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.

[UPDATE: Today is Friday, June 12, 2020 and California and the County of Los Angeles have opened up cinema/TV production in “Hollywood.” The “Reopening Protocol for Music, Television and Film Production: Appendix J” is now published.

My observations:
Three things that stand out to me about the new COVID-19 guidelines for reopening Hollywood cinema/TV production:

1) #Actors are going to be the losers under many restrictions and even script rewrites to write them out, while most crew will be highly in demand as more are needed to properly and safely shoot a production.

2) #Soundstages are going to be overwhelmed and hard to book because they are the easiest way for all the backlog of production that will flood the industry to meet the guidelines. The controlled environments of soundstages are far more suitable for the guidelines than the chaos of location shooting.

3) #Indiefilm is dead, or at least not even on life support, as the guidelines are a tremendous burden on low-budget nonunion production (which, for instance, rely on practical location shooting and rarely can afford soundstages). There will likely be no insurance, bonding, or investing in indie films until the new normal of vaccinations arrives, which will be years.

I have appended to the end of this blog post my synopsis of what I understand are the COVID-19 rules that apply to actors.]


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.

APPENDED:

#ACTORS:

Any prolonged physical contact such as fight scenes or sex scenes is discouraged.

Actors are mandated to keep as silent as possible to avoid spreading droplets through talking.

Actors who cannot wear face coverings during performances should keep eight feet apart.

Actors should apply their own makeup.

All scripts should be shared digitally or individually assigned to each worker.

Actors should not sign waivers releasing productions of liability for COVID-19 infection.

Actors in high risk scenes that require close contact without masks for an extended period of time will be periodically tested.

Date, time and participants in all production sessions must be recorded to allow for contact tracing.

All shared clothing, wigs, prosthetics and equipment must be disinfected before reuse.

Actors must wash and sanitize their hands before each scene and not touch their face.

Breaks must be staggered to allow for social distancing, and they must be frequent to allow for hand washing

Eating is prohibited anywhere beyond designated areas to ensure cast and crew wear masks as much as possible.

Filming must occur between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m

Actors should stay on location during filming even during breaks.

Hands-on assistance with wardrobe, hair and makeup only provided when actors cannot do it themselves.

Actors must sanitize their hands before each hands-on styling or wardrobe session.

Actors should stay as silent as possible during the application of makeup.

Actors must sanitize their hands before eating.

Any food brought in by actors must be labeled and not shared.

Breaks are to be staggered to assure actors can maintain six feet distance in break areas.

Actors must reduce the sharing of hand props.

Actors’ representatives must adhere to the same policies

Only essential actors should be on or near the set at any time.

Actors using elevators are limited to only the capacity that allows six foot distancing between riders; some allowance for up to four actors per elevator if too small for six foot separation.

Actors will need appointments to approach costuming and other shops.

Actors must wear cloth face covering at all times and wash their masks daily.

Minor Actors may be accompanied by up to two adults and must stay with the adults who must supervise them.

Actors should bring their own common props and costumes in order to avoid sharing.

Actor auditions should be preformed remotely.

In-person auditions cannot be “open call,” no sharing of scripts, actors waiting for their audition must be in open areas with six feet of distancing.

BACKGROUND ACTORS (#EXTRAS):

Crowd scenes are discouraged.

Paid staff will serve as audience members for talk shows, sitcoms, etc.

Audience members must be six feet apart and limited to 25% of the available space.

Only the same group of employees should be used as the audience members throughout a production.

Background actors should stay on location during filming even during breaks.

Eating is prohibited anywhere beyond designated areas to ensure background actors wear masks as much as possible.

Date, time and participants in all production sessions must be recorded to allow for contact tracing.

Hands-on assistance with wardrobe, hair and makeup only provided when background actors cannot do it themselves.

Background actors must sanitize their hands before each hands-on styling or wardrobe session.

Background actors must sanitize their hands before eating.

Any food brought in by background actors must be labeled and not shared.

Breaks are to be staggered to assure background actors can maintain six feet distance in break areas.

Background Actors’ representatives must adhere to the same policies.

Only essential background actors should be on or near the set at any time.

Background Actors using elevators are limited to only the capacity that allows six foot distancing between riders; some allowance for up to four actors per elevator if too small for six foot separation.

Background Actors will need appointments to approach costuming and other shops.

Actors must wear cloth face covering at all times and wash their masks daily.

Minor Background Actors may be accompanied by up to two adults and must stay with the adults who must supervise them.

Background Actors should bring their own common props and costumes in order to avoid sharing.]

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My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” – My 2003 Business Plan & Financial Projection for EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE


After I was divorced in the early 1990s, I ended up living in a small apartment in Hollywood, near La Brea and Franklin, three blocks from the Chinese Theater. I scrambled to make a living, to be creative, to make movies.

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My Bumpy Road through “Hollywood” — THE BLENDED SCREENS: WHY SHORT FILMS?


Above the common question “How long is a short film?*” should be the more significant question, “Why a short film?”

