Credit: NBC News
When the coronavirus first made its way into the United States back in March, everything came to a halt– including all Hollywood productions. Multi-million dollar productions were forced to send everyone home, leaving sets, props, and equipment waiting for what many thought would only be a few weeks. Fast forward not to April, not to June, but to August and beyond, and all major studios have returned to set with new precautions.
“Logistics for production shoots are complicated to begin with,” California film commissioner, Colleen Bell, says. “Add the extra layer of all the safety protocols and testing that has to be figured out and, yes, you’re going to have some of it fall through the cracks. None of this is easy — but frankly, I give the industry a lot of credit for adapting so quickly.”
The process of safely working again does not have a set standard. Everyone is required to take regular COVID-19 tests, but how frequently they need to test is not set in stone. Crews and extras are limited where possible. Talk shows were among some of the first to return to the studio, completely omitting the live studio audience that has been such a major aspect for their format for decades. Game shows and sporting events encourage social distancing where possible and constant quarantining. Some productions have everyone wearing masks at all times, while others simply encourage distancinging from others.
But television productions seem like a small, safe environment compared to the sets of Hollywood blockbusters. One of Universal Studio’s biggest money makers, the Jurassic World series, returned to studio in July. To ensure everyone stays safe and healthy, producer Patrick Crowley says they have hired people who do nothing but separate people standing too close or instruct them to pull their masks up. The production has spent three million dollars on testing alone.
“Universal never blinked,” Crowley says in regards to the expense. “They said, ‘You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.’ ”
Many agree that these filming restrictions haven’t changed set-life too much. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, one of The Matrix 4‘s stars says that being on set during this difficult time has actually been a positive experience for him. The artist community is stronger (in his opinion) not only because everyone is happy to be back at work, but because they understand what one another is going through, having to be away from home.
“…we get to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get up and go to work and I’m going to do my art and build community at the same time,'” Abdul-Mateen says. “That’s really the theme of how we’re making the Matrix, but it’s also the theme of how myself, personally, I’m getting through these pandemic days, these crazy pandemic days.”
Zendaya, one of the stars of the Dune adaptation, shares a similar sentiment. In an interview with Timothee Chalamet— the film’s lead– Zendaya says she finds hope in her peers. While she believes things are going to be different for quite some time, we will rebuild. Like the rest of us, she misses being able to travel and go to the movies, but she understands the importance of staying home and is happy to just have the chance to work again. “All of that can wait,” she says.
For those looking for a silver lining, there might be one: many studio executives agree this is a good time to pitch and plan an television series. Why? It can all be done online. There doesn’t have to be large, in-person meetings to discuss the logistics of a show– it can all be done via video Zoom. It can’t be said what is in the works, but it is possible that out of these new productions brewing over online connections, you may find a new favorite show or movie.