The True Life of a Fixer

Few careers seem more suited to variety than that of a Fixer – the local person responsible for bringing all the elements together for a television series, documentary, commercial, music video or photo shoot. They help productions save both time and money by allowing them to hit the ground running and not worry about logistical issues.

The job requires a deep knowledge of locations, strong organizational skills and an extensive database of crews, equipment rental houses and vendors. For those that love working behind-the-scenes on a new production, it is an ideal job. But the work is demanding as a Fixer is always looking for the problem to solve. Nor is it a guaranteed ticket to landing work. Many Fixers need years of experience in many production roles to have the depth of knowledge necessary to be successful.

“I don’t see creative briefs and scripts anymore. I see jigsaw puzzles. You see the whole production through the eyes of ‘what do I need to shoot here’, not just ‘that’s a cool concept,” said Kent Youngblood, Fixer and Owner of Denver-based Movie Mogul Productions. “The weirdest thing about the job is how detail-oriented you become. I’m constantly thinking about the hundred different pieces I need to find solutions for. It can drive my wife crazy.”

Every Day is a Challenge

In the first six months of 2022, Youngblood worked on two large documentaries for European networks, each with their special challenges. For the BBC – Studio Ramsay coproduction Trailblazers, he had to provide over 30 different locations and activities, crew recommendations and transportation options for a three-week shoot. With a crew of 40, there were a lot of moving pieces. The shoot schedule was aggressive and each day was a company move to a new location. From a dusty bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming to the summit of Pikes Peak, it was a project of epic proportions. Work on the documentary series started in January and continued until the shoot concluded in April.

A month after completing Trailblazers, he was off on another huge documentary, this one for France 3 television called Pack Your Rucksack. Although the journey through Colorado was similar, this project had a much smaller crew and needed additional support for a French-speaking crew. One major challenge was working with national parks across Colorado. Due to staffing shortages and limits to what can (and cannot) be done on park land, getting answers was difficult and required persistence. In the end, having the production designated as “Low-Impact Filming” was critical to success.

By the end of June, Youngblood had travelled over 3,000 miles throughout Colorado and consumed “at least 100 Starbucks orders and way too many fast food drive-ins. It was an epic six months of travel. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”

Questions and Problem Solving

Every production has its unique requirements and it is the Fixer’s job to come up with solutions to those demands. Years of experience and intimate local knowledge help a Fixer anticipate most production needs but that doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises. Requests can range from the challenging:

Can we get 250 pounds of camera equipment up to the top of the Great Sand Dunes National Park? Yes… with sledges, plenty of time and lots of manpower.

To the absurd:

Can we summit Long’s Peak in March with a crew of 20 people? No… with a crew unaccustomed to an altitude of 14,259 feet, deep snow drifts and freezing temperatures, it’s a safety hazard.

Even then, production companies will still try to attempt the impossible. The Long’s Peak climb was only canceled after five mountain climbing companies confirmed Youngblood’s concerns.

The Thrill of Accomplishment

The feeling of working on an intricate puzzle and clinching it with the final piece is gratifying. “I’ll walk into something and go, ‘This is it’,” said Youngblood. “Everything together: the locations, the crew, the equipment, the travel arrangements… and all under budget. It’s a thrill and a relief.”

Above all, one of the best parts of being a Fixer is how every project is different. “In one month I worked on a network documentary, a music video for a major label, a Vogue fashion shoot and an immersive experience for Netflix,” Youngblood said. “The variety is hard to beat. And the people you meet along the way are awesome.”


For further reading:

The Role of a Fixer

Filming in Colorado

If you’re looking for a Fixer now or in the future, reach out to Movie Mogul at their Contact page.

Filming in Colorado

Colorado has been a hidden gem for film locations for quite some time. With a rich history of filmmaking, it has been featured in such classic films as True Grit, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Filmmakers have know for years that Colorado is hard to beat when you consider its varied terrain provides the perfect stand-in, no matter the setting. Alpine peaks, rolling plains, lush forests, epic sand dunes, and modern cities are all mere hours away from one another. Because of this, Colorado can easily double for parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Aspen Mountain Independence Pass Crystal Mill in Marble

Beyond the varied locations, Colorado has many other advantages:

Great Weather

The state has over 300 days of sunshine and when stormy weather comes through, it moves on quickly. An average altitude of 6,800 feet above sea level provides mild winters and low-humidity summers creates crisp, cool nights. This allows production schedules to run on time with little threat of weather delays.

Quality Crew

Colorado has an enviable track record of hosting productions from all over the world. There is tremendous depth in every crew position as well as a number of equipment rental vendors and full-service production companies in the state to support them. The Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media (COFTM) offers a bevy of programs and resources for out-of-state productions.

Affordability

As compared to states on either coast, Colorado is a bargain for filmmakers. Equipment rentals, crew rates and travel expenses are lower than production hubs in California, New York and Georgia. Not only is it an affordable state for production, the quality of life index is one of the highest in the nation. And Colorados’s rich history and diverse landscape provide numerous reasons to visit.

