The Show Must Go On

Film navigates a path back to production as coronavirus restrictions loosen across America.

After being cooped up at home for the past couple of months I’ve whipped through series and movies alike, binging more than I ever have before. Thankfully film and media projects prior to COVID-19 shutdowns continued to premiere, keeping the stream of content flowing. The film industry, consisting of everything from hot new documentary series down to continuous TikToks, was one of the few platforms still able to reach people during the pandemic.  But this can’t go on forever, with studios shut down and nothing coming to theaters. Hollywood was one of the first things to shut down due to the coronavirus, and cautious to reopen. 

New content is continuing to be released, with a large majority of it filmed before the coronavirus hit. Every time I see people kiss or go out with friends and dance among a sea of strangers, my brain automatically short circuits. “They’re not practicing social distancing!” It’s strange to think of a time when such freedoms were exercised, and to watch them played on a screen prompts my nostalgia for human contact. Media is working hard to find its way back into production. 

California won’t have to wait much longer to get back up and producing, Hollywood studios have been given the go ahead by the governor and Department of Health to start up again later this week.  Safety measures included of course. Auditions taking place behind plexiglass, substituting “buffet style” meals for staggered lunch times with individually packaged lunches, and frequent sanitation at all times are a few of the measures. A twenty two page report  of recommendations by The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force was sent to several governors and government agencies across the US.  

Georgia, home to major productions studies such as Marvel studios and The Walking Dead, received their governor’s production guidelines weeks ago. Tyler Perry’s studio in Atlanta is scheduled to start shooting as soon as July 8.  Due to studios across the US being given the yellow light to resume production there’s high hopes that movies such as the live action Mulan (July 24), Tenet (July 17), Wonder Woman 1984 (Aug. 14) and Unhinged (July 1) will still be released this summer. Depending on each crew’s adaptability projects will continue forward without compromising any quality. 

Virtual production has social distancing built into it, and allows for collaboration across the globe. Cast and crew alike have been utilizing virtual tools as best they can, some actors even using Zoom to practice lines. Guy Williams is a visual effects supervisor for Weta Digital, a visual effects company which was created for the Lord the Rings trilogy.  The pandemic has helped showcase the company’s tools when creating film under virtual circumstances and its place in a post pandemic world.  

“[Long term], the idea is that virtual production and physical production will merge in a way that you cannot tell them apart,” Williams said.  

Netflix couldn’t wait to navigate through current challenges in film either, taking their operations to other countries where outbreaks have been less severe. They resumed filming a couple of weeks ago in Iceland for the series “Katla.”  Production safety measures include a color-coded armband system along with daily temperature testing, and medical team. No more than twenty people were in each armband color group. It seems to be a large number when practicing distancing, but still a small number for those creating a series. It’s a difficult balance. They have yet to film a scene with any close contact or a great deal of intimacy between actors. This is fine for the present, but will undoubtedly start to wear on an audience’s investment characters. The director, Baltasar Kormakur, has decided to create a video for Netflix to share with others looking to find their way back to creating. 

Another trailblazing project was the adaptation of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.  The producer, Lucas Foster, and his team continued their work under quarantine together in Australia. Temperature and wellness tests were conducted on the crew every day, and medical professionals were present on set.  It was an expensive and difficult feat, especially with a cast of child actors and guardians to accommodate. The most amazing part of this project: the whole thing was shot entirely during the spread of coronavirus. When you’ve seen the original Children of the Corn movie it seems doable, most of the set is outdoors with children spread throughout a corn field. Just some demonic kids practicing social distancing. 

Foster said they didn’t violate social distancing, his crew appeared closer than they actually were.  “The news media are using extreme telephoto lenses, which gives the false impression that our crew appear closer together than they actually are,” Foster said in a statement he released to Daily Mail Australia

It is uncertain how we will consume film in the future.  Regardless, casts, crews and audiences alike are antsy for production to start up again. It’ll be a slow creep forward with months ahead of us before movie theaters and studios are allowed to return normal. That leaves movies lagging behind streaming services even more than before. Content will not cease being made, film is a creative outlet people are anxiously waiting to create and consume.  Like our country slowly reopening, more liberties will be able to be taken with caution each day. 

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Written by
Izzy Teitelbaum
Izzy is a journalism major at the university of Minnesota. She’s following her lifelong passion for writing and can’t wait to see where it will take here. Follow her on Instagram @izzyjaybird
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