WILMINGTON — Massachusetts has a robust presence in the film industry, with sites all over the Commonwealth being chosen for their historical or picturesque qualities. The industry also provides economic benefit to all types of local businesses, and Tom Derian’s Certified Cleaning Co. is one of them.
Derian, a resident of Wilmington for almost three decades, has operated his company for 38 years. He started in Watertown and later moved the operation to Wilmington.
“I’ve had a great year every single year,” he said. “I’ve been so lucky.”
Derian has worked on the sets of 87 movies and 15 commercials, all within Massachusetts. In February, Certified Cleaning Co. was working on the set of the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, but had to cease operations when the coronavirus pandemic stalled production.
Derian explained that he had many virtual meetings with the film’s production team and had to undergo a review of the company’s ability to handle coronavirus cleaning before coming back to work on the movie.
Derian said that Netflix has made a significant investment to keep the crew healthy and he’s learned a lot from the process; his staff gets tested daily — “you can’t go unless you are tested... we have to be safe too,” he said.
Before resuming work on the movie, “we all had to do some homework.” Following the guidance of a Netflix employee who oversaw coronavirus safety, the company had to procure misting machines, spray bottles, and new chemicals.
Derian said the production guidelines follow the CDC’s regulations, but “I think [Netflix] takes it a step more.”
Though a large number of people work on the set, all wear masks. Derian explained that when movies film in Massachusetts, production companies typically use local electricians, carpenters, and artists to make up the crew; he enjoys the opportunity to work with the same tradespeople on different movies.
Derian hired 10 extra staff members, and his team works 10-hour days. The company is in charge of cleaning four different locations every day, sanitizing every 15 minutes.
“When you come to film, you have a production office, and you might have a wardrobe... a warehouse that’s 20 feet high to build sets... I’m cleaning them every day,” he said.
Derian also explained that transportation is limited by social distancing, so up to 73 vans have to be cleaned every day.
Certified Cleaning Co. originally cleaned offices and some federal buildings until Derian got his “lucky break” when he received a call from the sister of a supplier, asking if he would be interested in cleaning for the production offices of a Disney movie they were working on. From there his work opportunities multiplied as other producers and manager he worked with called him for other movies.
Derian places a premium on professionalism and credits his success with his experience.
“I’m older, I don’t get complaints. I know what they want... I know what needs to be done now... I take on a little bit more.”
When staff members are out sick, Derian takes over their jobs, often working 12 or 13 hours per day.
“We don’t stop, it’s a lot of work,” he said, adding that he hasn’t had a day off since the pandemic started.
He has 28 employees at the company who live all over eastern Massachusetts, including Wilmington. Since staff members often work at night, he hires people close to the communities in which his company is retained, such as Woburn, Braintree, and Canton.
Derian says that it’s important for his team members to maintain professionalism and not to get starstruck when working on set, but that sometimes famous actors approach staff on set and thank them for their hard work. Derian says he met about 10 notable actors, including Cameron Diaz and Will Ferrell, and that his staff is sometimes invited to “wrap” parties to celebrate the end of filming.
Derian cites the state’s production tax incentives with driving the large number of movies filmed in the state and says large studios can bring a lot of money to the local economy; he’s spoken three times at the State House to advocate for the tax credits.
Derian noted that during filming of “Ghostbusters 3,” the production team picked a different small business every day to provide lunch for the cast and crew, which he says means a lot to the restaurants.
Despite the pandemic, many studios are forging ahead with production, and Derian has already signed on to a new movie after “Don’t Look Up” wraps. He anticipates that regular office custodial services will be slower for the next six or seven months, but “the fact that we have so much work to do here has really helped me,” he said, though he wishes the circumstances were different.
He noted that many cleaning services were using the pandemic to drive up prices and overcharge their customers but “I don’t play that game,” he said.
Derian praised his staff for their efforts during the pandemic, noting that it was difficult to go to work in the spring when people were nervous going out of the house. He doesn’t consider himself a first responder, but does think that his team’s work is critical in allowing people to function safely in their business environments.
“They’ve really done a great job.”