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How Toucan Eco is helping the UK film and TV industry to reopen safely and sustainably

In March 2020, when the Government announced the UK’s first national lockdown, all non-essential sectors across the country were affected.

In the case of the film and TV industry, all productions were instantly halted. Cameras stopped rolling and all of the industry’s professionals were sent home including behind the scenes suppliers such as make-up artists.

Jackie Sweeney make up station
Jackie Sweeney make up station

The pandemic impact

Jackie Sweeney has been a make-up artist for the film and TV industry for 30 years, with recent credits including Peaky Blinders, All Creatures Great & Small, Les Misérables and Catherine the Great.

She explained: “When the first lockdown stopped us from working, the whole industry ground to a halt. For people working 12 to 14 hours, five days a week, our industry becomes a way of life, and the first lockdown had a huge impact. All of a sudden you didn’t have any work.”

The industry quickly worked together to see how it could get back to filming safely. Jackie joined a group called Cut It, a crew-led organisation looking at what could be done to get the film industry back on its feet and the crew union Bectu. At the same time, the British Film Commission started an industry-wide consultation. Those working across the sector were able to contribute ideas to a paper addressing the activities and protocols that departments could implement, based on the Government’s guidance, to ensure filming was Covid-safe.

This paper was approved by the Government and production commenced in August 2020 with a whole raft of new measures in place. “Since then, it’s been incredibly busy. Any show that was stopped has restarted, and any that was due to start but didn’t, now has,” said Jackie.

Returning to production safely

Jackie continued: “When we were allowed to start production again, we had to make sure we had the right hygiene measures in place. This is especially important in my profession, as we’re in such close contact with many people and had to break the 2m social distancing rule in order to do our job.

“That’s why our hygiene policies had to become a lot stricter – it was our responsibility to prove we could work safely, and huge investments were made from production budgets to make sure operations were Covid-safe. It was around half a million pounds from a recent production I worked on, as an example.”

Make-up artists now use multiple defences called ‘20 Principles’ which includes PPE, Covid testing, working zones, sanitisers such as Toucan Eco to sanitise all surfaces plays a big part in this.

Jackie explained why make-up artists were allowed to work when hairdressers weren’t. “This is for a number of reasons, but it’s mainly down to the production working as a bubble and being tested regularly including PCR tests, The main difference is that we know our actors and extras have been tested before taking their seat. For hairdressers, this couldn’t happen as rapid testing wasn’t as widely available as it is today,” she said.

A focus on sustainability

Jackie got involved in the sustainability side of Bectu in particular looking at sustainable ways to be a make-up artist. That’s when she heard about Toucan Eco.

“Filming is very energy intensive and can create a lot of waste with props, sets, makeup, and costumes. That’s why we’ve looked hard at the industry to see how we can make it more sustainable.

“You might now see at the end of a show’s credits a footprint  and  ‘Albert Sustainable Production’. We Are Albert was set up by BAFTA to make productions more sustainable and track their carbon footprint. It is authority on environmental sustainability for film and TV, and is bringing the film and TV industries together to tackle their cumulative environmental impact plus inspiring audiences to act now to build a more sustainable future,” she added.

The industry also saw the creation of Cut It,   a crew-led environmental group aiming to help tackle the TV and Film industry footprint in light of the climate crisis. It aims to unite crew, head of departments, producers, actors and industry bodies to dramatically cut CO2 emissions and waste.

At the same time make-up artists were concerned about the amount of chemicals they were having to use when they returned to work. “Pre-Covid, a crowd room could have hundreds of extras who have to made up to look like they’re from the 1960s, medieval times or the future, for example,” said Jackie. “Now,  crowds are smaller and we have to work safely but quickly. So, when I heard about Toucan Eco, I wanted to find out more. I was blown away with how simple and effective the system looked to be.”

The cleaning power of Toucan Eco

Jackie continued: “It’s amazing to think that a solution you make yourself out of water, salt and electricity can kill viruses, including the coronavirus. And the proof that it works is in the test certifications that Toucan Eco carries. These have been vital to reassure the insurance companies who cover our show.“

Toucan Eco can be used to sanitise make-up workstations, chairs, surfaces, wigs, equipment and catering areas, and also as a hand sanitiser. For make-up brushes that needs to be frequently used they are cleaned using a 99% alcohol liquid as it evaporates very quickly. On everything else, Jackie uses Toucan Eco.

“I have the Toucan Eco Worktop model which makes one litre in about five minutes – and I absolutely love it. I use it at home and it travels everywhere with me. It’s currently being used on the set of All Creatures Great & Small, to not only keep ourselves Covid-safe but to also reduce our plastic waste. I also love the smell in that it’s not overpowering, but reassuringly clean and fresh,” she said.

For one of Jackie’s recent jobs, she managed a team of 20 make-up artists and pre-filled a bottle of the solution at each of their workstations, along with face masks and disposable gowns so they could quickly and safely work their way through the all of the extras.

The solution is being taken beyond the make-up department and used across teams such as the props and camera teams for sanitising tripods and equipment, catering teams and the costume department – especially as the solution is gentle and safe on fabrics such as period costumes and wigs.

The new 350ml eSpray model for the home and smaller workplaces is also being used by another make-up artist, Jacqui Mallet, who is working on a new crime BBC drama. She wanted to replace the use of antibacterial cleaning cloths, single-use wipes, chemicals and alcohol gels to sanitise workstations and equipment.

jacqui mallet make up kit

“This is the product I have been waiting for to sanitise my workstation, make-up products, brushes and wigs,” commented Jacqui. “The eSpray sits neatly on my station and it’s really quick and efficient to make more, as well as being equally cost effective and eco-friendly. It’s kind to my hands and lungs too.”

Toucan Eco is also being used by Propmaster John Knight within the film and TV industry to sterilise all props before they go on set.

Make-up artist Jackie Sweeney is now looking at using Toucan Eco across more projects. “For bigger productions or studios I’d recommend investing in one of the larger 10-litre Active commercial models, and for smaller productions the 1-litre Worktop or 350ml eSpray works great. As the models take only minutes to make the solution, they can be utilised by all departments.”

“All have a pretty short payback period as the solution is practically free to make. After which point it is saving chemical spend and plastic bottles, which is fantastic as it’s all helping to make filming more sustainable and less wasteful,” she concluded.

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