With production set to resume, Eric Tomosunas, founder, and CEO of Swirl Films, offers his insights on what it will take to move safely and effectively in a world still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we adapt to the “new normal,” there are steps that can be taken to protect your crew and talent as well as your company. Swirl Films is based in Georgia, and with production allowed to restart here, we had to take a pause to decide when and if we were ready to open our productions back up. A greenlight from government officials didn’t mean we were going to dive right into work, it meant it was time to see how we can make our productions safer than they were, and how we can set an example for the rest of the country.
We’ve been able to look at this from a few different lenses. Since we also own and operate a 100,000 square foot studio outside of Atlanta, it’s crucial that we take into account an approach that encompasses our roles as a production company, a studio, and a production services provider. Our top priority is to ensure that our team (from top to bottom) feels safe and protected. There are certain things production companies can do to ensure they’re moving in a positive direction while maintaining creative integrity in the projects they’re producing.
- Think creatively and be specific. Creating a plan for reopening a studio or continuing your business is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Just because it’s “allowed” does not mean it’s time to start. Instead, it’s integral to take a close look at each project and each partner to find ways to address the new challenges with an in-depth plan catered to each.
- Lean into tech. There are so many amazing technologies out there for creators. If there’s a technology you haven’t tried yet, but it could minimize the amount of interaction on set, use it, learn it, and make it a part of your production plan. For Swirl Films, we’re incorporating the use of LED screens into our productions. Before the pandemic, this was a feature we were getting familiar with that would allow us to digitize a scene from anywhere in the world, minimize travel and still create high-quality work. Now, it’s a key selling point and production tool for us. It’s helping us limit the amount of people that would be needed on set and keeps our talent and crew safer.
- Less people on set = less exposure. Hundreds of people on set are a thing of the past. This means no more entourages and no more bodies in the building, other than those that absolutely need to be there. This doesn’t mean fewer roles are needed, it means the overlap is minimal. If someone is not needed for a certain role at this time, they aren’t there in person. Period.
- Be informed. What we know about COVID-19 is constantly changing and developing as more data is collected and studied. For Swirl Films, our new policy moving forward is to have a doctor or medical consultant on board for each project before we start production. They will advise on any concerns from recent CDC guidelines. The idea here is to have someone that can tell us if we need to reconsider a scene because it puts our crew or talent at risk for exposure.
- Stay healthy. While it’s customary practice to have medics onsite for productions, we plan to beef up our medical professionals onsite to ensure that our teams are healthy and comfortable. This means several medics on each set, and several on call. This falls in line with checking the temperature of the team every day and enforcing effective safety rules to keep everyone safe. Supplies will be ramped up as well – there has to be enough supply of proper personal protective equipment for your crew and talent, as well as hand sanitizer, washing stations, and updated procedures for the cleaning of equipment and props.
- Communicate and observe. These are times that are incredibly uncertain and stressful. The key is to keep an open communication between your crew and talent, and also with your networks and distribution partners. Each partner will have different needs and concerns, and it’s our job as the production company to ensure those needs are met and tailored to exactly what they need, while also keeping all of our teams safe. Some international productions have also started productions back up. We’re keeping a close eye on countries like Australia, Denmark and Sweden to see what’s been working for them and how to incorporate some of those practices into what we’re doing at Swirl Films.
Eric Tomosunas, is a producer, founder, and CEO of Swirl Films, the leading independent television and urban film production company. In the last few years alone, he’s led Swirl Films in creating over 60+ original productions across various platforms and distributors, including BET, TV One, Bounce, Lifetime, Hallmark, Reel One, Netflix & Up TV. Notable titles include Behind the Movement: The Rosa Park Story, Saints & Sinners,” and “Uncensored” to name a few. Tomosunas purchased a 100,000 square foot film studio in Atlanta in 2018, which he operates for Swirl productions as well as major network and studio partners.