Incentives

After lagging behind behind its neighbors when it comes to providing film incentives, Colorado has a $6 million film incentive. The state allows companies that film in Colorado to receive up to a 20% tax rebate if they spend a certain amount on qualified expenses, such as crew wages and set construction.

Rich History

Colorado with its striking mountain and desert landscapes has provided the backdrop for many old silent westerns dating as far back as 1898. It has continued to be the location of choice for films like The Hateful Eight, Fast and Furious 7, The Long Ranger as well as numerous commercials, music videos and documentaries.

To take advantage of any state, you need a company well-versed in production logistics, location scouting and permitting procedures. As natives of Colorado, we know the state from Grand Junction to Burlington, Fort Collins to Trinidad, and every place in between. We are skilled production coordinators that have experience in all aspects of film and television production. We also represent a variety of filming locations in Colorado, as well as local studios offering full production services in Denver. If you need a Fixer on your next shoot, drop us a line.

Tips for Shooting Video on Green Screen

Filmmakers looking for an easy way to expand their shoots need to understand how to use green screens. With a good green screen, you can more easily create special effects, simulate locations, and build virtual sets. You can be shooting at a studio in Denver and make it look you’re in the middle of the Amazon!

But without proper technique, shooting a green screen can be more painful than it is helpful. There’s nothing worse than spending hours cleaning up bad green screen footage because someone didn’t spend time setting up the green screen properly.

To save you time on your next project, here are some tips for shooting green screens.

The Wall

In some situations, a green screen will be painted on a wall, but often green screens are hung using a green fabric material. In these cases, make sure to pull the screen tight on all sides.

For a good key, you need a green screen surface that is as flat and smooth as possible. You don’t want creases or folds in your screen. Folds create shadows that will wreak havoc on your keying in post-production.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important parts of using a green screen. Why? Because if you don’t evenly light it, you’re going to have shadows. If you have shadows, you’re going to have a bad key. Always concentrate on lighting your green screen thoroughly.

Light your Screen

The biggest mistake you can make with a green screen is lighting the screen and the subject as one. You will need multiple high-quality lights set up just to light the screen. Use diffused, nondirectional lighting that hits your screen from above. That will give you the flat lighting you need for a good key. Try measuring the lighting on your screen with a waveform monitor. You’ll know the green screen is lit well when you see a flat line going across the monitor.

Light your Talent

Talent is a part of the environment you’re creating, and that environment has its own light source. Knowing what type of footage you’ll be using for your new background will tell you how best to light the talent in front of your green screen. Where’s the light coming from? Is it behind the talent or in front of them? Plan this out and light accordingly.

Keep It Separated

Separate your green screen from your foreground elements as much as possible. A good rule is to pull your foreground elements at least ten feet away from your green screen. This will help to eliminate shadows that your foreground elements might cast on the green screen. Just like creases in the screen, shadows cast by the foreground elements will cause problems when you are trying to get a clean key.

In addition, separating your foreground elements from the screen will help eliminate the spill. Spill occurs when some of the green light bounces onto the objects in the shot, giving them a soft green outline. You don’t want to deal with spill when keying in post-production.

If It’s Green, It’s Gone

If someone shows up in a green tie, the Key tool in the video editing software will show a hole through their chest. Look out for colors that have just a hint of green too. Mirrored or reflective objects like eyeglasses can also be a problem. Take the time to review your shots before filming to make sure you aren’t picking up green reflections on any objects.

Plan Ahead

When shooting green screen, you want to be prepared. Know how to key properly. Know your shots and camera angles. Storyboard them or previs them so that everyone on the crew knows what you’re going for. Let the cinematographer know where the light source is coming from in each shot. Plan these scenarios.

Shooting on a green screen can provide some great results. It’s not that hard to do as long as you plan ahead and watch out for the small things that can pose big problems later on. We hope these tips make your next green screen shoot a little easier.

Super Bowl Ads for 2022 – The Best and Worse

Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of the year that television viewers look forward to commercials. From the legendary 1984 ad for Apple Macintosh computers to E-Trade babies and Old Spice hunks, some of the most famous commercials of all time have aired during the Super Bowl.

Although viewership has dropped off in recent years, the Super Bowl remains the biggest night of the year for advertisers. To hold our attention this year, the big game leaned hard on star power. Here’s a round-up of the five best commercials, along with one stinker.

General Motors

Mike Myers’ Dr. Evil from Austin Powers lore isn’t so evil compared to the looming threat of climate change. So the villain is taking over GM and leveraging the new Ultium platform behind the Hummer EV and Silverado EV to defeat his environmental nemesis. Sadly, Scott is still left behind.

Samuel Adams

Boston Dynamics has shown over the years how its robots can do backflipsopen doors, enforce social distancing rules and perform parkour. Turns out their robot dog, aka Spot, can also fetch a can of Sam Adams beer. Good boy!

