The Los Angeles Films Critics Association (LAFCA) today drafted a letter to distributors asking that in-person screenings follow more consistent guidelines with COVID requirements, including proof of vaccinations or a negative test within 48 hours of a screening.
The org also highlighted the need for digital screener access for disabled journalists and those who are immunocompromised, citing the work of IndieWire’s Kristen Lopez and her tracking of health, safety and accessibility concerns of film critics.
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association announces their 2021 award winners on December 12. Here is the full letter.
As another awards season gets underway, we, the members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, would like to express our gratitude to distributors for making their movies available via in-person theatrical screenings and at-home digital and/or DVD screeners. These opportunities are an awards-season tradition that have helped us do our jobs in a timely fashion, during and well before the COVID-19 pandemic, and we appreciate them all the more knowing that they are professional privileges, not entitlements.
We would also like to express more general concerns about screening safety measures and screener access going forward. These concerns go beyond the scope of awards season, beyond the scope of the pandemic and beyond the scope of our membership.
While access to vaccines has made a huge difference for all of us, this pandemic is clearly not over — as evidenced by the recent identification of a new variant of concern — and its consequences are not suffered equally. Many of us are happily masking up and attending screenings again, and we are grateful when distributors take our safety seriously enough to require proof of vaccination and/or a negative recent COVID test. However, we find that those requirements are sometimes inconsistently applied or haphazardly enforced, depending on the distributor.
Also, some of us continue to avoid screenings due to health issues that put us and/or our family members at higher risk from COVID, and are thus in need of screeners for review and awards consideration. Some of us have disabilities and were grateful to be provided convenient access to digital screeners shortly after theatrical screenings shut down. Now that screenings are back, however, we often find that screener access has been taken away, and that requests for screeners are often denied with little consideration for our individual circumstances.
We therefore kindly request that distributors implement and enforce the following practices, during awards season and beyond: (1) require proof of full COVID vaccination (with a booster shot if eligible) or a recent (48-hour) negative COVID test for anyone, whether press or member of the general public, in attendance at an in-person theatrical screening; (2) require masking of all attendees at such theatrical screenings; (3) provide screeners within a comparable time frame where such policies are not possible, as well as to accommodate journalists at higher risk and/or those with disabilities. These policies should be in place for the duration of the pandemic, and at-home digital screeners should continue to be granted to journalists with disabilities indefinitely, in recognition of accessibility issues that predate the pandemic.
We make these requests in good faith on behalf of our Los Angeles-based membership, but also on behalf of any and all film journalists who would benefit from them. We would also like to express our particular gratitude to our colleagues Scott Renshaw, film critic for the Salt Lake City Weekly and president of the Utah Film Critics Association, for drafting a statement that provided much of the language and ideas in this one; and Kristen Lopez, TV editor for IndieWire, for her invaluable reporting highlighting the health, safety and accessibility concerns of film critics.