And … Action! Island film industry resumes, with health safety measures

By John McPhaul

The film industry in Puerto Rico will resume after the monthslong closure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Manuel A. Laboy Rivera announced guidelines Thursday for the preparation of what is being called the Puerto Rico Film and Audiovisual Industry Plan to Control Exposure to COVID-19.

“To achieve an orderly and safe restart of this important economic sector through the Film Industry Development Program, in collaboration with industry representatives, guidelines were prepared that will be of great help with resuming operations in this industry, which has invested over $150 million during this fiscal year and has generated more than 10,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs. In addition to this are some 15,000 hotel nights during the filming period of about 25 film projects,” said Laboy Rivera, who noted that unlike many other jurisdictions worldwide, the island has the public health crisis under control. “The administration of Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced is committed to strengthening the creative economic sectors and we trust that despite the situations that the Island is facing, we will succeed in turning Puerto Rico into the Caribbean film mecca.”

As part of the guidelines for establishing the reopening plan of the film sector, productions are required to comply with all the requirements established by the Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA-PR) and the health prevention measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Therefore, it is the responsibility of the highest-ranking official of the film production company based in Puerto Rico, or his/her designee, to ensure that there is a protocol so that all employees are properly trained and understand the reopening plan developed by the company.

Film Industry Development Program Director Pedro Piquer Henn pointed out that according to OSHA criteria, film and audiovisual production should be a “low risk of infection” activity if the guidelines are followed and if the established plan is correctly executed.

“The plan that each film company must prepare must include: the monitoring and/or screening of staff prior to entering the workplace, [and] control measures for physical distancing” Piquer Henn said. “It is recommended to use outdoor settings, to the extent possible, and to control the number of people who are present throughout the production process. For this, it is suggested to establish rotating shifts and divided work zones and to give reasonable rest times between days, since excess work affects health. They must use an adequate ventilation and/or air conditioning system, as well as continuous cleaning and disinfection measures. In addition, the use of personal protective equipment [masks] is required, among other recommendations.”

During the casting process, meanwhile, auditions and other procedures must be performed remotely through some digital platform, the official said. “Callback” sessions with the director will likewise be done virtually and will be coordinated by the casting director.

It is also suggested that once the talent has been selected, the production and/or production company is in charge of conducting a molecular test for COVID-19. The production should always have a “backup” for each role in case anyone shows a positive result prior to hiring.

The DDEC secretary reaffirmed his commitment to the process of economic recovery that many industries are going through.

“Puerto Rico is an island that is distinguished by our workforce, which always shows its readiness, talent and good attitude in the face of adversity,” Laboy Rivera said. “The world is constantly changing due to COVID-19 … and within these circumstances, we must operate under the measures recommended by health experts, so that the economic sectors can continue operations within this new reality that affects our lifestyles.”

The island film industry’s exposure control guidelines for COVID-19 are available at

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