A Social Distancing Set – Three RABS Recommendations For Background & Extras

A Social Distancing Set

A Social Distancing Set – what does it mean, what does it look like for background and extras?

Background and extras may pose a greater challenge to a social distancing set than crew and above the line talent. Background and extras are critical to reopening; a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

We expect shows to resume with leaner crews and intimate scene work. Scenes will gradually increase in crew and background volume, and the larger scenes (even though they’ll likely be pared down) will be pushed to the end of production schedules. As production ramps up to near normal capacity, RABS has three recommendations for safe managing standards of background and extras.

Prevention is the at core of our recommendations. We should focus our efforts on who’s able to be on set; preventing ill or potentially ill people from coming to set will allow us to work in as normal a condition as possible.

These are strategy suggestions; we are not supplying legal or medical advice. 

1. Use technology to self certify and to remove paper. Shows should use the RABS Digital Voucher to create a social distancing set with background and extras

Many of the preemptive safety tasks will become the duty of background casting. They can act as a screening service. But it’s a challenge which they shouldn’t be expected to handle alone; using RABS will ensure casting can manage what will will likely be a difficult transition.

During the background casting booking process:

  • Deliver self certifying and cancelation expectations, pre-booking – background casting should make cancelations a more clear expectation. While background casting hates to suggest CANCEL, it’s more important that background and extras don’t go to set if they are symptomatic or if they have reason to believe they’ve been exposed to a carrier, even an asymptomatic carrier. The key is encouraging honesty in self certification while deescalating the consequences of cancelations. As long as a show is using RABS, the app can handle the delivery and track the results.
  • Production should negotiate a modified cancelation policy with SAG-AFTRA – SAG-AFTRA rules state that if a booking is confirmed with a SAG-AFTRA member background, that they are to be paid if the booking is canceled. In the case of COVID, production should encourage more flexibility from SAG-AFTRA in the case of unexpected or exposure-risk cancelations.
  • Forgo all extras’ paperwork – Using the RABS Digital Voucher is sanitary. It’s the only solution for tracking and processing extras that minimizes direct hand to hand contact and abundant exchange of paperwork. By removing paper vouchers and all other extras’ paper startwork, RABS removes thousands of touch points, decreasing the risk of spread. Read more here: On The Sanitary Benefits of RABS Digital Vouchers

2. Have a protocol implemented, specific to background and extras for arrival and the work day; the variables natural to background and extras require a unique approach

Beyond self certification, which occurs BEFORE set, we recommend redundancy:

  • Redundancy 1: temperature checks – should happen in the parking lot so anyone with a temperature can be sent home before entering holding. More medics should be hired.
  • Redundancy 2: mask requirements – masks should be worn while in holding, and any time background and extras aren’t eating, preparing for, or performing a scene.
    • Masks should be stored in personal bags, and kept on the extra’s person, even during scene work. If a mask stored on an extra would disrupt the scene, masks are to be collected by a medic, and they should be kept in separate containers or bags so they can avoid any chance of cross contamination.
    • Although masks may be an abundance of caution, they are sensible.
  • Redundancy 3: hand sanitizing requirements – hands must be sanitized upon arrival to set, before scene work, and during the regular course of activities.

If the people who come to set are not ill or potentially ill, these protocol are unnecessary (except the hand washing that is). Keep in mind, part of what makes a twelve to fifteen hour day for background and extras tolerable is socializing! People need to be near one another and to feel safe to have fun. All the more reason preemptive measures, preventing ill or potentially ill people from arrival to set, should be practiced.

3. Educate background and extras on the protocol; they must be informed of the set’s protocol before arrival AND given an online questionnaire or training module.  This training should be included at the time of booking and can be provided as a feature of the RABS Digital Voucher

While having protocol and rules are important, educating people about the rules is critical to a safe set. Productions should be providing an online questionnaire or training module to each background and extra before they arrive to set.

It’s easy to require background and extras to watch a video but it’s more valuable if the show uses an online questionnaire / quiz complementing the video provided.

  • Create a safe set training video – combine it with a questionnaire / quiz.
  • Use a questionnaire / quiz – while this can be short and sweet, having background and extras engage with the questions about the protocols for a safe set will hammer home the rules and the importance of adherence.
  • Ensure each background and extra receives this training – don’t take any chances. The health and safety of your extras, crew, and above the line talent are paramount and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • Create self certifying expectations (as mentioned above) – within the protocol, background and extras should be expected to cancel their own booking, if they are symptomatic or if they have any reason to believe they’ve been exposed to a carrier, even an asymptomatic carrier.
  • Deliver each background an infographic – they should be able to hold on to this document or PDF; the infographic will convey visual reminders and repetition of the rules for a social distancing set.

RABS would likely include the self certification step at the same time of the training module for shows that use the RABS App.

Last thought, it may be valuable to hire more set medics, responsible for things like temperature checks and mask monitoring. Fortunately, the time created by the RABS App (RABS Digital Voucher) can also enable PAs to offer more support to new protocol. Additional PAs for strong lock ups will be vital to prevent strangers and uncertified people from  encroaching set.

RABS is eager to be a resource for productions upon restart.

Tips on your RABS Digital Voucher: Tips for the RABS Digital Voucher

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