Came across this Variety article today:

Extras on $et: Inside Hollywood’s Pricey Plans to Restart Production

A few things. 

The article starts off by referring to Producer Tyler Perry’s plans to restart production at his Atlanta-based studios, and the safeguards he will put in place: “Perry will fly out-of-town cast members in on his private plane, and, since the studio is a decommissioned U.S. Army compound, everyone working on the production will live on campus.”  

That’s the gold standard right here.  But, realistically, it’s unlikely most productions will be able to fly out of town cast members in and out on private planes.  Quarantine cast and crew?  Sure.  It wold be no different than an extended location shoot – except that most every production will now be proceeding along those lines.  And for how long?  Depends on the production.  In the case of a tightly scheduled 10 hour t.v.series?   Say, four months.  That’s four months away from your significant other.  OR, if they are with you, four months which they will spend in isolation, waiting for you to come home. 

But putting all that aside, assuming you can work out the quarantine and the testing and the minimal interactions during prep and post, there are a few BIGGER issues that need to be addressed.  

First, the article refers to “the impending release of highly anticipated guidelines spearheaded by the AMPTP, which is based on input from studios, epidemiologists and public health officials, as well as sensitive negotiations with the various trade unions.”  Bolding is mine as herein lies the first big issue: union concessions related to a potential post-pandemic production model, one that may push for fewer bodies on set.  It’s a complicated subject, in my mind THE most complicated and challenging for production and union (members) alike.  But provided something can be worked out, there’s another issue.

What with all of the new safeguards that will be put in place, new rules that will make for a safer but, admittedly, much slower working environment, the “costs of production, already sky-high, are going to get even higher.” And who is going to bear these extra costs?  Is the production company going to pony up? I doubt it.  Will the commissioning broadcaster boost their licensing fees?  Uh, I suppose it’s possible.  Or, will the costs ultimately come out of the production’s budget?  Ding ding ding!  And if that turns out to be the case,  how much of that money will be coming off the screen?  In other words, how badly will the end product suffer as a result?  I suppose it depends on the costs – and a show’s particular budget.  You would think the bigger budget productions would be in a better position – however, as the article points out…

“The issue is simply that considering the massive crews, complex stunt work and elaborate sets, costumes and makeup, large-scale productions might be too big to reasonably accommodate COVID-19 precautions without a vaccine.”

Okay.  So what about smaller productions?  The article states they may be in a better position to negotiate this more challenging terrain.  Except THEY run up against another problem: “The information that we’ve gotten from different brokers and people that we work with on the insurance side has been, generally speaking, that it will be difficult to cover any sort of COVID-related kinds of claims,” says Jordan Beckerman, Levine’s partner at Yale Prods. 

These smaller productions don’t have the deep pockets of big studios.  If a cast member falls ill or production is interrupted by that rumored “second wave”, they are screwed without the insurance to cover their asses.

All that said, production has already restarted in Australia – and the U.K. is gearing up to get back at it as well.  I imagine, here in North America, we won’t be far behind.  And, hopefully, we’ll all find a way to make it work.    

Still, I think this phrase, that appears early in the article, provides the perfect capper to any discussion on the topic: “It will be many months before we know whether the scramble to make movies in a world in which few theaters are open is practical planning for a COVID-less future or delusional magical thinking”.

Continuing my #AGraphicNovelADay Challenge…

8 thoughts on “May 21, 2020: Production Pandemic Issues

  1. Returning to production is a complication problem, to be sure, and I’m glad I’m not one of the ones having the make decisions about it. It would seem that the correct answer won’t be known until we’re on the other side of this. I remember a quote I read ages ago, “experience is the thing you get right after you need it.”

  2. Australia, also heard Japan and South Korea will also start production and filming soon I think … Will have to see if and how those countries make it work.
    At the moment, I’m just thinking about a Sci-Fi version of Castaway …

  3. I like that quote Gforce. “experience is the thing you get right after you need it”.

    Maybe shoot somewhere hot. Seems like the Southern U.S. states are having better results.

    When a vaccine does become available, will you require that for every cast/crew? That opens up another can of worms.

  4. I suspect ‘delusional magical thinking’ is closer to the truth at the moment. Unless they have mass testing in place for everyone on set and contingencies in the event of someone getting ill

  5. Masking up, detoxing everything and hunting for cleaning supplies is a full time job in itself, I can’t imagine trying to stay safe at an airport or a movie set. The trust that our local health departments can successfully contain outbreaks is at a low point, but rapid testing should change things for the better. Rapid testing would ensure the safety of a large group, and those who won’t comply or try to cheat the system should be weeded out in advance; the lengths people will go to circumvent drug tests shows that folks will try to cheat rapid testing. Enforcing testing and excluding people is all very Gattaca but necessary.

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