Movies and Medical Tests: Set Safety Today – Interview

Health and safety are very important on sets, especially these days. Sometimes we can’t always keep track of our set and make sure to clean up the place well enough thus leading to the potential spread of COVID. Fortunately, there is a company that is sure to help us out of this issue. Axiom Medical  provides film sets with supervisors who walk around the sets and carefully inspect the area to make sure it’s clean and disease-free. Sadly, not many sets in this country have a supervisor as highly trained, but they do have Axiom’s CheckIn2Work app, which allows them to consult a checklist and make sure nothing causes sickness. I spoke with Chief Marketing Officer Dara Wheeler who told me about Axiom’s services and how the app works, especially in Canada. You can’t be too careful on a set in Canada. Or anywhere else for that matter.


HNMAG: As a representative of Axiom, can you tell me what exactly you do in your job?

Dara Wheeler: I have worked with Axiom for 14 years, and my job is Chief Marketing Officer. In my role, I have been developing new products and working to bring them into market and working very closely with the productions as they reopen to help them create programs and how to deliver to the union guidelines that have been coming out. Plus, making sure they can reopen safely. We do a lot of the traditional marketing but we’re also heavily involved in product development and market development.


HNMAG: Your business reaches out to Canadians. Since it’s all done mobile, what kind of measures do you take to insure on-set safety with sets in Canada?

Dara Wheeler: So in Canada, we do it in a different method other than the traditional operations in the Los Angeles area. We support them remotely with different key services. We are using our ‘check-in to work’ app, and that is a daily health attestation, and Canadian productions are using it to check in, make sure they are not displaying any COVID symptoms, or make sure there’s no exposure or potential dangers before coming onto the set. If there are any symptoms, exposure, or contact tracing needed, our team of case managers works with the team on set, to make sure that they are appropriately handled. In addition, we are also helping with some of the tests that are being provided in Canada and some of the productions are working with labs that we are partnered with, hoping that those results get released to the right individuals.


HNMAG: Regarding the application, what kind of features does it include for set safety?

Dara Wheeler: The main goal of the app is to make sure that the cast and crew are checking in daily. They are making sure that they are healthy and ready for work. The app also provides hygiene recommendations so if someone is logging into the app they can see basic information on general hygiene and safety information measures. Then if somebody is flagged in the application, it means they have to hold and isolate until they are screened by a professional from Axiom. 


HNMAG: How does it differ from services in the United States?

Dara Wheeler: In the U.S., we are providing full safety support, we are supplying supervisors on the productions known as a COVID Compliance Officer. We are providing those individuals who have the full COVID services with that. We are also providing Nurse Test Administrators and Nurse Testers. While in the Canadian scenario, we are not providing most of the people on set. We do have the mobile safety app on some sets in Los Angeles, but for all of the US productions we are working on set and with the app with case management.


HNMAG: It must be difficult working in a medical field at this time, are there any particular hardships on the job?

Dara Wheeler: Yeah, Axiom was originally supplying clients remotely. We didn’t have our nurses or team members on sight or on set. Supplying medical services in person is definitely a challenge during the pandemic. The biggest challenge early on was making sure that everybody was operating and working safely and making sure that everybody had the appropriate support and measures in the community to protect everyone on set. In addition, testing and testing sites have been a major challenge in the United States and Canada. While a new tactic was implemented to provide better safety, it did make for a challenging operation with the testing supply chain in the United States.



HNMAG: So, how long has Axiom been operating these new standards and tests for COVID-19?

Dara Wheeler: So Axiom has been supporting productions since the reopening in June. We are supporting The Voice and Hot Dog for HBO Max and as more and more productions came back online, Axiom has been supporting many productions from different studios in the US, Canada, and Mexico. 


HNMAG: Have you seen greater progress now that this is in effect?

Dara Wheeler: I think a lot of the problems that we saw early on have been evened out. We have seen less of the supply chain issue of running out, we have seen everybody settle into a process. At the beginning, productions wanted to focus on what they do best which is produce good television and movies, and I think with COVID, coming back into this world, they had to purchase these types of services which was new in this industry. This is something we’re very comfortable with providing as a service. 


HNMAG: Before the pandemic, what other health services have you provided for sets?