Coinbase

The cryptocurrency exchange platform hit the Super Bowl stage with this creative debut ad… and it got people talking. What’s not to like in an inexpensive production that’s able to generate a return on investment immediately. Isn’t that what advertising is all about?

Greenlight

Ty Burrell is definitely not the guy you want to take money advice from. The Modern Family dad makes a series of awful and outrageous purchasing decisions to highlight the importance of financial literacy in his commercial for Greenlight.

Mail Chimp

In another ‘outside the box’ spot, the email marketing platform poked fun at big-budget ads by plugging their small-business initiative. Its #BigGameSmallAds campaign sent live tweets promoting businesses from the Mailchimp Twitter account after each Super Bowl commercial. Genius!

Amazon

Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson try to get their Amazon Alexa set up for the Super Bowl and discover along the way that Alexa devices aren’t psychic. Thank heavens for that! The clumsy attempt by Amazon to show its interests are aligned with the public while their privacy doesn’t work, given their history of AI knowing more about ourselves than we do.

Whether the product or the spokesperson was the nostalgia piece, celebrities defined the advertising experience of Super Bowl 2022… and the trend shows no signs of slowing. Here’s to next year, when Alexa will be reading your mind for the ads you want to see too! And to see our commercials, head over to Our Work page.

Production Incentives Update: How 2022 is Shaping Up

Whether they are a financial godsend or a revenue burden to states, production continues to boom because of film incentives and tax credits. However, the challenge for any producer is to stay up to date as incentives are in a constant state of flux… or disappear entirely. This list represents the latest information since our last film incentive post.

The good news is that there are lots of options. Many states have an incentive of some kind to encourage you to shoot your project there. However, applying for a tax credit or incentive can be complicated, especially since every state has different rules and regulations to follow. And not all film incentives are the same…

Film Incentives – Types

While there are five main types of film incentives, they will vary depending on the state.

  • Refundable Tax Credit – Applies only to tax credits. The state will pay the production company in excess of the company’s owed state tax.
  • Transferable Refundable Tax Credit – Can transfer over to a local company so that they can reduce or eliminate their tax liability.
  • Rebate – Direct payment issued to the production company by the state.
  • Grant – Direct payment issued to the production company by the state. Unlike rebates, you do not have to pay any tax on a grant.
  • Bonuses – Some states offer additional perks to filmmakers. Such as for using specific locations, local business, or hiring local staff.

Film Incentives – State by State

Below is a list of all of the states that added to, or tweaked, their incentives in 2021. All listed run at least until the end of 2022.

Arkansas

Incentive TypeRebate
WebsiteArkansas Production
Minimum Spend$200,000
Funding Cap$4,000,000

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) will hold a public hearing on proposed revised administrative rules for the Digital Product and Motion Picture Industry Development Act to conform the rule to revisions in Act 797 of 2021.

Act 797 of 2021 changed the rebate program to allow the incentive to be taken as either a rebate or a transferable tax credit. The Act also added an additional 10% incentive for qualifying veterans, extended the program’s sunset date through June 30, 2032, and set a cap on the tax credit of $4M per year.

California

Incentive TypeNon Transferable Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteFilm California
Minimum Spend$1,000,000
Funding Cap$222,500,000

California’s Basics 3.0 tax incentive program hasn’t undergone any major changes, but it did get some major funding. In July 2021, a legislative bill added $180 million to the program – $90 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and $90 million for the following year. This bill also allocated $150 million to be used for renovating existing and building new California stages. The cap remains 20-25% for all crew, depending on the budget.

In addition, the criteria to qualify as a relocating TV series has been relaxed to include series that filmed their pilot episode out-of-state. The tax credit program previously required relocating series to film an entire season out-of-state.

Colorado

Incentive TypeTax Rebate
WebsiteColorado Office of TV and Film
Minimum Spend$100,000
Funding Cap$6,000,000

Before the pandemic, the Colorado legislature was granting as little as $750,000 a year to the state’s film incentive fund. After lagging behind for so long when it comes to providing film incentives, the Colorado legislature allocated $6 million to replenish the film incentive fund. The rebate applies to a variety of projects, including films, television, commercials, and video games. Although $6 million is a record amount for Colorado, the state still lags behind most of its neighbors.

Georgia

Incentive TypeTransferable Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteGeorgia USA
Minimum Spend$500,000
Funding CapNone

Georgia’s tax credits continue to be some of the best in the nation. The Georgia Film Office reported that more than 360 productions were filmed in the state in 2021. That’s close to the number of productions filmed in Georgia before the pandemic.

All projects get a 20 percent spend. However, they are awarded an additional 10 percent if they include the made-in Georgia logo in the film’s opening and links to the Georgia website on the project’s landing page.

