Key Filmmaking Principles



Anticipating concerns and having a robust safety plan in place for production is of critical importance. This starts with writing and development, reducing risk factors by being mindful of what will be required to actually shoot the words on the page. Tech scouts at locations will be a particularly crucial step in this process, to think through a plan for how the space will be used and how each day of production will run.


When we don’t keep production scope in check, we inevitably end up fighting the clock and safety measures get compromised as we scramble to make our day.


Protecting those individuals whose job requires them to work for periods without a face-covering — our actors, most notably — is a high priority. The zone system helps with this to designate different spaces where specific activities take place:

  • ZONE A – UNMASKED-ACTOR SPACES This is a perimeter created for when performers need to work without protection. This is typically when first team comes in to shoot the scene and the set is cleared of all non-essential crew members.
  • ZONE B – ALL OTHER WORKS AREAS Anywhere else the production has a footprint is Zone B. This needs to be a controlled area with a secure perimeter that prevents non-approved people from entering the space. The only entry to this zone is through a reception checkpoint.
  • ZONE C – THE OUTSIDE WORLD This is everywhere beyond the perimeter of the production.

Writing Parameters

COVID-19 Protocols

To help with mitigating risk, students will be provided with specific writing parameters that are appropriate to the level of production, including in some cases a reduced page count and limits on quantities of characters and locations. Due to students on earlier projects having less on-set experience and less time for preparing each show, introductory-level films will have stricter writing parameters than advanced-level films.

F1 Parameters

  • Three pages
  • One location, written for a specific location
  • Two characters, written for specific actors
  • No actions that require actors to be closer than six feet
  • No actions that might typically require an intimacy coordinator, such as nudity or physically sexual situations
  • No children
  • No animals
  • No weapons

D1 Parameters

  • Two pages
  • One scene
  • One location, written for a specific location
  • Two characters, written for specific actors
  • No actions that require actors to be closer than six feet
  • No actions that might typically require an intimacy coordinator, such as nudity or physically sexual situations
  • No children
  • No animals
  • No weapons
  • See more D1 specs…

F3, BTH, D2, MTH Parameters

  • No additional writing parameters
  • Students, however, should be mindful of the practical limitations of production when writing: e.g., only being able to shoot at one location each production day.

Daily Production

COVID-19 Protocols

Call Sheets

  • Pertinent COVID-19 safety information must be distributed with the call sheet.
  • If the location requires any specific COVID safety protocols (e.g., mandatory use of face-coverings), this information should be distributed with the call sheet as well.

Daily Wellness Check

  • All students are encouraged to monitor their own health before leaving for set, using FSU’s Daily Wellness Check app.

Morning Meeting

  • The morning meeting should include any applicable COVID safety announcements.


  • 1D clears set of all non-essential crew.
  • 2D brings First Team to set.
  • 1D announces at the set is now Zone A.
  • It is recommended that actors where masks during rehearsals.

Going for Picture

  • Immediately prior to “Action”, if masks are being worn by actors are being deployed, a callout for “MASKS OFF” should be added. 
  • For “MASKS OFF”, the actors remove their own mask.
  • If hair and makeup needs to make an adjustment due to the masks, this should occur swiftly at this moment.
  • Immediately after “Cut”, add a callout for “MASKS ON”.
  • If DR wants to go again quickly, and actors consent, masks can stay off between takes.


  • Craft service and lunch tables are permissible.
  • Since masks need to be off for eating, extra precaution should be taken. Eating outside is recommended.

Company Wrap

  • 2D keeps access to location restricted until last crew member has left.


COVID-19 Protocols

Safety Training

  • All crew must attend COVID safety training workshops and crew drills during pre-production. It is incumbent on all crew members to thoroughly study and practice these safety protocols in advance of production.

Casting & Rehearsals

  • Holding auditions outdoors or on Zoom is recommended.
  • Casting local actors is recommended, to reduce travel-based risk factors.
  • Rehearsing more during pre-production is recommended, to minimize the amount of on-set rehearsals.

Location Scouting

  • Favor virtual scouting to minimize in-person scouting. 
  • Select known, controllable locations wherever possible. 
  • Have as much conversation outdoors as possible.
  • Try to avoid selecting cramped, indoor locations.
  • Assess how well you can control the location perimeter.
  • Inquire if the location has any COVID safety protocols.
  • Assess: Is the location inhabited? Are any residents in a vulnerable category? Are any residents currently quarantined due to COVID exposure, posing a potential risk to cast and crew?

Tech Scouting

  • Have as much conversation outdoors as possible.
  • Try to maximize space and air flow when selecting work spaces.
  • Create a plan for maintaining a secure perimeter for a controlled, closed work area.
  • Map out controlled spaces for:
    • Parking – assume more vehicles than usual
    • Outdoor reception checkpoint
    • Set(s)
    • Base camp
    • Green room
    • Lunch
  • Assess and determine:
    • Access to bathrooms and hand-washing/sanitizing stations;
    • Signage needs – e.g., directions to the reception checkpoint; directions to hand-washing stations; safety guidelines.
    • Whether any special considerations need to be made regarding air flow and/or HVAC, especially in Zone A areas.
    • How COVID might impact the emergency plan — e.g., the ability for people to evacuate or congregate.