Dara Wheeler: Only a little bit, most of the industries that we partnered with were traditional large industries like oil and gas, and manufacturing/construction. Prior to COVID, the only thing Axiom helped some of the productions on was for duty-type exams. We had partnered with some reality television shows to make sure contestants were physically able to perform the reality shows that they were working so we would work with local providers and clinics to make sure that they were clear and able to perform both physically and mentally.  


HNMAG: Let’s say there are some sets with low budgets that can’t exactly take on your services for financial issues, what would you recommend to those filmmakers to insure set safety?

Dara Wheeler: The biggest approach for a production is the layered approach and we like to talk about those layers. No one component will protect a set or place. But if you think about how you layer the different components with environmental control, making sure that people are keeping up with the hygiene components and managing the sanitation station. Pay attention to the health and safety of the everyone. If you put all those factors in place, it is going to reduce the risk for productions as much as they can dealing with this infectious disease.


HNMAG: Now about Axiom’s methods. How are they tested to make sure they work?

Dara Wheeler: This goes back to the layered approach. The way we see health and safety is from that standpoint. We like to make sure that an entire population is safe and healthy as it can be. So when you look at all those measures, we’ve done this for a long time and we’ve dealt with H1N1, and other outbreaks. We’ve put these measurements in place well before COVID, and we’ve tested those and understand that these are what you use to prevent outbreaks from occurring. So these layers are critically important in protecting an organization. We don’t think that testing is going to be the one thing that protects everybody. But with these layers in place, you can approach the lowest risk that you can. 


HNMAG: When selecting Health Safety Supervisors, what qualities do they have to insure that they are efficient in the job?

Dara Wheeler: We like to staff Health and Safety Supervisors who are experienced in safety. Those who have typically worked in organizations and a lot of the organizations we worked with pre-COVID took safety and health very seriously as well. We also look for those that can help test and understand testing so often a Health and Safety supervisor is a paramedic or a nurse because they understand the approach to case management that we have. Every production is different in their needs, so we’ve worked on Reality TV, we’ve worked on scripted, we’ve worked on feature films and each one of those has a very different style and different needs, so when we staff a supervisor we also take into account all the psychological components of the production. Do they need somebody more rigid and military-like or do they need somebody that will get the support of everybody and really help them understand why they’re performing these duties and why they’re important for the production. 


HNMAG: What duties do the Health Safety Supervisors do while on set?

Dara Wheeler: One of the biggest is training, making sure everybody understands the rules, and they train the cast and crew about the different zones, the different zone approaches, making sure everyone has access to that resource that knows how to protect productions. The supervisors that we staff are very involved, they are walking the sets, they are making themselves available and known to help answer questions. You don’t want a health and safety supervisor that’s sitting at a computer all day. We do have a series of escalations as well, so all the way up to our chief medical officer Dr. Cherry  and that ability to escalate helps a production understand that there’s a big team behind the safety supervisor on set that understands how to support the production. 



HNMAG: Can you list some of the productions in Canada that are currently operating with Axiom’s mobile platform?

Dara Wheeler: Yes, we are looking to provide support to some productions moving forward. Some of the ones we are working with include television shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Clarice. We’re potentially working with some of the other teams to provide nurse testing in Canada as well.


HNMAG: So we can definitely see Axiom expanding and potentially branching out to Canadian productions and organizations then.

Dara Wheeler: Yeah. We’ve done some white gloves and have done some support for the Shark Tank team. They have some of their cast living in Canada, so we have helped with the testing in Canada and we may be helping some of the future productions as well.


HNMAG: And do you feel more production companies will be reaching out to you and working with you? 

Dara Wheeler: Absolutely. I think Canada has had their own challenges with testing, and I think they’re looking for support with potentially other services besides the application or the case management.


While it does sound like we have to yet to be sure there will be on-set supervisors on our set, I am fairly certain Axiom Medical seems to be working on this, and there are hopes of other people getting their own personal set supervisors. It’s looking better and safer for film sets as we slowly but surely get back to work. After all, I’m getting back to work on sets myself so I can only hope that things continue to stay safe and that there will be hope in less to no virus spreading in the future. One can hope.

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