Kentucky

Incentive TypeNon-Transferable Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteKentucky Film
Minimum Spend$250,000
Funding Cap$75,000,000

The state of Kentucky has new guidelines for its film incentives program, returning it to refundable credits that were scaled back in 2018. Although the funding cap was reduced from $100 million to $75 million, the state is now offering a refundable 30-35 percent tax credit. With the new guidebook, individual projects are capped at $10 million in a calendar year, and a production company can qualify for incentives on a maximum of four projects a year.

Louisiana

Incentive TypeNon-Transferable, Partly Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteLouisiana Entertainment
Minimum Spend$300,000
Funding Cap$150,000,000

Attempts to both scale back and extend the life of the tax credit in 2021 failed in the state legislature, leaving the status quo in place. Louisiana continues to offer productions with up to a 40 percent tax credit on eligible expenditures. These include resident and non-resident labor.

Maryland

Incentive TypeNon-Transferable Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteMaryland Film
Minimum Spend$250,000
Funding Cap$8,000,000

Since inception of the Film Production Activity Tax Credit program in 2011, Maryland has incentivized 13 major productions that employed thousands of residents, utilized thousands of local small businesses, and generated an economic impact of nearly $900 million in the state.

Massachusetts

Incentive TypeTransferable, Partly Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteMA Film
Minimum Spend$50,000
Funding CapNone

Massachusetts provides a 25 percent payroll credit for eligible projects. The Massachusetts Film Production Incentive was updated this year stating that a company’s production expenses in the state, exceed 75% of all production expenses, or at least 75% of total principal photography days occur.

Minnesota

Incentive TypeRebate
WebsiteMN Film TV
Minimum Spend$100,000
Funding CapNone

For the first time, Minnesota offers a transferable tax credit for film and TV production. You can read the language of the bill here. The rebate reimburses up to 25% of eligible Minnesota production expenditures. The incentive is available to qualified feature films, documentaries, TV pilots, programs or series, TV commercials, music videos, internet and post production only. Rebates are scheduled to begin after January 1, 2022.

Montana

Incentive TypeTransferable Non-Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteMontana Film
Minimum Spend$350,000
Funding Cap$12,000,000

The power of film incentives was on display for every producer to see when “Yellowstone,” the hugely successful Paramount Network series starring Kevin Costner, stopped filming in Utah last year and moved to Montana due to better incentives. The state Legislature raised its cap on incentives to $12 million during the 2021 session, higher than Utah’s $8.3 package. To qualify, 50% of all principal photography must take place in the state.

Nebraska

Incentive TypeGrant
WebsiteNebraska Film Office
Minimum Spend$1,000,000
Funding Cap$400,000

The state of Nebraska has dipped their toe into the water on film incentives. Starting back in October of 2021, the program sets aside $1 million for incentives for feature films that are shot on location in Nebraska and tell a Nebraska story. Projects must use Nebraska workers, and spend at least $1 million filming in the state, to qualify for grants of up to $400,000. The Nebraska law is the first major effort by the state to attract filmmaking there.

New Jersey

Incentive TypeTransferable Non-Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteNJ Motion Picture
Minimum Spend$1,000,000
Funding Cap$100,000,000

Under the film tax break program, the state compensates producers for filming scenes in New Jersey and buying in-state goods. Murphy signed one expansion in January 2020, and another as part of the $14.5 billion economic subsidy program he approved earlier this year. State officials have used the program to attract such productions like “Joker” and “West Side Story.”

The yearly program cap on digital media productions increase from $10 million to $30 million, while the tax breaks for those kinds of productions increase to 35 percent of the expenses incurred in South Jersey in an effort to draw productions beyond the New York City area, and 30 percent in the rest of the state.

New Mexico

Incentive TypeTransferable Non-Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteNew Mexico Film Office
Minimum SpendNone
Funding CapNone

As one of the first states in the U.S. to offer production tax incentives, New Mexico offers a refundable tax credit of 25% for spending on state film crews, goods, services and other eligible expenses. The rate can be as high as 35%, depending on where it’s filmed, among other factors.

The 25% tax incentive is also applicable to nonresident talent, given certain criteria are met. Best of all, New Mexico does not have a minimum spend, which makes it even more attractive to independent productions. Credits toward film productions were estimated at $109 million for the year ending in June 2021, and $52 million the prior year.

New York

Incentive TypeNon Transferable Refundable Tax Credit
WebsiteEmpire State Development
Minimum Spend$250,000
Funding Cap$420,000,000

Production companies may be eligible to receive a fully refundable credit of 25 percent of qualified production costs and post-production costs incurred in the state. There is a maximum of $5 million per year that can be allocated for the additional 10 percent credit on qualified labor expenses. The New York Commercial production incentive allows for online commercials to qualify as well, a boon for branded content companies.

North Carolina

Incentive TypeRebate
WebsiteFilm NC
Minimum Spend$1,000,000
Funding Cap$31,000,000

North Carolina has a strong history with the entertainment industry with incentive programs dating back to 2014. However, the program is evolving as the 2022 state budget adjusts the financial qualifications TV and film projects must meet in order to receive financial incentives from the state.

