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Biz Talk – The Tough Conversation Recap

RECAP: Having a plan B (C&D) for your next photo shoot during the pandemic

Mon 09th Nov, 2020

By Creative Arc in Insight

The Tough Conversation: Having a Plan B (C&D) for Your Next Photo Shoot

Normally, production sets have a lot of logistics . . . and that's magnified even more when accounting for what can go wrong during the pandemic.  

What if the photographer tests positive the day before or the morning of the shoot? How do we recover/proceed? What is your plan B (C&D)?

That's why earlier this month, the experts came together to discuss how to plan ahead so that your next production doesn't get derailed by an unforeseen challenge.

You can watch the full conversion here: 

And if you want to see a breakdown of the topics the panelists discussed, you can check that out below. We created this synopsis so you can easily implement these strategies into your next production.


Darcie Adler, The Spin Style Agency, Atlanta, GA


Gaytana Carrino - Brand Executive Producer APR Consulting, Chicago, IL

John Cogan - Photo Rep and Producer, GOODNOISE, Charleston SC

Cindy Dababneh - Client - McDonald's Production Manager, Chicago, IL

Luigi Menduni - Photo Rep with Bernstein & Andriulli, New York, NY

Art Streiber - Photographer, Los Angeles, CA

Melanie Acevedo - Photographer, New York, NY

Liz Von Hoene - Photographer, Atlanta, GA

Ed Gillman - APA Insurance

The Tough Conversation:

What stories can you share where COVID got in the way of a smooth and seamless production?

Gaytana: On day two of filming in LA (large cast and crew) a crew member presents with a fever. As there was no clear plan of action, the client wanted to avoid any negative PR and made the decision to shut down the shoot for the day. Then when filming in a NYC neighborhood, the internet went down and there was no back up plan in place to stream the shoot to the client/ agency.

Melanie: I have heard of problems with the live feed on sets when the photographer or someone else on the crew speaks poorly about the clients and can be heard clearly through the feed. I was told this derailed a few situations tremendously. Everyone on set needs to be super aware that they may be heard by the people listening in!

If a shoot is canceled last minute or in the middle of the shoot, because the photographer has Covid, is it covered by Workers Comp, General Liability, and Loss of Business Income policies?

Ed: No, there is no insurance coverage for small businesses or contractors which addresses pandemic related loss of income. However, it could be governed in the contract with the client.

There is, however, a general shield against liability for businesses that provide a written warning are further protected by a rebuttable presumption that the person trying to sue assumed the risk of being exposed or contracting COVID-19 by entering the facility or engaging with the business.  To be eligible to assert the presumption, businesses must post the warnings at a point of entry to the premises, and for special events, can print the warning on tickets or wristbands.  Posted warnings must be in Arial font of at least one inch, which is 72 points or greater, be placed apart from all other text, and state the following: Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death of an individual entering these premises if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19.  You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

Warnings printed on tickets or wristbands must be at least ten-point Arial font and appear apart from all other text, and state: Any person entering the premises waives all civil liability against this premises owner and operator for any injuries caused by the inherent risk associated with contracting COVID-19 at public gatherings, except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, by the individual or entity of the premises.

Have you thought about a plan B if you were to get sick and test positive for COVID-19 a day or two before a confirmed shoot, or felt symptoms the morning of the shoot?

Melanie: I have tested a remote shooting alternative where I direct remotely via ZOOM working in Capture One, which uses a digital tech and an assistant to run the camera under my direction from home. This all works live. All preproduction needs to be tight and planned out well in advance, as most shoots already are, so that this transition can happen very smoothly.

Art: My agent/executive producer and I have discussed having a backup photographer on hold and ready to replace me should the need arise, with my following the shoot via ZOOM. Of course, this gets tricky if testing is required for my backup.

How would you attempt to resolve the situation if the photographer got sick from the perspective of a producer, client or photographer’s rep?

Luigi: Luckily being a part of an agency with multiple/similar photographers, we have opportunities to slot in artists to help step in to keep the shoot moving. Although not always possible, I'd also work with the client to see if what sort of deadlines and the possibility of postponing the shoot and figure out a schedule that everyone feels comfortable with.

Gaytana: APR is working with our clients and agency partners during bidding to request a Plan of Action be discussed early with all partners. The plan of action should take into account all of the safety protocols which will be followed during the production along with a discussion on what happens if the director/photographer, key crew or talent, either tests positive before the shoot or is symptomatic during the shoot. As well as identifying who would make the ultimate call to delay or cancel the shoot.