Director’s Prep

  • All casting and locations must be locked prior to Director’s Prep
  • Producer must be prepared to discuss the safety plan for each shooting day

Green Light Meeting

  • Producer presents relevant planning documents and authorization forms to the Head of Production in order to secure a green light
  • Producer provides a list of cast, crew, and volunteers. Nobody else will be authorized to be in Zone B

Production Meeting

  • Be sure to address COVID protocols in the meeting

Tips for Writing During a Pandemic

As we develop scripts, it’s going to be important anticipate all the things that might elevate safety concerns during production. At the very least, any element in a script that gets flagged as a potential safety concern will require additional work during pre-production and production, in order for there to be a robust plan in place for the safety of the cast and crew. It’s therefore a good idea to be: (a) thinking about how you’ll address potential safety concerns as you develop a script; and (b) imagining alternative versions of scenes with a lot of red flags, so that you have a viable Plan B in your back pocket that mitigates more of the safety concerns. Below is a guide to some of the more common factors that of which to be mindful when you’re writing a scene.



Be mindful of how many locations you are writing into your script. The more locations you need, the more time you’ll need to spend on safely scouting and prepping each location. More locations will also raise the likelihood of needing to do company moves during a production day, which will raise additional safety concerns.


Interior locations are generally going to have more safety concerns than exterior locations. As you write, it’s worth asking yourself whether an interior scene really needs to be an interior scene, and what might it look like if it were conceived instead as an exterior scene.


Small, tight, cramped locations where social distancing is difficult are generally going to have more safety concerns than large, open, spacious locations. As you write, it’s good to ask yourself if a scene necessitates shooting in a cramped location, or if there are ways to cheat it or change it. Bathroom scenes are a good example, which are usually too cramped for production, even under normal circumstances. Therefore, you’ll either need to: (a) have a rigorous plan for how you could shoot the scene safely in a small bathroom; (b) find a really large bathroom that you can cheat to look smaller, which will likely be hard to find; or (c) rewrite the scene so that it doesn’t take place in a small bathroom.


Public locations are generally going to have more safety concerns than private locations. If a scene needs to be shot in public location, it will likely take a lot of additional work during production to sanitize the location. It will also take a lot of additional work to control the space, so that you can have a closed set that’s not compromised by the presence outside community members. It’s also best to assume that certain kinds of public spaces are going to be a lot harder to secure, as people are going to be more hesitant about letting film crews invade their space.


On thesis films, we do allow shows to make requests to shoot at distant locations. There’s already an approval process for this, in which the show needs to argue why it is vital to shoot out of town and what the practical plan is. There will be an additional burden of responsibility during the pandemic to outline a robust safety plan too. And wanting to shoot in a COVID hotspot is certainly going to be less viable than, say, shooting in a remote location in the mountains.



Scenes with large quantities of characters (or extras) are generally going to have more safety concerns than scenes with small numbers of characters. As you write, it’s good to ask yourself whether you need that big party scene, or whether you can scale down the scope of it. If you do really need it, how will you shoot it safely?


We need to be vigilant about protecting the health of all of the performers, but we also know that fatality rates for COVID-19 are higher among older demographics. Scenes involving older characters, therefore, are generally going to raise additional safety concerns. Be mindful of other COVID-19 risk-factors too as you write, especially if your choices about yours characters require actors who might fall in other groups with elevated risk (e.g., weakened immune systems, pulmonary disease, cancer, diabetes, sickle cell disease, obesity, pregnancy, etc.)


Scenes with physical intimacy between actors will need special care and preparation. If it’s essential to the story, how much can you minimize it or cheat it, in order to best protect your actors on set? Would the scene still play well if the action was staged without the need for physical proximity?


Certain types of actions in a scene are going raise more safety concerns than other types of actions. If the actions require actors to shout, cough, spit, or breathe heavily (e.g., due to stunts or other acts of physical exertion), those moments will require a robust plan for how to shoot it safely.


It’s also a good idea to be mindful of overall production scope as you write, because there will inevitably be some slow down during production in order to observe safety protocols. The more out-of-scope a production is, the more likelihood there will be of either: (a) not making your day; or (b) compromising safety by rushing too much. You’ll all be less nimble if you have to adapt to any surprises. To anticipate this, a few good questions to ask yourself as you write are:

  • Will the scene require extensive art department work?
  • Will the scene require extensive grip/gaff work?
  • Will the scene require extensive coverage/set-ups?

University Expectations

COVID-19 Protocols

The Florida Board of Governors and the entire State University System, which includes Florida State University, expects all members of our campus community to do their part to ensure a safe and successful fall semester.

All of us at Florida State University have an obligation to prevent further transmission of COVID-19. We are in this together, and each and every one of us plays an important role in furthering the health and safety of ourselves, our neighbors and our loved ones.

To be clear:

  • MASKS: We expect everyone to wear a face covering or mask at all times when inside any FSU facility, even if you are vaccinated. This includes all of our students, faculty, staff, vendors and visitors. Recent studies and guidance from the CDC state that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals can transmit the current COVID-19 variant to unvaccinated persons. We expect you to help mitigate the spread by wearing a mask.
  • VACCINATION: We expect everyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19, even if you’ve had COVID-19 in the past. Please visit for walk-in clinic dates and hours at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee or to locate a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you.
  • HEALTH-MONITORING: We expect you to stay home when sick, self-quarantine and get tested for COVID-19 no sooner than 24 hours after your symptoms begin. You can test for no cost at the Tucker Center. Schedule your test at
  • HAND-WASHING: And finally, we expect you to continue to practice good hygiene habits such as washing your hands frequently.

Together, we can slow the spread of this virus and enjoy a fulfilling, successful campus experience during the upcoming academic year.

Thank you.