Good short films are enjoyable and moving, with stories that can have an impact as strong as good feature-length films or powerful TV series. You can laugh, cry, and be inspired watching a good short film.

But, why a short film? Long considered a sad attempt to mimic the more robust and legitimate feature length film, shorts have often been given … well … short shrift.

Those were the old days.

Today, the entire environment of content, what I term “The Blended Screens,” is changing.

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My bumpy road through “Hollywood” – That time I designed the Hollywood sign


About a quarter century ago – my, how time flies! – I worked on a Paramount Television production from the team responsible for the hit 1980s series MIAMI VICE. It was a pilot starring Edward James Olmos for a proposed TV series called “Hollywood Confidential.” Olmos played a former L.A. cop who now runs a top-flight private detective agency catering to spoiled Hollywood types. (This pilot helped launched the acting career of Charlize Theron.)

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My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — On set for LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS


As I wander through Hollywood throughout my life, I occasionally work as a background actor, also known as an “extra.” Here is a story about my experience lately when I was a “featured extra” on an NBC mini-series.

This is my stream-of-consciousness report about production experience these days.

The TV mini-series “Law & Order True Crime: THE MENENDEZ MURDERS” was in production in September and October of 2017 and aired as eight hour-long episodes on NBC on Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm from September 26 to November 14. It was produced by prolific producer Dick Wolf’s Wolf Films, based at Comcast’s NBC/Universal lot in Universal City, California. NBC, the “National Broadcasting Company,” is a prominent broadcast network that was one of the original television broadcasting companies.
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My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — Starting Over. Again.


Since Middle School, I have been a writer, and was the editor of my school paper in Ninth Grade.

I began in television in high school and became producer and writer for the New Year’s Eve variety program “CELEBRATION” which aired on network affiliate TV stations in Minneapolis for several years. I then helped build and put on the air a new broadcast TV station, Channel 29, and became its Operations Manager as well as Writer, Producer, and Director for in-house programs and clients’ productions. I went on to work for several production companies, including TV production trucks, and went out on my own as an independent Writer, Producer, and Director. My productions included live and taped talk shows, variety programs, holiday specials, sports broadcasts, interstitial segments, concerts, conventions, commercials, and industrials. Minneapolis is a major market area, which Nielson ranks as 15th largest.


I became friends with Prince and helped open his Paisley Park Studios. I marketed PPS around the world for productions and rehearsals, and produced some of Prince’s video projects, including his “ALPHABET STREET” music video and his “BENEFIT CONCERT FOR THE HOMELESS.” I also wrote, produced, and directed my own projects, including “THE BERENGUER BOOGIE” which celebrated the Minnesota Twins’ first World Series win.

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My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — A VENOM IN THE BLOOD


BARNARD BUYS VENOM RIGHTS - Daily Variety

BARNARD BUYS VENOM RIGHTS – Daily Variety

Two decades ago, I bought a book.

In producer-speak, that means I acquired the rights via option to make a movie from a book. I knew a TV news reporter, and she had made contact with a reclusive author who wrote a book she thought I might be interested in. Actually, “reclusive” is too weak of a term; we both had determined that the author was in hiding. Contact was difficult and cryptic. Nonetheless, he and I got on the phone, and he figured that I would be someone he’d like to work with to get his book made into a movie, and I liked the deal, too. We sealed the deal without ever meeting.

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My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — CONSUMED BY A PASSION PROJECT


 

FILMMAKER Magazine

FILMMAKER Magazine

Michael R Barnard photo 500 px

How Is a Filmmaker Consumed by a Passion Project?

The following is a guest post from Michael R. Barnard, who is in the final days of an Indiegogo campaign for his film, Everybody Says Goodbye: The Story of a Father and Son.

For many years, I have been chasing a motion picture project that has completely consumed me. It’s called Everybody Says Goodbye: The Story of a Father and Son, and I first began writing the screenplay in 1998. Having come so close to making the movie a few times, I keep referring to this project as “a fish-hook in the eye” because it’s impossible for me to ignore and walk away from.

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MICHAEL R. BARNARD | IMDb | LinkedIn | Resume

My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — WHEN PRINCE WAS KING


PRINCE

PRINCE

[UPDATE: This was written long before my friend Prince passed away. I still miss him and am still shocked.]

A friend just now found and sent to me this post from  Prince.org, the Prince fan site that described how I pulled off the production of Prince’s ALPHABET STREET video on impossible notice! It is from the book, Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince by Alex Hahn. Funny that I’ve never seen this before.

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My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — The battle to make an independent movie


One of the odd things about being an independent filmmaker is the battle to get into production. Those of us who don’t have well-to-do families or impressive connections to powerful people have to cultivate other ways to fund the production. This is especially true today with all the turmoil in the indie film biz and the economy in general, but it’s always been true anyway.

When looking back on many years of trying to get A FATHER AND SON into production (at one point the title was EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE–The Story of a Father and Son), I realize there were many experiences that I call “a fishhook in the eye.”

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