Carry on filming: a quick explainer for shooting ads during Covid
A view from Steve Davies

Carry on filming: a quick explainer for shooting ads during Covid

The Advertising Producers Association explains what brands and agencies need to know before planning a commercial shoot during the pandemic.

The biggest battle for production companies and agencies right now is one of perception. Every time the government announces new Covid restrictions for anywhere in the country, we get a flurry of calls from members to say that the advertiser on a production they’re working on is concerned that the shoot will have to be cancelled.

The reality is that commercials production in the UK has been running at full speed since the beginning of August, a welcome and surprising comeback from the dark days of no work, furloughing and negotiations with landlords just a few months before. 

Advertisers’ bold initiative in underwriting the risks of a Covid postponement or cancellation costs was formalised in the ISBA/IPA/APA Tripartite Addendum. This was instrumental in getting productions going again.

So, given they are taking the lion’s share of the risk of Covid affecting the production, it is understandable that advertisers are anxious about every government announcement and hyperbolic “LOCKDOWN!” headline. 

With that in mind, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we’re receiving at the APA whenever lockdowns, circuit breaks or new tiers are announced, in the hope that it will answer those immediate questions and assuage client concerns.

Can you shoot in an area that has been locked down?

Yes. Whether under Tier 1, 2 or 3 or any other restriction the government has put in place, production (and other work) can continue.

Government restrictions continue to be aimed at social contact, leisure and hospitality businesses that bring people together in a social setting.

The government is clear and consistent on business: "Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law.”

How can I shoot when I am supposed to work at home? 

The government guidance is to work at home where you can. Work that can’t be done at home, like a commercials shoot, can be done elsewhere. 

How do you ensure the production is safe?

By the production being managed in accordance with the APA Covid Safety Guidelines, which include the law and government guidance and were prepared with advice from health and safety experts and lawyers. They are regularly updated on our website. 

As an advertiser, how do I minimise the prospect of my production being affected by Covid?

The agency and production company commit to planning the shoot to minimise the risk of Covid disruption and to have a mitigation plan in place, plus they complete the risk management plan that goes to the advertiser with the Tripartite addendum. That enables them to gauge risk and instruct changes to the production if the risk is unacceptable to them. 

Can the production continue if someone tests positive or has Covid symptoms on a shoot? 

Yes, they and the people they have been in close contact with have to leave the production, but the production can continue. If the person(s) having to leave the set are key roles, a replacement will have to be engaged but otherwise there should be no delay. 

Is there any restriction on the number of people who can attend the shoot?

There is no restriction, so if you need a large cast, you can have one, as long as you abide by the APA Covid Shooting Guidelines. People who are able to view the production remotely from home should, as per the government’s “work from home if you can” guidance. 

What about testing?

Testing is not required by law or government guidance, and not part of the APA Covid Shooting Guidelines. What is critical is following those guidelines, such as hand-washing and social distancing, to avoid transmission even if it later transpires that someone attending the production had Covid. 

There continue to be issues with testing, but if and when a quick, cost-effective and reliable test is available, it could become part of our Guidelines. You can still test now if you feel it will provide an additional level of comfort, but only in addition to the measures set out in the APA Covid Shooting Guidelines, not in place of them.

What about shooting overseas? 

You will need to find out about the Covid restrictions for the country you propose to shoot in. Everyone travelling from the UK will have to quarantine for 14 days on returning, except for directors, directors of photography and actors in respect of attending productions in England on their return.

Steve Davies is the chief executive of the Advertising Producers Association