Netflix is fond of asking if you’re still watching, but during the pandemic the question has become, are they still filming? To keep things healthy and humming along, the streaming giant has announced that it will require COVID-19 vaccines for all cast and crew members in the United States who work in close proximity to a set.
Pandemic-related pauses can be incredibly expensive. Just recently, positive COVID tests temporarily delayed blockbuster productions like Mission Impossible 7 and the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, and while we don’t have estimates for how much that cost, the production company behind Apple TV+’s The Morning Show recently sued their insurance company to recoup $44 million lost just waiting around. Besides that, mandatory vaccinations have broad support in the industry’s top guilds, including SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the DGA and the Teamsters. That’s one of the reasons that earlier this month the unions and the studios reached a short-term deal that paved the way for these kinds of vaccine requirements. Netflix is now acting on that agreement.
The mandate applies only to those in what is called Zone A — actors and select crew members who have direct contact with actors. Other zones will be encouraged but not required to get inoculated. Furthermore, people can seek exemptions for medical, religious, or age-related reasons, and these new guidelines may not apply to productions currently underway. But according to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, exemptions are expected to be rare.
For some, these requirements won’t be enough. Sean Penn issued an ultimatum last week demanding that every cast or crew member on the Starz series Gaslit — Zone A or otherwise — be vaccinated before he returns