This post is part of Stand-In Central’s deep-dive series into the coronavirus pandemic as it relates to stand-in work in TV and film. For more posts in the long-running series, visit https://standincentral.com/coronavirus.
— The Editor
Last week, Stand-In Central ran this open letter to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, who SAG-AFTRA announced on May 13th, 2020, was assisting the union in the development of safety protocols in the return to work.
As we have documented over the years on Stand-In Central, stand-ins fall through the cracks when it comes to protections on set, which we believe is largely traced back to inconsistent classification of stand-ins and the ramifications of those inconsistencies. In short, the question is whether stand-ins are “crew” or “not crew,” and the answers to that question are not always consistent, which translates to repeated and predictable health and safety lapses with respect to stand-ins.
Lapses in health and safety protection for SAG-AFTRA stand-ins are also the result of SAG-AFTRA’s lack of response to the unique needs of stand-ins and a lack of understanding about the professional work that effective stand-ins perform, as also documented by Stand-In Central over the years.
We believe that the pandemic is reason to sound the alarms. Whereas stand-ins faced lapses in protections on set in the past, the health and safety issues with respect to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic warrant exponentially more attention to stand-ins’ health and safety issues on set.
At that, we believe that stand-ins’ health and safety concerns need explicit consideration by employers and SAG-AFTRA in the development and publication of health and safety protocols around the pandemic.
Below are outstanding questions as of press time, one week after the release of the open letter to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, which was also mailed to him at SAG-AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles, care of SAG-AFTRA’s national president Gabrielle Carteris. Subsequently, Stand-In Central alerted several industry news publications about the open letter. As of press time, no protocols have been published that appear to be related to the product of Dr. Fielding’s work.
— The Editor
List of Lingering Questions with Respect to Pandemic-Related Safety Protocols Uniquely Tailored to SAG-AFTRA Stand-Ins
1. On May 20, 2020, Stand-In Central’s editor mailed via next day mail a letter to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding at SAG-AFTRA, addressed to SAG-AFTRA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety. Given that Dr. Fielding doesn’t work at SAG-AFTRA, the letter was addressed care of Gabrielle Carteris, the president of SAG-AFTRA and the person who created SAG-AFTRA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety.
Did Gabrielle Carteris give Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding this letter?
If so, when?
If not, why not?
2. On May 18, 2020, Stand-In Central’s editor emailed Dr. Fielding via a publicly available email address asking for a mailing address to mail him a letter. Stand-In Central’s editor wrote, inter alia: “As you endeavor for SAG-AFTRA and my industry to develop a set of protocols that establish minimum safety standards and maximize mitigation risks in light of the threat of COVID-19, I would like to send you a letter addressing some key points about stand-in work.” Stand-In Central’s editor also wrote, “I believe these finer details about stand-in work, which may go overlooked, are critical in the development of your protocols.”
Subsequently, on either the morning of May 19 or May 20, 2020, Stand-In Central’s editor phoned Dr. Fielding via a publicly available phone number asking for his mailing address. The voicemail prompt seemed to be a more general voicemail box rather than one expressly for Dr. Fielding. The editor left a voicemail that morning asking for Dr. Fielding’s mailing address.
On May 21, 2020, Stand-In Central’s editor emailed Dr. Fielding via the aforementioned publicly available email address a copy of the letter as an attachment, explaining that the letter was also sent to SAG-AFTRA headquarters to his attention and care of Gabrielle Carteris, and that it would arrive by 3pm at SAG-AFTRA headquarters that day. (It arrived at 11:01am that day.)
Did Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding receive either of the two aforementioned emails from Stand-In Central’s editor?
Did Dr. Fielding receive the voicemail message left by Stand-In Central’s editor?
If he received the second email which had attached the letter mailed to SAG-AFTRA headquarters, did he read it?
If so, when?
If not, why not?
3. Between May 20 and May 21, 2020, Stand-In Central’s editor messaged by way of various methods several news publications that regularly feature stories relevant to the entertainment industry. Most of those messages featured either a link to the open letter on Stand-In Central, or included a redacted version of the open letter. Most of those messages were addressed to the editors of the publications, with attention to specific writers who cover the at-hand topics.
To date, none of these entertainment publications have covered the issues presented in the open letter to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding.
What editorial processes led each publication not to cover (to date) the issues presented in the open letter to Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding?
4. So far, SAG-AFTRA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety has not published safety protocols informed by data collected by Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding. Stand-In Central surmises that work, which began on or around May 13, 2020, is ongoing.
Will the eventual safety protocols published by SAG-AFTRA explicitly mention stand-ins?
Will safety protocols never mention stand-ins?
Will there be specific protocols and guidelines on the use of stand-ins and their unique safety concerns?
5. Upon the return to work, it is possible that despite safety protocols, SAG-AFTRA members will become sick with COVID-19. In California, with respect to workers compensation claims, the presumption is, with a few exceptions, that in the event of becoming sick with COVID-19, the infection is presumed to have happened at work.
How many stand-ins will become sick with COVID-19 while working SAG-AFTRA jobs?
How will the proportion of stand-ins infected compare with the proportion of (principal) performers infected?
How will the proportion of stand-ins infected compare with the proportion of background actors or extra performers infected?
How will the proportion of stand-ins infected compare with the proportion of other crew members infected?
6. Of those who contract COVID-19 while working or presumptively while working, how many dead workers working under a SAG-AFTRA contract does SAG-AFTRA approve as reasonable?
In order to achieve that approved level, what protocols is SAG-AFTRA promulgating?
If that number is any number greater than 0 dead SAG-AFTRA workers, how could the protocols be changed to greater potentiate 0 dead SAG-AFTRA workers?
If you have additional questions as it relates to the topic of SAG-AFTRA stand-ins and safety protocols upon the return to work, please post them in the comments below.