"Industry Spotlight" is our newsletter series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month, we sat down with a reality TV producer who spent time as a COVID Compliance Officer. We've granted her request for anonymity so that she could be candid. While CCO may not be a long-term position in the industry, production safety touches everyone who works in the industry, and we appreciate the opportunity to learn about how we can all contribute to a safe environment.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: In one sentence, how would you define what a CCO or COVID Testing Manager does?
CCO: The CCO establishes a plan to communicate COVID-19 safety guidelines from the CDC to the cast & crew, notifies production of any significant changes in safety recommendations and protocols, schedules and manages COVID testing, conducts contact tracing, and serves as the first level contact and response for COVID-19 safety and compliance concerns.
HR: What is your day-to-day like?
CCO: The CCO is the first person on set. The CCO makes sure all cast and crew fill in their medical questionnaire, get the COVID test, and have their temperatures taken. They make sure PPE is handed out to all, cleaning stations are fully stocked, and schedule cleaning routines with production on the agreed-upon schedule. They also take the appropriate action if someone tests positive on set.
HR: You come from a background as a reality TV producer. How did you prepare to take on a new role in the industry?
CCO: I prepared by taking the COVID-19 Compliance Certificate Program for LA County, the John Hopkins COVID Certificate Program, and OSHA. Knowing how production and filming works is a must.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in this position?
CCO: Management, understanding how production works, logistics, planning, extensive training in COVID-19 protocols, communication, time management, robust rules implementation, medical knowledge of COVID-19, collaboration, and managing crew. I can’t stress enough the importance of appropriate COVID training. This role is for a PM or project manager who understands the risks associated with COVID-19. This is not an entry-level position, since we are dealing with people's lives.
HR: How has COVID safety changed the way productions run from a logistical and creative perspective?
CCO: COVID safety has added a lot more stress to an already very stressful environment. It has also limited the creative locations we can use. Since health and risk factors can be very high on any given day, it has added a terrifying element to filming. Before the vaccine, you put your life at risk just being part of a show. If the COVID-19 protocols are not followed correctly, the show could shut down due to COVID infection and spread.
HR: What are the biggest challenges or surprises you faced in the role?
CCO: The amount of pushback from grown adults who should know better is unbelievable. I did not expect the lack of cooperation or pushback—the networks and EPs turning a blind eye to unqualified COVID-19 CCOs, and flawed COVID plans and testing just to do a show. It has been heartbreaking to see the lengths some people will go in this industry to film a show unsafely with no regard for the crew.
HR: What's something you wish people understood better about COVID compliance on set?
CCO: Hiring unqualified PAs with no training as CCO or having a nurse do both CCO work and testing is cutting corners. Not enough PPE, cleaning stations, or paying the CCO a PA rate is unacceptable. The CCO needs to be a trained professional with a high understanding of logistics and COVID training. Taking a set COVID certification [minimal certification] is not enough. It's most frustrating when you have networks and EPs on the show that do not adhere to COVID -19 protocols -- it seriously endangers the crew, just to get a show done! Executives who never stepped on set during the pandemic do not have an understanding of how it should work, which can then trickle down to the crew and cast, creating a toxic, unsafe environment. Because everyone is eager to work, some risk their health and life by working on sets that are not following the CDC guidelines. It must stop. We need to unite and demand a safe working environment, no matter if it is a union, scripted, or non-union show.
HR: Let's end on a hopeful note -- if you could give any piece of advice to someone trying to break into the industry, what would it be?
CCO: Work hard, be kind, and give back once you move up. Do it with class, integrity, and honesty.
HR: Thanks, CCO!