masks (no more homemade masks, scarfs or bandannas folks), hand sani, some wipes, a sterilized radio and maybe some disposable gloves.  Where all this stuff comes from is anyone’s guess.

Tom Comet Drone Pilot

During the work day my Team and I do our very best to stay more than six feet away from EVERYONE!  We wear masks all the time and wipe our gear down and wash our hands constantly.  Luckily we have our own 24’ long trailer to work out of and that is our safe haven away from this weird new normal.  As a specialty Drone Team we are often in and out in a few hours but then other days the drone shot could be the very first and last shot of the day.  We never know.

Craft Services is not what it used to be pre C-19.  This is through no fault of the extremely hard working and awesome folks in the Catering Dept. but rather due to all the restrictions placed on them.  It has been determined that Craft services and crew eating areas pose a huge contamination risk and a lot has changed in this department.  Prior to the C-19 Pandemic lunch and “craft” was a true highlight of the day on set.  I could actually tell how many drone days I was booking by my weight!  I would often brag when asked what it was like flying drones professionally for film was like by stating, “we get paid very well to eat mostly” and that was not far from the truth.  Beautifully catered buffet lunches every day with literally everything on the menu!  Hand delivered awesome snacks through the entire shoot day and cream puffs at 2am.  It was awesome!  Now, the new normal is that we usually have to pre order our lunch on an app that is very clunky and if we are lucky our order is there waiting but is usually cold when we break for lunch.  There is no open buffet with so many choices and it is really all a little more like airplane food now.  My biggest beef has to be the amount of waste that is generated by an entire film set just eating lunch with all the disposable containers.  It is crazy but everyone is doing what they can and this is not forever.

Also, lunch used to be a real social event!  Locations usually had a big, heated tent set up for us and this was a boisterous affair with the entire crew eating, talking, laughing and enjoying good food and a solid one hour break for “lunch”, no matter what time of day it was.  Now crew lunches are staggered to avoid congestion and the seating in the tent is set out for just one crew member to a table to allow for maximum social distancing during this rare mask off time.  There is no socializing and I find it quite depressing and weird.  Usually we take lunch in our trailer so my Team and I can at least socialize in our Pod.

Craft Services

Things that are The Same on Set During C-19:
All the crews that we are lucky enough to be a part of are certainly working just as hard for just as long (or longer) than before creating beautiful, rich, entertaining content for the world to enjoy at a time when we all probably need it the most.

Working with drones on set is still a whole lot of hard work and stress.  It is a huge effort doing all the administration, preparation, research, training, maintenance, practice, and on site implementation in order to safely and successfully capture the aerial visions of the show’s Creative Team.



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