North Carolina has reduced minimum spend requirements for tv and movie projects and increased their spending caps with close to $30 million available in funding. The 25 percent rebate is available for “qualifying expenses and purchases made by productions while in-state.”

Oklahoma

Incentive TypeRebate
WebsiteOK Film
Minimum Spend$25,000
Funding Cap$30,000,000

In July of 2021, the state launched a new film incentive program that’s nearly quadruple the size of its current program. It’s part of a vision by lawmakers to turn the Sooner State into a production powerhouse. The program offers film and TV productions up to a 38 percent rebate on money they spend in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s base cash rebate is 20 percent and productions can increase the amount with boosts meant to spur long-term investment in the state. For example, there’s a two percent bonus for TV pilots and a five percent bonus for a full TV series season. There’s also a five percent boost for production companies that commit to making three films in three years. There’s an additional boost as well for filming in rural Oklahoma or a soundstage as well as doing post production work in the state.

Oregon

Incentive TypeRebate
WebsiteOregon Film
Minimum Spend$1,000,000
Funding Cap$20,000,000

Oregon has become increasingly well-known over the last few years, thanks in some part to the rebate program in the state. They offer qualifying film or television productions a 20 percent cash rebate on production-related goods and services paid to Oregon vendors and a 10 percent cash rebate on wages paid for work done in the state. An additional 10 percent is awarded if the shooting occurs outside of the Portland Metro Zone.

Tennessee

Incentive TypeGrant
WebsiteTennessee Entertainment
Minimum Spend$200,000
Funding Cap$13,000,000

Legislators in Tennessee approved a new incentive program in April of 2021, creating new sales-tax exemptions for “qualified productions.” The program is not first come, first served and grant awards are based on the discretion of Tennessee Entertainment Commission. As an interesting side note, companies must post a notice in local newspapers where the filming took place after principal photography, telling the public of the need to file creditor claims.

Utah

Incentive TypeTax Credit and Rebate
WebsiteFilm Utah
Minimum Spend$500,000
Funding Cap$8,300,000

A cash rebate can be given to projects with less than $500,000, where at least 85% of cast and crew are Utah residents. Currently, Utah has a capped incentive of $6.79 million and can be combined with a $1.5 million cash rebate. A bill in the state legislature is attempting to raise the annual incentive cap to $15 million, in order to remain competitive with surrounding states. It is currently in committee.

Wrap Up

Although film incentives can be intimidating at first, the benefits are obvious. You can save a lot of money on your production by applying for one. The cost of production is always an issue and producers need to keep them in mind while budgeting. States want you to choose their location over others, so don’t be afraid to send them over any questions. If you need help with your application, reach out to the individual state film commissions where you’re interested in shooting.

COVID Testing for Production in the Age of Omicron

Nearly two years into the pandemic, COVID testing is an essential part of production as companies of all sizes look to comply with protocols, keep sets safe and contain risk. The challenge for testing labs is to keep up with the ever-changing variants. Currently, it’s the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Even fully vaccinated people who believed the shots were a step back to normalcy have been watching anxiously as Omicron has jumped from 12.6 percent to 58.6 percent of COVID-19 cases by Christmas. While early research suggests Omicron may cause milder illnesses, testing remains an important tool for productions to keep their cast and crew safe.

Here’s what production companies need to know about testing in the age of Omicron… and what experts say you should do if a member of your cast or crew test positive.

How long to wait to test after exposure?

Every viral disease has an incubation period. That’s the time from when you were exposed to a pathogen to when it can be detected. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends waiting five after exposure to COVID before taking a test. Early data suggests that it takes only around two to three days for people to start showing symptoms after exposure to  Omicron. In addition, Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that tests seem to be picking up the virus within about two days of exposure. Although that speaks to the quick transmissibility of the virus, the upside is that it may take under five days to get a positive result, allowing productions to make changes.

Which test to use?

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests are the gold standard for detecting COVID. These tests, which look for the presence of genetic material from the virus, are highly sensitive and unlikely to have false positives. Given how quickly Omicron can spread, productions should use labs that offer PCR tests with results in less than 24 hours.

Rapid antigen tests are less reliable. Studies have shown that rapid tests overall are able to catch up to only 85 percent of COVID cases. They detect pieces of proteins from the virus and work best when you have a higher viral load. That is why they’re used when people are already symptomatic. Check the CDC website, which lists the best rapid antigen tests that have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S.

Ultimately, choosing a test comes down to risk tolerance. PCR tests are the most accurate but rapid antigen tests have their place, particularly when someone is symptomatic. It depends on the time frame you are working in. When there’s more than 24 hours before the start of production, do a PCR test. For same day tests, do a PCR test in addition to a rapid antigen test. That way you’ll have an immediate result but also PCR confirmation within 24 hours. But to be clear, it’s always best to test cast and crew 24 – 72 hours prior to the start of work.

If you test positive, what do you do?

