Hollywood has resumed production — but can it last through a second wave?


[23-11-2020 02:07 PM]

Ammon News - "We had a musical with a large cast, a lot of singing and dancing, a lot of close contact," said one production executive. "It's going to be difficult to film until there's a vaccine."

Hollywood is slowly getting back to work as feature films, Netflix shows and network programs resume production. The industry has introduced enhanced safety protocols and drastic new measures designed by guilds and unions, along with epidemiologists, to keep incidences of Covid-19 down on sets.

It remains to be seen how sustainable and realistic the steps are over the long term. During the first wave of the pandemic, the industry was caught off guard — and got pummeled. The hope is that with stricter measures, Hollywood will be able to weather future waves.

However, actors are still testing positive, some workers are still unable to return to work because of safety concerns, studios are still having to push movie releases or debut feature films on streaming platforms, and movie theaters are struggling to survive.

HBO announced Wednesday that its tentpole feature "Wonder Woman 1984" will be released simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters on Dec. 25. With half of theaters out of operation and many people still hesitant to go to the movies, the studio said it couldn't risk a large-scale release for a $200 million film — even though that means the movie won't return big box office numbers.

That change is the latest attempt to regain some sense of normalcy in an industry that finds itself once more in a vulnerable position. The threat of further halts looms large, jeopardizing both the financial success of content scheduled to launch in 2021 and the future of popular content that has already been greenlighted but isn't yet shot, let alone wrapped.

"The production shutdown that happened as a result of people not understanding how to keep people safe during production has had a tremendous negative impact on businesses and the livelihoods of our members and workers all over the industry," said David White, national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA.

"The pandemic has led to a great deal of collaboration," White said. "All of us on all sides of the fence needed to figure out how to work together in order to recover and figure out how to get people back to work."

White said figures outside Hollywood also provided key insights. For example, producer Tyler Perry created an isolated bubble at his studios in Atlanta and was able to resume production with a set of very strict quarantine and testing protocols.

The guidelines SAG-AFTRA established are centered on repetitive testing, which is covered by employers. That's especially important because a single test captures only a brief moment of a person's Covid-19 status. The plan also uses zones to limit how many people enter certain areas and come into contact with one another.

"If you're in Zone A, the zone with our performers, you're being tested a minimum of three times a week," White said, citing one example. "The only people able to enter that zone are people being tested at this level."

Other unions, like the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, have come up with similar protocols to protect their members. A member of that union, who works in the costume department on big-budget films and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, outlined some of the safety measures and said there was a lot of back and forth about who would foot the bill for tests.

* NBC




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