Back to Production: A Set Medic’s View

By: Chris Gallop

“Man has made 32 million laws since the Commandments were handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai……But he has never improved on God’s law.” - Cecil B. DeMille

As a Paramedic for the past 32 years I never thought I would ever live through a global pandemic like the one we are currently experiencing. COVID -19 has virtually shut down the entire world, including the film industry. When the time comes to return to film sets, how can we do this safely and confidently?

The return to production sets will have new guidelines and procedures. Gone are the days of ‘that’s how we’ve always done it.’ It’s time to understand that production will never be the same as it was prior to the pandemic. The changes going forward will be the new normal.

In my experience on set, everyone from cast, crew and background actors to visitors need to feel safe. It’s always my priority to ensure the health and safety of every person on set, but Covid-19 has forced me to look at it in a whole new way.

Moving forward, the role of set medic will be more crucial than ever. The old perception was that if it is in our budget, we will have a medic, if not a PA can always put a band-aid on. Now, moving forward it looks like set medics will become a necessary part of every set regardless of budget.

As a set medic, we take care of far more than just physical needs. One of my favorite stories from the set of ‘The Chosen’ didn’t need any sort of medical assistance. We were out in a field, the weather was cold, wet, and windy.  One of our young actors was upset that she had lost her mitten. The next day as I was walking to set, I found the lost mitten covered in mud. I took the mitten home with me that night, washed it, and brought it back to set the next day. When I called the young lady over and asked her if she ever found her mitten, she replied: “No, I guess it’s just lost.” I told her I had something for her and I placed the much-loved mitten in her hand. Her face lit up like bright sunshine on a cloudy day. She gave me the biggest hug I think I have ever received. The job of the set medic is not always medical or even safety.  It’s about a personal connection to those on set and understanding as to what is important to them.

Though we can’t predict everything that will change, here are some solid suggestions for what to expect.

  • Limit the number of people on set to essential cast and crew only. No visitors. All sets should be considered closed.
  • Incorporate COVID-19 discussions and guidelines into daily safety meetings.
  • Maintain the standard 6 feet social distancing where possible.
  • No cast or crew allowed in the production office, any stages, sets, or construction sites that do not need to be there. Only essential personnel.
  • Avoid all unnecessary touching of your face and physical contact. No handshaking, hugs, or kissing as a gesture of saying hello. 
  • All cast and crew will need to make note of their temperature prior to coming to set.
  • Also, all cast and crew need to complete a daily COVID-19 questionnaire prior to being allowed on set.
  • Temperature checks should be performed on all cast and crew immediately upon arrival to set.
  • If anyone registers a temperature greater than 99.6, that person should not be allowed on set until such a time as their temperature has returned to normal for at least 24 hours.
  • Sanitation stations should be placed in all areas of sets, stages, production offices, crafty areas, and catering.
  • All cast and crew will need to wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water. If soap and warm water are not readily available alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations should be provided. A PA should be assigned at each station to ensure they are always fully stocked and to keep areas clean.
  • All sets, props, weapons, tools, chairs, tables, and any other surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized after each use. This is even if the same actor or crew member will be using the item again.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve or elbow for coughs and sneezes.

Even though this makes thing more difficult for some people on set, the safety of cast and crew are paramount. A quote from the series ‘The Chosen’ best sums up the changes coming to Production sets and filming…… “Get used to different!”

Chris GallupChris Gallop is a Set Medic and EMT Paramedic. He has taken his 32 years of experience on the job to film sets for the past five years. Chris owns Action Movie Medics and has worked on everything from commercials to feature films.


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