film and tv productions

With coronavirus cases spiking in Los Angeles County, safety has never been more important to film and TV productions. Hollywood was given the green light to resume filming on June 12, and guilds and unions joined together to unveil new production protocols to combat the virus that same day.

But according to a new report from Vanity Fair, “most movies and TV shows remain stalled and nearly paralyzed, struggling to figure out how and when to safely return to work.” Get more details below.

Vanity Fair spoke with several people in the production community about getting films and TV shows back up and running, and as you may have expected, it turns out that it’s easier to lay out a set of guidelines on paper than it is to actually implement them on the set.

For months, the industry has been talking about how it’s likely going to be a lot easier for smaller, more adaptable productions (like indie films) to shoot in the COVID-19 era than big blockbusters. But across the board, the guidelines (which everyone agrees are a smart and necessary part of restarting productions) are reshaping the entire methodology of how shooting has typically worked. Spreading out workers to maintain social distancing regulations inherently slows down the time it takes to accomplish tasks which used to be performed almost quickly and efficiently. Here’s an excerpt from the VF piece:

One of the main issues, many producers and directors agreed, is that productions require speed. When a prop needs to be swapped, a costume adjusted, or a light moved, that work has to be done immediately. If those workers are sequestered off set, and it takes 10 to 15 minutes to bring those people in each time they are needed, those minutes add up to hours, and the number of script pages that can be shot each day gets diminished.

“It’s such a hierarchical thing. The second anyone above you asks for something, you want to be Johnny on the Spot. You don’t want to be more than 15 feet away—that’s how you get a reputation for being crappy at your job,” said [an anonymous] director-producer. “Maybe this becomes the new normal, but nobody is ever willing to wait for anything on set.”

That added time translates into extra money for the budget – and one director suggested that the shooting time on any given day will be cut in half. “How long does it take to get cast ready?” a director rhetorically asked in the piece. “How long does it take to travel individual actors from the various bubbles we are building for them to the set, and then—when we summon a particular crew member—how long will it take for work to be done? Typically these things all happen at once, choreographed beautifully by a good [assistant director]. Now they’ll happen consecutively. I am expecting our shooting schedule to nearly double to accommodate this new infusion of time.”

And if someone were to still get sick, the production would need to shut down to ensure it doesn’t spread further. But with insurance companies having taken a major hit when COVID first hit, they won’t be providing the same levels of protection anymore, leaving uncertainty about whether some productions will move forward again at all. All of this doesn’t exactly paint a bright picture for the immediate future of the industry (though I am glad they’re valuing safety over efficiency), and it sounds like it will take some major productions months to hammer out a plan that works for them. Some might not begin shooting again until 2021.

I encourage you to read the entire VF piece here, and you can learn more about the recently-established production protocols at this link.

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