Every Covid production is a snowflake and so are the testing protocols. The agency should work with production on Covid protocols particular to a project, and come back with a recommendation for testing, taking into consideration the constantly changing pandemic conditions in general, and specifically to where the shoot is taking place and the talent /crew needs within the creative. That recommended testing protocol and if necessary, expense, is then a conversation between production & agency & brand, so that brand can have all the data needed to make the informed decision.

Since Insurance policies will not cover any Covid related delays or incidents, it becomes imperative to have the tough conversations early with the agency/ brand to think through not only a Plan B but also a Plan C and D.

Cindy: The importance of, and how to keep everyone calm in case of emergency. Having the preliminary plan B, C, and D conversations with everyone. Knowing how to pivot, being prepared to bring in alternate people in all departments. Knowing next steps if the remote system is down.

How have you been estimating or budgeting for COVID related costs on your production?

Luigi: I've been working closely with our clients to make sure that precautionary costs are being included into the bid. Testing takes place more than 1 to 2 days before the shoot to help ensure negative results and ample time to replace crew if the situation arises. We have back up on camera talent, adequate PPE and Covid compliance officers on set to help with the flow of the day and ensuring people are safe on set. There are daily health and safety talks along with checking in with crew along the day if there are any changes in their health. This has impacted the speed at which we are able to shoot, so depending on the assignment we have been opting for longer 12-hour days to help ensure we are executing the creative and needs of the client. It is very much a conversation with all involved to make sure everyone feels safe and confident.

We opt for studios that are big enough and have enough space for people to be socially distant on set and are limiting the number of crew in the actual shooting space if we are on location. We use Video Village for people to be a part of the action if they can't physically be in the shooting space or if they are attending virtually.

Gaytana: Our clients have asked for a clear break out of COVID related costs. It is important for clients to understand these costs are necessary in order to complete the project following all local and state mandates to ensure the safety of cast and crew. Each project should have a health and safety officer who can help estimate what is needed for a particular project based on: size of crew, number of talent, number of locations, number of continuous and non-continuous shoot days and complexity of the production.

Art: We are making each client aware of the risks of my testing positive and what that would mean to the production and the budget. We are asking our clients to pay a day rate or half day rate to our crew if they (the client) requires testing. We are asking the client if they want to pay to have a backup photographer on hold, and to have him or her be tested.

What would you say have been your best tactics for securing new business during these challenging times?

Liz: I worked with my designer to build promotional material that showed what I was capable of shooting from home. We stayed resourceful and kept the momentum going! Being able to show that I never stopped shooting gave my clients confidence that it could be done, great work could be created even in quarantine.

Luigi: The ability to share successful previous virtual shoots and what you've learned from them is also super helpful in putting a client at ease. We are all learning and in this together, so the more we can share about our experiences is super helpful.

Art: There is no question that being professional and being prepared is the best way to secure new business right now. That means that you (the photographer) have resources at your fingertips for on set safety and for rapid testing, that you have answers to the questions surrounding shooting outside vs shooting indoors, that you know how to share your shoot via ZOOM or WebEx or Google Rooms. Essentially, you have to be as prepared as possible to answer your clients' concerns and you have to be as flexible as possible when safety curveballs come your your client or your talent insisting that you wear a face shield.

What have been the most reassuring contributions from a photographer during COVID that have made you feel secure that your shoot would go smoothly? Is there anything a photographer could offer during the bidding process that would make you want to consider them over competing photographers?

Gaytana: We have seen some very thoughtful safety protocols presented to the agency/client along with bids and treatments. Obviously the larger the production, the more risk and the more details which would need to be addressed. Adhering to a zone system is another important area used to keep contact limited during the shoot days. On some larger shoots, we have seen the production send in sketches of the studio or location, indicating where the hand washing stations are, where the PPE is located, where the staging areas are for the various departments in relation to the set and how craft service/lunch will be handled safely.

Our industry is inherently filled with problem solvers, who can do the unthinkable with the shortest turnaround times. Clients expect that same level of problem solving right now. Some clients may have a deep understanding and want clarity around safety protocols. Others may not even consider it and just assume the production and agency are taking care of things. It is for this reason, we find detailed safety protocols are a benefit to all and help to educate the clients as to what ‘set-life’ is like right now.

Cindy: At the beginning of COVID during the shutdowns and quarantine we had to cancel a production. The photographer feeling empathy for the client requested only half of the cancelation fee in order to cover expenses and crew fees, hoping to salvage the situation and retain the client for future projects. This endears us to want to work with this photographer again.

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