Each variant changes the guidance slightly. On December 27, the CDC issued new guidelines for people testing positive for COVID:

  • Stay home or self isolate for 5 days.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

It’s important to always confirm a positive test. If the person is vaccinated and doesn’t have any symptoms, follow up with a second rapid test later that day or the next. If both tests are positive, they pose an infectious risk. When the second test is negative, then the results are inconclusive. They should get a PCR test after that to be certain.

When a cast or crew member tests positive during a work day, contact tracing becomes critical. Production must notify anyone that person had close contact with from the previous two days. In some cases, that might mean a temporary shutdown of the set to test all individuals.

Who pays for the tests?

In film and video production, it is the client’s responsibility to pay for the tests. Cast and crew are either reimbursed for the test costs or payment is already in place with the lab. If a cast or crew member wants additional tests, the production company decides who will pick up that expense. As testing is often an uncontrolled expense (i.e. how many tests are necessary), it is listed as a cost-plus budget item.

COVID test prices depend on type of test, test location and how quickly you need to have the results. Here are some current ranges:

  • Rapid Antigen – $75 – $100/test
  • PCR (24-hour turnaround) – $150 – $175/test
  • PCR (1-hour turnaround) – $250 and up/test

Production can also schedule a concierge nurse to come to set for testing at an even higher amount. Although Congress passed laws mandating free COVID-19 testing, the scheduling and result wait times can range anywhere from two to five days. When time is a factor, it is best to schedule your own test.

While solutions to the COVID crisis have shifted to vaccinations, testing remains key to combating the spread of the virus. But the CDC and experts point out that some protection against the virus is always better than none. If there’s any time to get vaccinated, this is the time. You’re going to want that protection in the weeks ahead as Omicron and other eventual variants surge across the country.

 

The Role of a Producer

Production is complicated process, especially in the advertising world. Beyond the challenging budgets, logistics and schedules, there’s the added responsibility of working with clients.  Timeframes are challenging. Creative might arrive just before a shoot. And with so many moving parts, it’s not unheard of to arrive on set with little preparation.

It’s up to the producer to make sure that everything runs smoothly. No matter how big or small the production, the producer keeps everything on-time and under budget. That description, while accurate, doesn’t begin to describe the role of the Producer. Who are they? What do they do?

For example, while it’s not unheard of for multiple producers to be involved on a project, there is often just one. Ultimately, the size and complexity of the production determines how many producers are involved. Let’s take a look at three types of producers: the Executive Producer, Line Producer, and Creative Producer.

Executive Producer

If you’re producing a major commercial for a big brand, chances are you’ll need an Executive Producer on the project. An Executive Producer is focused on the financial-side of production. They might be the head of a production company or contributed/secured funding for the project. As stakeholders, it’s their job to make sure things go well.

But even with the financial stake, when it comes to the day-to-day production the Executive Producer is more hands-off than Line Producers and Creative Producers.

Line Producer

A Line Producer joins a project in the early stages of pre-production, and without them, no one would get hired and no locations would be booked. When the concept is approved, it is the Line Producer’s job to execute it.

While Executive Producers are the ones that secure the budget, Line Producers focus on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a project. Budgeting, scheduling, booking a crew, sourcing equipment and other logistical details are all responsibilities of a Line Producer.

Creative Producer

A Creative Producer focuses on the creative details and logistics for production. They work alongside (and oftentimes hire) writers and directors to turn the project’s concept into a reality. While every producer knows how production works, the Creative Producer is understands this process intimately. They also act as a liaison between the director and client to make sure the client’s vision is being presented correctly.

From the start to end of any production, at least one producer makes things happen behind-the-scenes. But how does a producer’s role change throughout this process?

A Producer’s Role On And Off Set

The standard answer to a producer’s role and/or responsibility boils down to this: If a producer isn’t personally carrying out a task (i.e., creating a budget, casting talent, hiring a crew, etc.), then they are overseeing it.

The producer’s day-to-day job can be broken down along the three phases of production, pre-production, production, and post production. Their responsibilities change depending on what phase a production is in.

Pre-production

Pre-production on a commercial shoot encompasses all the tasks that happen from the initial project pitch to a client and all the way to right before cameras start rolling. The timelines are typically very short, lasting only several months at most. Producers work closely with a client (i.e., a brand or business) and become their point of contact throughout the process.

Depending on when a producer joins onto a project, the concept might or might not already be developed. Either way, the producer ultimately gives (or doesn’t give) the green light for pre-production to start and bases this decision on the budget parameters provided by the client.

If the concept requires a bigger budget and/or expensive resources that aren’t available, the producer point that out and offers possible solutions. During these budget negotiations, the concept is goes to the next step and becomes a script. The budget is adjusted to meet the needs of the script and approved by the client.

Throughout pre-production there are an assortment of details producers must deal with. For example, every project needs production insurance to issue Certificates of Insurance (COIs) to vendors in order to rent the gear you need to shoot the commercial. Other paperwork to gather includes crew deal memos, location agreements, talent agreements and setting up payroll.

