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

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Hollywood is slowly getting back to work as feature films, Netflix shows and network shows resume production. The industry has introduced improved security protocols and drastic new measures designed by guilds and unions, as well as epidemiologists, to reduce the incidences of Covid-19 on the shelves.

It remains to be seen how sustainable and realistic the milestones are in the long term. During the first wave of the pandemic, the industry was caught off guard and crushed. The hope is that with tougher measures Hollywood will be able to withstand future waves.

However, the actors are still positive test, some workers still can’t return to work for safety reasons, studios still have to push movie releases or debut feature films on streaming platforms, and theaters are struggling to survive.

HBO announced on Wednesday that its feature film “Wonder Woman 1984” will be released simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters on December 25. With half of the theaters out of service and many people still hesitant to go to the movies, the studio said it couldn’t fail to risk a full-scale release for a $ 200 million film, even if that means that the film will not fetch big numbers at the box office.

This change is the latest attempt to regain some sense of normalcy in an industry that once again finds itself in a vulnerable position. The threat of additional shutdowns is great, jeopardizing both the financial success of content slated for launch in 2021 and the future of popular content that has already been given the green light but is not yet filmed, and even less packed.

“The shutdown of production that occurred because people do not understand how to keep people safe during production has had a huge negative impact on businesses and the livelihoods of our members and workers in 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 collaboration,” White said. “All of us, on all sides of the fence, had to figure out how to work together to recover and figure out how to get people back to work.

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

The guidelines established by SAG-AFTRA focus on repetitive testing, which is covered by employers. This is especially important because a single test only captures a brief moment of a person’s Covid-19 status. The plan also uses zones to limit the number of people who enter certain zones and come into contact with each other.

“If you are in zone A, the zone with our artists, you are tested at least three times a week.”

“If you’re in Zone A, the area with our performers, you’re tested at least three times a week,” White said, citing an example. “The only people able to enter this area are people tested at this level.”

Other unions, such as the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, have developed similar protocols to protect their members. A member of this union, who works in the costume department on big budget films and asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, described some of the security measures and said there was a lot of going-and-going. – comes to find out who would foot the bill. tests.

“The union was very strict that we would not return to work without testing,” said the union member. “There is a ‘Covid Security Officer’ at every site we work, and he only responds to questions and concerns about Covid-19. There are regular tests. You must take a safety course and you cannot remove your mask inside the building for any reason, not even to drink water or coffee. “

The MP said the protocols created what looks like a secure environment, but questioned their long-term applicability.

Already, unique challenges have arisen, especially when Los Angeles has experienced extreme heat or poor air quality from the fires. Staying hydrated has also become an issue, as a break in the water requires a trip outside, which takes time. Also, because people have to eat out and away from others, workers have to camp in their cars and run their air conditioners for lunch when the air quality is poor or it is very hot, which is expensive.

The protocols have also resulted in a slowdown in production, which goes against much of how the industry works, the union member said.

“You cannot take off your mask inside the building for any reason, not even to drink water or coffee.”

“Much of the movie is rushed and on short notice, where you call someone up for last minute work,” the MP said. “The process was slowed down by necessity. You can’t call someone and say ‘we need you to come tomorrow and accomplish this’ because they have to be tested and taken a safety course which impacted our workflow. and pace a lot. “

The union member also said that women and older workers are adversely affected as the protocols do not really take into account the childcare needs or the increased vulnerabilities and concerns of older people, who are more at risk of the unwanted effects of the virus.

Small businesses are also hit hardest by Covid-19, even as Hollywood resumes production, White said. He pointed to the catering businesses, which are traditionally structured around providing huge meal spreads to communal stations where food is shared. With the coronavirus, there has been a shift towards separate meals.

“It can be a permanent change in the way we think about feeding people up close, because the pandemic has been going on for so long that there has been a shift in mindset,” White said. “Once businesses invest in providing food like this and people get used to it, businesses that aren’t equipped to handle it may not come back.”

Ultimately, however, White is hopeful that Hollywood and its various components prove to be resilient and innovative. He is particularly optimistic given that the Covid-19 recommendations issued by the various guilds and unions are designed to be scaled and adjusted to accommodate different sizes of productions.

Still, some are cautious and choose to pursue smaller projects that take place in somewhat isolated locations and have fewer cast and crew members.

This is what Will Packer Productions does, which produced “Straight Outta Compton”, “Ride Along” and “Girls Trip”. He identified a few projects, including a little horror movie set in New Orleans and a survival thriller Idris Elba, “The beast, “which correspond to the invoice.

Only seven people are in the horror movie, 90% of the movie takes place in a house, and only three locations are used. Filming is only expected to last around 25 days, and while there are stunts, there isn’t a lot of in-person contact.

“There are films on our slate that we have looked and reviewed carefully and decided that we just cannot film them in this climate right now,” said James Lopez, president of Will Packer Productions. “We had a musical with a great cast, a lot of song and dance, a lot of close contact. When the pandemic hit, it was the very first that we watched and realized it would be hard to film until ‘that there is a vaccine. “

Much still depends on the spread and containment of the virus. As winter approaches, forcing people to return home and infection rates rise, even cautious restarts could be threatened, which could have ripple effects from workers and production companies to the studios and moviegoers.

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