Film in the COVID-19 Era
The entertainment industry gets back to work forced to navigate shooting new film material amidst a global pandemic.
By Benjamin Noel
Through the trials and tribulations coronavirus has brought upon us, the world as we know it has changed. The precautions taken in restaurants, grocery stores and the like remind us that we are not living in a normal time. But none of these have faced a threat to their very existence like movie theaters. Movie theaters, as we know them, have been wiped out of the collective conscience, and new releases are continuously being pushed back in hopes of making a big box office opening. With no new movies coming out, we’ve found ourselves relying on the classics to keep our film itch at bay.
But films are still being shot, and T.V. shows continue to pump out new episodes. And it isn’t unheard of for films to go straight to streaming services.
So what in the world is happening to the film industry? How hard can it be to shoot a T.V. show or movie during this unpredictable time?
Well, the whole ordeal of shooting amidst a virus is much trickier than meets the eye. To start, shows need dozens and dozens of ordinary people to populate a scene to make it feel genuine. For example, filling out a mall, or having cars driving by in the background, are vital parts in giving a scene authenticity. Compiling a group of people, testing them for the virus, then shooting all for a single scene at a time becomes a hassle and an expense.
Additionally, with so many places closed, or otherwise restricted with state legislation, with masks mandates, and social distancing, shooting on site has become a trial of its own. T.V. producers are forced to get creative with their scene, and ultimately plot, choices while navigating the seemingly endless maze of restrictions and regulations. Ultimately, the price of shooting during COVID-19 is sacrificing the feel of the show. For example, the Netflix series Better Call Saul heavily relied on shooting on site, where it be a nail salon, a fried chicken spot, or another staple of New Mexico’s money laundering landscape (Washington Post). So the show’s producers have had to adapt their shows accordingly.
Additionally, the crew behind the camera must deal with the changes too. Make up, lighting, camera crews and more have the same regulations to follow. And the industry is harder to break through as smaller jobs are put on hold due to a hike in budget required to film safely.
And as a side note: to make shows more relevant to today, we may even see some producers start introducing masks, and social distancing to their scenes, and adapt their plot to COVID-19. And while that would make it more relatable, it almost certainly will not make for good television.
Back to the point, a big question to the industry is the sustainability of shooting in these times. Will extras put their health on the line for a minimum wage paycheck? Will new film crews be able to establish names for themselves given all the financial and logistical setbacks in these times?
Only time will tell.
All these obstacles provide for a challenging atmosphere for new and even established shows and films. But as measures ease up, and producers collaborate and figure out viable solutions to creating new content, we can hope to see some great new films.
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Ryan Ford '23,