It’s not glamorous, but all of this work gets the production ready to roll in a safe, legal, and efficient manner.

Production

After all the work done in pre-production, a producer delegates a lot of responsibility to the director and assistant director during production. The assistant director will usually send out a call sheet every day of the commercial shoot. But if the team is small, this responsibility could fall on the producer.

Other than that, a producer’s main responsibility in production is to oversee the progress and to put out fires. This can be anything from running behind schedule, missing a piece of critical equipment, and health and safety issues such as a COVID outbreak on set. It’s the producer’s job to come up with solutions to these problems and keep the production on time and on budget.

The producer also works closely with the director, department heads in the crew, and the client to make sure that everything that was planned in pre-production comes to fruition. Much of their day is spent managing client expectations and getting their sign off on takes. When the client is happy, the set is an easy place to work.

Post Production

Post Production includes video editing, audio mixing, motion graphics or visual effects, color grading, and quality control. A producer may handle this process, depending on the size of the production company. In larger operations however, a separate post producer position exists to have an expert focusing solely on this process.

Attention to detail and great organizational skills are needed. Multiple versions are created for broadcast and social media. Closed captioning and subtitles are addressed. And while the producer deals with all of these elements, they must deliver the spot under the tight deadlines inherent in the fast-paced world of advertising.

Final Thoughts

A producer helms every successful production and commercial shoot. They manage communications with the client, handle the budget and schedule, deal with unforeseen problems and oversee the project’s progress. Organizations like the Association for Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) are a great resource and provide guidance on many production issues.

Not only is the producer responsible for getting the project off the ground, they’re in charge of seeing it through to the end. It’s not a job that is suited for everyone, but that’s why the producer is a critical part of any production.

The Role of the Producer is part of our series that looks at various roles within film and television production. Also check out our Fixer, Cinematographer and COVID Compliance Officer posts. Each goes into detail about a key position on set.

The Role of a Fixer

Ever heard of a Fixer? You might have heard them referred to as a Production Coordinator or local Producer but the term originated in journalism. New correspondents in an unfamiliar location would often hire a Fixer to help with logistics, translation, transportation and travel. Although more common outside of the U.S., a Fixer offers support at every stage of a production. From location scouting to securing crews and equipment, Fixers are the driving force behind commercials, documentaries and feature films.

How Can a Fixer Help?

The best fixers have years of experience, local knowledge and industry connections. What does all of this mean for you? Put simply, your production will run like a well-oiled machine. Although every project is different Fixers help in the following areas:

Location Scouting: Their knowledge and familiarity with locations in the area they live enables them to overcome language barriers, connect with local crews and keep locals happy.

Location Permitting: Every country has its own film commission and permit application criteria. This involves a lot of complicated paperwork. Fixers handle it, relieving the production company of the stress of permitting.

Hiring Crews: Fixers have strong working relationships with leading crews in their area. This includes Directors, Cinematographers, Producers, Camera Operators, Sound Mixers, Grips, Gaffers and even PAs. They can add individual crew members to your team, or put together a full crew that’s perfect for the job.

Equipment Rental: Whether you need a single piece of equipment or an entire gear package, Fixers can help. They have relationships (and accounts) with all the leading equipment rental houses in their area. Because of these relationships, they can get the best rates, which they’ll pass on to you. Many Fixers also have their own production and equipment insurance.

Why are Fixers Important?

Fixers are particularly important for unfamiliar locations. Through the professional relationships and networks that Fixers have developed over time, they help productions save both time and money by knowing where to find the services needed at different budget levels. Productions are able to hit the ground running and not worry about logistical issues.

As mentioned, Fixers are excellent at scouting filming locations, assisting with filming permits, arranging travel and accommodations, and providing recommendations on how to keep the production crew and equipment safe in this time of COVID.

Managing your Fixer

Establishing roles and responsibilities up front make working with Fixers easy. Checklists and lists of expectations keep clear communication between the production and the Fixer. Depending on how many responsibilities you give a Fixer, make sure not to overwhelm them with too many tasks. The Fixer can only do so much. Make sure they are not setup to fail due to a lack of producing experience or financial resources.

Finding a Fixer that can be your ambassador to their city will vary in cost from location to location, but the assistance they provide can be invaluable.

Production Expertise

From Colorado to Utah, from Wyoming to New Mexico, our team has travelled all across the Rocky Mountain West. We are skilled production coordinators that have experience in all aspects of film and television production. We also represent a variety of filming locations in Colorado, as well as local studios offering full production services in Denver, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City. If you need a Fixer on your next shoot, drop us a line.

The Role of the Fixer is part of our series that looks at various roles within film and television production. Also check out the Cinematographer and COVID Compliance Officer

On Set with Saint Laurent

Fashion brands do the most avant-garde commercials and videos. Saint Laurent is no exception. French Water, a moody short film for historic French fashion house, was created to showcase the Spring/Summer 2021 collection. Directed by Jim Jarmusch and shot by Frederick Elmes, a handful of celebrities make their way around a haunting yet ethereal complex, searching for one another in the Guastavino’s building in New York City. Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Leo Reilly and Indya Moore wander the halls in the nine-minute experiment.

