When COVID-19 put a pause on most national and international productions, industry members were left wondering what the future might hold. When would it be safe to resume filming? And what would TV and film sets look like in a world with everyone struggling to figure out a new normal? While those questions are still being debated, a number of countries have taken initial steps forward. Keep reading for a roundup of some of the major players in the push to begin filming again, starting here at home.
Productions in the United States
Producers, studios, and unions came together to form a task force that created a 22-page reopening plan entitled “Proposed Health and Safety Guidelines for Motion Picture, Television, and Streaming Productions During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The proposition was sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 1. Major recommendations put forth include social distancing measures, protective gear, and ample testing. Another big component of the plan involves establishing the role of a COVID-19 compliance officer, a position that would require specialized training and come with the responsibility of enforcing COVID-19 safety measures on sets. While we’re still waiting to hear how Cuomo will respond, on June 5, Newsom released guidelines for restarting TV and film productions in California. He set June 12 as the first potential restart date, but it comes with stipulations. Resuming productions are subject to approval by county public health officers, and it remains to be seen if Los Angeles County will qualify. That is, counties are required to make attestations that adequate plans are in place to combat any increase in cases of COVID-19. With Los Angeles County’s recent report of a slight increase in its number of COVID-19 hospitalizations added to the role that hospital capacity plays in a county’s ability to handle a rising number of cases, it is still up for debate if the county will be allowed to restart productions come June 12.
While the major production hubs of L.A. and New York continue toward resuming filming, a production hub in the southeastern market is getting closer to that goal as well. On May 22, Georgia became the first state to issue official safety guidelines for TV and film productions to restart within its borders. The full “State of Georgia Film & Television Production Best Practices to Reduce Contagion of COVID-19” guide can be found on the Georgia Film Office’s site. Along with a number of standard best practices that it explores, the document also outlines the use of camera trickery to allow actors, who are recommended to wear masks unless on camera, to stand further apart from each other during scenes. And Tyler Perry’s recent announcement of the reopening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta has started the ball rolling on filming resuming in that production hub. According to Variety, the production of BET’s Sistas and The Oval will respectively begin there on July 8 and July 28. Tyler Perry Studios was formerly home to the Fort McPherson Army base, and Perry referenced its origins when speaking to the stringent care for safety procedures that will accompany the restarting of productions at his studio. “It’s really a military effort and [there’s] no better place to do that than a former military base,” Perry shared during an interview with Variety.
Productions in New Zealand
The island nation was one of the first countries to establish detailed procedures for TV and film productions to resume, and it leads the way when it comes to restarting a major feature film production. Jon Landau and James Cameron returned to Wellington, New Zealand on May 31 to resume filming on the second, third, and half of the fourth installments of the Avatar series. But they won’t be able to jump right back into full work mode. “Made it to New Zealand. Our 14-day government-supervised self-isolation now begins,” Landau shared in an Instagram post. The mandated quarantine is just one protocol from the list of standards set by New Zealand’s government agency Worksafe. Screen Safe is another of its agencies that is helping regulate safety on sets, and productions that register with it can access a toolkit of guidelines and resources for best safety practices.
Productions in South Korea
South Korea is one of the rare locations where filming has already begun again. Two Netflix original series, Move to Heaven and Love Alarm, resumed filming in April. The Korean Film Council is still working on an industry-standard protocol, but it has created a special committee that plans to send safety management crews to sets. In the meantime, cast and crew members are required to have their temperatures checked regularly, with the stipulation that if any show symptoms of being infected, the production they’re on will pause for immediate testing.
Productions in the Czech Republic
As a top filming location for international shoots, it was good news for a number of major productions when the country began reopening for production. The COVID-19 outbreak paused filming on the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, for example, and Amazon Studios’ upcoming series The Wheel of Time had been prepped to shoot there before the pandemic. On May 7, though, its government approved measures that allowed filming to start resuming there. Regulations that accompany the restart on productions include the requirement that foreign actors and crew members provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests before coming into the country. And actors will have to undergo testing every two weeks for the duration of their shoot since they are not required to wear face masks.
And these are just some of the major leaders in the race to restart productions — industry members around the world continue wrestling with the universal concept of figuring out a new normal. Spain, Poland, and France are other examples of European countries that are taking steps toward renewing productions within their borders. Countries like China and Australia are also pushing forward with revamped production plans. And the list of locations that are restarting TV and film shoots will continue to grow as time passes. But one fact remains the same. No matter where they’re located, TV and film sets will look very different than they did before COVID-19. The good news is that the entertainment industry has a long history of adapting to ever-changing circumstances, and as evidenced by the international movement toward restarting productions, not even a novel coronavirus can prevent it from continuing forward.