My Bumpy Road through “Hollywood” — What Will Be the New Normal?

“Hollywood” is the epicenter of the pandemic in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom has clearly stated this as California looks to reopen cinema/TV production shutdown by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Los Angeles county, the killing has raced past 2,000 dead.

Personally, I have been trying to gather local, national, and international proposed guidelines for the new workplace of cinema/TV production. It’s a mess. One great value Gov. Newsom can bring to this industry will be a set of uniform, coordinated guidelines.

The biggest challenge is what to do with the talent in front of the camera. Most stories cannot be told without expressive, often attractive, actors interacting closely and even intimately.

Hollywood production values are very high, which is why the public loves Hollywood movies. The audience may be shifting, as it gets adjusted to “stay at home” TV. SNL and late night shows and music competition shows have quickly found ways to increase the production values of stay-at-home broadcasting (such as, USE A DECENT MICROPHONE, DAMMIT) and the public seems to enjoy being along for the ride. If this is a sea change in public acceptance of new production values, that might give Hollywood some leeway in how to work with actors.

Unfortunately, that leeway is most likely to cripple background actors (“extras”), who, especially in crowd scenes, are likely to be replaced by computer-generated crowds and stock footage. Many non-union background actors, usually employed after a certain number of union background actors are first called up, may likely never work again.

On the other hand, all crew categories are likely to expand. With suggestions of parallel “pods” of crews — having duplicate camera, grip, gaffer, etc. crews isolated from each other) means a boom for crew.

Post-production, too, is likely to boom. A lot of post-production is lonely work, and can often be done anywhere, which includes work-from-home. Using VFX to routinely create crowd scenes, for instance, should mean more post-production work.

Even feeding cast and crew will require restaurant-style teams and servings instead of the now-common large open buffet lines.

And trying to keep people a safe six or more feet apart is going to initially create havoc for the very tight production set environment. Requiring double the current space for any working set is possible.

Coronavirus teams will also be needed, a brand new category added to budgets, especially the new world of sanitizing everything.

And nobody knows what the insurance and completion bond industries will do. Nor do we know what will calm the fears of skittish investors.

All of this is a killer for budgets by today’s standard. Budgeting itself will require probably twice the work and new, unproven parameters.

This is what large-scale studio productions will face.

Low-budget indie productions, with their small teams, lack of money, and cast and crew doing multiple jobs, will face incredible challenges. They can’t have duplicate crew pods and new teams of virus fighters. They rely on far-flung practical locations that present unique challenges for virus sanitation, including issues of safe transportation and rental equipment.

The consideration for smaller productions — ten or fewer crew has been suggested as a cutoff — must have unique problem-solving ingenuity or the indie film industry will die.

Of course, the whole goal is to make sure nobody dies or gets sick from or spreads this virus. This is the greatest safety challenge for the entire cinema/TV production industry in the past century.

We will find our new normal. The State of California is a proper resource to bring together all of the various proposals and interests, along with science and medicine, to establish uniform guidelines.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s