Response to Chicago Crew Survey: Notes on Set Safety during Covid

I wanted to respond to a few things that stood out to me in everyone’s answers on this latest Chicago crew survey. I would love to talk to anyone about set safety, protocols or ideas for improvements anytime! This offer extends to all photographers, producers and crew – even if we don’t know each other well. We can only be more safe by exchanging ideas and helping each other through this!

After reading through everyone’s responses – my takeaway is that communication is key. And that everyone needs to be aware of their mask falling off their face and getting too close.


I encourage everyone to ask the people that hire them as many questions as they need to feel safe. I have been trying to share safety info with crew from the first time I ask them to hold but if there is any piece of info I am missing in these initial conversations, I am happy to clarify. I want everyone to feel safe and understand what they are committing to.

Just a reminder that not all productions are going to be the same, despite everyone wanting standard protocols. Please don’t take any shoots you are uncomfortable with or 100% sure about. I personally have turned down more jobs than I ever have in my life over the past 6 months. I’ve had numerous requests for shoots that I knew I couldn’t produce safely – either due to budget restrictions or creative direction that wouldn’t allow talent to be safe. I urge EVERYONE to ask questions and not take any shoots they don’t feel safe with.


Although your producers, photographers and safety monitors should be setting the tone and providing the tools to be safe on set, it is up to all of us to be responsible adults and help ensure our own safety as well as those around us. Speak up if and when anyone is getting too close, if anyone’s mask is falling off or if anyone is making you feel unsafe. Please be responsible at home so we all can be safer at work.



Not all production budgets are going to accommodate costs surrounding Covid testing. Bringing in a company to test is very expensive – whether it’s a few days before the shoot or rapid testing day of. This isn’t to say it shouldn’t happen, just that it might not happen as frequently as we’d like it to.

Even if your production isn’t requiring you to get tested – I believe it’s the right thing to do as we continue to work on set together during a pandemic.



For anyone who would like to test themselves for free in Chicago, the easiest way I’ve found is through Chicago Curative Testing. Click on REGISTER HERE to make an appointment. You will need a Chicago address as far as I know. It takes about 5 minutes.

You do not need to have any symptoms or have been exposed to the virus – no need to lie about this when the website asks. They will email or text you a link to get personal info and secure your appointment.

You do not need insurance to get tested. If you have insurance, they are asking for it. The request for insurance is fairly new, but the website states your insurance CANNOT charge you – I believe they are just trying to recoup some of their costs. I was tested a couple weeks ago and input my insurance info and so far I haven’t seen anything pop up because of it.

They have drive through and walk up options available. Most sites are open 10am – 4pm, M-F and it’s fairly easy to schedule a test day-of or one-day in advance.

If you are back on set regularly – I would suggest not packing your work schedule so full that you are unable to test yourself regularly. This will not only help keep yourself safe and healthy but those around you.



For options outside Chicago (in Illinois) – you can find a testing site here. I don’t believe this is as easy a process but they are supposed to test regardless of symptoms.

If you Google “Covid testing in XYZ” you will find lots of resources but you might have to wade through different rules and regulations. Some places only test symptomatic people. Some require insurance or payment. Almost all require an appointment so plan ahead.



Crew – I absolutely think everyone should charge more, within reason, to be back on set. If you have recently raised your rates – please share this info with those that hire you regularly. By the time you’re being asked to hold it could be too late – your rates have likely already been set.

Everyone on set is taking a risk no matter how safe the set is operated. Just please make sure and confirm your rates with whoever hires you before they book!



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

There are rules surrounding the use N95 masks that most productions will not be able to accommodate. “Not everyone is able to wear a respirator due to medical conditions that may be made worse when breathing through a respirator. Before using a respirator or getting fit-tested, workers must have a medical evaluation to make sure that they are able to wear a respirator safely. More info on CDC website.

United States regulations require that workers undergo an annual fit test and conduct a user seal check each time the respirator is used. Workers must pass a fit test to confirm a proper seal before using a respirator in the workplace.”

If you would like to bring and wear your own N95 mask please feel free – do what makes you feel most safe. Please do not expect your photographers and producers to supply N95 masks and certainly do not expect them to mandate that anyone wear them. We are not allowed to do this.

There are certain KN95 masks that have been approved by the FDA for emergency use during the Covid-19 pandemic in case you cannot find any N95s.

If it helps anyone feel better – my husband is a surgical assistant and he wears a level 1 surgical mask and stands shoulder to shoulder with his surgical team for 8 hours a day. The rooms they work in have great ventilation but their surgical masks are their next line of defense. There is no social distancing possible while you’re operating.

The masks most productions have been supplying are level 2 (or, 3-ply). I have level 3 (4-ply) as well but these are still hard to order.



I require anyone who is close to talent (without a mask on) to wear a surgical mask – level 3 is preferred – and a face shield or protective googles. Even if talent has tested negative for Covid – there is a possibility they could have gotten a false negative (still very common) and spread the virus through respiratory droplets into your eyes.

I am asking that anyone who needs to wear a face shield to please TEST IT before coming to set.  A lot of shields fog quickly if they are too close to your eyes. These are the shields that have worked best for my crews so far – made by Makers 4 Medicine.

Kasha Rodig also raves about this face shield. It flips up!

I would suggest doing hair and makeup outdoors when possible, or near an open door or window. I’ve also been using a Medify Air Purifier in motorhomes or smaller areas that hair and makeup artists have been working in. The 3-layered H13 HEPA Filter removes 99.9% of particles down to 0.1 microns. There are different sizes available – the one I have cleans an area of 840 Sq ft every 30 minutes. Thank you Jason Lindsey for suggesting this air purifier!



I would suggest a face shield such as these, that attach around your neck instead of your head, for talent during any times they can’t have a mask on.



I learned, after telling my photographer repeatedly to pull his mask back up over his nose, that he was doing this because his glasses were fogging. Since I do not handle glasses fog this way, I had no idea that’s what the issue was.

On my first shoot back, Ryan Bringas handed an anti-fog cloth to our photographer on our tech scout. I’ve had them in my kit ever since. If you wear glasses, or sunglasses for outdoor shoots, you should have something similar so you can see! Photographers and producers – these are great additions to your PPE kit.



This is obviously new and uncharted territory for our industry. So far, I have been asking back up crew to give me a second hold – and let me know if they get booked so I can hold someone else. I would love to pay a fee to hold back up crew but so far I haven’t been able to get this expense approved on a budget.

Someone mentioned in the survey about taking a nod from hospitals or airline industries. I do not know about airlines but healthcare workers get paid a very small fee per hour to hold for shifts. On average I believe its $2 – $4/hr. It’s not apples to apples however since this is generally for their full time job and we are freelancers.

I appreciate all your insight to this question and will continue to talk to you all about what’s working and not working as we move forward.



Your photographers and producers should be setting the tone and taking every measures to be safe. This doesn’t mean this is always happening.

You are all independent and can control which jobs you take and don’t take – please remember this. Much like any photographers and producers who are lowering the bar for safety standards by making shoots work even if they’re not as safe as they should be, crew saying yes to a job they aren’t confident will be safe contributes to this same problem.

Ask as many questions as you need to before taking a job. If anything on set is bothering you speak up right away. Talk to photographers, producers and crew about who is being safe and who is being unsafe.


I’m working on a part II to this post with other thoughts surrounding Covid safety on set.


I’d love any of your questions, tips, tricks, or favorite products to add to this list!

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