PASS Reveals Plans to Enter Testing Game in Town Hall Meeting

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—Talent health screening oversight organization Performer Availability Screening Service (PASS) announced in an industry town hall meeting Friday morning that it has initiated plans to open its own lab and testing centers within the next three to six months.

This announcement follows the surprise exit Monday of long-time industry testing provider Cutting Edge Testing (CET) from the PASS system that maintains a database of work clearance information for adult performers. 

The meeting, held over Zoom, was moderated by PASS representative Siouxsie Q, with Free Speech Coalition executive director Michelle L. LeBlanc on hand to field questions, and PASS executive director Ian O'Brien commanding the floor for the majority of the meeting to lay out PASS' plans moving forward.

After summarizing the history of PASS and the various complications posed by CET's withdrawal from the PASS system this week—which mirrored the exit 13 months ago of competing testing provider Talent Testing Service (TTS)—O'Brien disclosed, "We are trying to create a lab and community center of our own."

Noting that when COVID-19 struck, PASS was dependent on the independent testing centers to determine what type of testing would be adopted for industry members, O'Brien continued, "We want control of the entire supply chain. We want to be able to adapt to whatever the health needs of our community are. With our own lab, we can do what we want."

The current plan to that end, O'Brien said, is for PASS to set up its lab in L.A., which would process samples nationally. "We'd be able to partner with individual draw centers anywhere in the country," he explained. "It also means dedicated turnaround times. Instead of competing against whatever other samples are being processed, we would have a lab specifically dedicated to the needs of our industry, prioritizing our industry.

"It's also non-profit," he added, "meaning that we can dramatically reduce costs based on access to different grant funding, knowning there's no profit motive. We also are required to publish our financials annually, so you'd be able to see exactly where money is going. Right now, just within the PASS system, three to four million dollars is being spent on testing. I think we have an opportunity to both reduce that cost and reinvest it in ourselves."

O'Brien asserted, "This feels the best way to regain control, and kind of build a network for ourselves. That wouldn't mean excluding TTS or CET from the process, if they wanted to continue to participate, offer the same test results, but it would give us the ability to negotiate what we need for ourselves."

Earlier in the meeting, O'Brien addressed the "primary concern" surrounding TTS and CET pulling out of the PASS system, that being PASS' "limited control of production holds now." 

Even if the two providers in question are not entering clear/not clear test results into the PASS database as they once did, O'Brien stressed, "I do want to assure everybody that I have a direct commitment with TTS and an insinuation from CET that they would continue to be cooperative in the event that a production hold was necessary."

He also emphasized that nothing about the actual protocol for a production hold has changed. "In the event of a production hold, I am contacted by CET or TTS to tell me that a novel infection has occurred with an active performer in the community," he explained. "When that occurs, CET and TTS, whoever the performer is, they receive information regarding the event, potential exposures, and the performer gives explicit consent to CET and TTS to reveal that information to me [along with] their scene history and partners so we can begin contact tracing. Frequently, the performer also agrees to speak to me directly—that process has not changed. We have always needed that explicit consent; no agreement that you have made with CET or TTS in the past to interact with PASS would ever indicate that have you received a novel infection that they would immediately tell that you were the person it occurred [with], they just give us a broad concept."

Advancing that "my job in a production hold is to shorten the length of it as much as possible," O'Brien—echoed by LeBlanc and Siouxsie Q.—called upon the talent community to wield their power as consumers of testing services to help achieve that goal, as well as work toward ones both of building a better network of communication among all parties and potentially lowering their own testing costs to as littles as—ideally—zero.

"Testing starts with performers, and it ends with performers," O'Brien said. "Performers are the ones spending the money, performers are the ones going to the lab, performers are the ones whose health is immediately impacted, and right now you don't really have power as consumers. And trying to advocate to that power has been difficult. ... I think that the power here is in your voice and needs as performers, as consumers, as workers, and we want to be able to leverage that."

He later indicated specifically that it would take pressure from performers to compel TTS and CET to return to submitting their data to the PASS database. "Right now I don't have the political leverage or the economic leverage to convince them to do something that they see just as an extra burden to their process," he said. "The idea of being a part of a cohesive system for a for-profit entity is just increased liability."

Interjected LeBlanc, "TTS and CET will listen to you before they'll listen to us. If you want them to send your results back into the PASS system on a regular basis, you need to let them know that. The pressure has to come from the market, it's not going to come from us as a governing body or regulating body."

"These corporations are not very interested in listening to regulatory bodies or accepting guidelines from non-profit organizations," Souxsie Q. reiterated. "We are their consumers ... if they want to remain relevant in the marketplace, they need to adhere to the guidelines that our community demands. So I think that a demand letter of some kind or even social media pressure ... that pressure I think is appropriate to put on TTS and CET, ask them why they're not uploading to PASS. Insist that they do—say that your dollars will go elsewhere as soon as they can if that doesn't change. That's my game plan, anyway." 

As far as when exactly that will possible—i.e. when the PASS lab will be open and operational—O'Brien projected, "We can get this up and running with some expedition [in] three to six months. The funding that we would need at this point is to just make the process better—to reduce testing costs, to open more centers, to make a better space that's exciting to go to."

He also revealed, "We already have some funding agreements. MindGeek has been sustaining PASS' operations, and Adult Time has agreed to substantial support of the lab idea and commuity center. At this point, it's not a pipe dream."

Expanding on the plans in development for the new facility, O'Brien offered, "The initial idea is to open a lab/draw center space in Los Angeles, have some strategic partnerships with some other non-profits in the area to also provide basic services to folks; we're talking primary health care access, dental clinics, maybe a legal clinic or just organizing space. We lack meeting spaces in the industry—there's no cohesive place for us to all go. Social events ... we need more of that. So the community center addresses the kind of broader needs there.

"But the lab itself would allow us to do a variety of models with draw centers," he continued. "So we could have our own, we could pretty rapidly open up draw center locations in Vegas and Miami, in New York, in San Diego, in the Bay area, we could also connect existing infrastructure if needed, it just gives us a lot of opportunity."

LeBlanc added that the PASS lab will afford quicker test result return times, contending, "At our current level of funding we can probably offer 24-hour turnaround time; with increased funding, so increased lab size, we can get to same-day turnaround times for the testing."

In terms of cost to performers for standard panel tests at the new lab, O'Brien submitted, "If we opened up bare bones, minimal amount of funding, and barely anybody shows up to our lab, we can open at $140. The more people that come, that price gets reduced. If everybody in the entire industry was going through our network and we didn't have access to grant funding, we didn't have access to other ways to reduce costs, we could cut the price in half—we're talking $70-$75. And I think there's ways to reduce it more. If I had a vision here, it would be free testing. Zero cost. And we'll work towards that."

In order to help optimize the benefits PASS hopes to offer to talent with this new undertaking, the three reps spearheading the town hall meeting also called upon the community to donate to the cause here.

"I have no illusion that this is going to be a clean process," O'Brien commented about midway through his presentation, "but I do think that sometimes dirty is better."