We had the honor of providing production services on the shoot and it was a quite an experience fulfilling the creative aspirations of the client while navigating COVID health and safety protocols in New York. But it all worked out in this surreal piece of content.

 

 

 

The Role of the COVID Compliance Officer

If we told you in 2020 that a pandemic-specific compliance officer would be the most critical positions on set you would have probably rolled your eyes. But with COVID continuing to disrupt productions, COVID Compliance Officers (CCOs) have become a key part to keeping productions safe.

In most cases, public health and union regulations require production companies to have a certified COVID Compliance Officer present on set from the very first scout days to tail-lights on the final day of shooting. But depending on what producer you talk to, the role of a CCO can have different meanings.

Some people think they’re licensed nurses, while others see them as glorified PAs. In this post, we’ll define exactly what a COVID Compliance Officer is and their responsibilities.

What is a COVID Compliance Officer?

A COVID Compliance Officer oversees coronavirus safety protocols on set. The job is loosely defined, usually requiring only the completion of a two-hour course. The title varies from COVID Manager or COVID Assistant to Health and Safety Coordinator.

A CCO is hired at the same time as other crew members. They sit in on pre-production meetings because COVID compliance touches every aspect of production – from locations, crew size and catering to how to set up the cameras.

Job responsibilities include administering COVID tests, sourcing safety equipment (called PPE or Personal Protective Equipment) and enforcing social distancing. On larger shoots, cast and crew are split into different zones (A, B and C), based on their contact with talent. The CCO is responsible for making sure these groups don’t mix. They have to intervene if crew members crowd together and don’t wear their masks properly. CCO’s are also required to maintain health and safety documentation and safeguard each crew member’s privacy.

Depending on where the production is shooting, the job can get even more complicated. Every shoot location has its challenges. Small sets or rooms are challenging for COVID compliance. Large studios are best as they provide plenty of room to social distance and normally have good air handling systems. But if a production is constantly moving locations, more planning is required to scout places with COVID protocols in mind.

Day in the Life of a CCO

Work often begins several days before a shoot begins. Check-in procedures are given to the producer to be included with the daily call sheet. These procedures include a medical history questionnaire for each crew member, screen for COVID symptoms and adhere to general state and local protocols.

Testing commences 72 hours prior to crew coming to set and everyone should have a documented negative COVID test result. Any crew with positive results will self-isolate and be scheduled for additional tests.

The night before filming, the CCO prepares PPE kits which will have masks and sanitizers at a minimum. They show up at least an hour before call time to ensure that sanitizing stations are set up, signage is posted (proper hand washing, physical distancing guidelines, etc) and check-in policies are in place.

All crew entering set are screened by the CCO during check-in. PPE kits are distributed and temperature is taken with a contactless thermometer. The CCO should also remind every person of the importance of proper mask usage and hand washing technique as well as frequent hand sanitizing and physical distancing in a general safety meeting at the start of every shoot day.

From there, they monitor every aspect of the production for proper safety, making sure everyone has their protective equipment on, sanitizing between scenes, and maintaining the proper occupancy for the square footage. After production wraps, CCOs stick around to disinfect and clean the set before going home to start prepping for the next day.

Set Medic vs. CCO

Health and safety positions are new to the entertainment industry as we have not had to respond to such a destructive pandemic since the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. A few organizations were prepared to respond such as National Set Medics and IATSE Local 80.

However, the job of a Set Medic and COVID Compliance Officer are very different, though both must have a medical understanding of the coronavirus. They work together to provide the strongest scope of safety on set.

CCOs understand the health and safety protocols in their particular county and state, as well as the requirements of various unions (SAG/AFTRA, DGA, IATSE). They stay updated on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding transmission and how it affects protocols. The job of a Set Medic is to respond to emergencies and triage on site. A medic is not allowed to take on a secondary responsibility on set.

Why? Medical negligence. A medic cannot be engaged in a secondary activity when they are acting in the capacity of a medic. A CCO can have a second responsibility as long as it’s not that of a medic.

Challenges

The position has many challenges. Some productions ignore the authority of the CCO altogether. A safe set works best when there is respect for the CCO position and adherence to health and safety protocols within the entire production team.

Even when productions implement safety protocols on set, a 100% safe and secure production is not guaranteed. When there are concerns about safety, the COVID Compliance Officer has the power to discipline, or even fire, health and safety protocol violators. In worst case scenarios, they can even stop a production. Given that shutdowns on large productions can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, that’s a huge responsibility.

No matter the size of the production, nothing is more important than protecting your cast and crew. Productions can’t cut corners or break rules that endanger cast and crew. Prevention in a time of a pandemic is expensive but positions like a COVID Compliance Officer are the best strategy to keeping your set safe.