COVID-19

How TV and movies are being filmed during lockdown

Kristin Schwab May 4, 2020
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Before the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing, the cast and director of "All Rise" promoted the TV show at a fall preview event in Beverly Hills in September. The season finale was made using video chats. David Livingston/Getty Images
COVID-19

How TV and movies are being filmed during lockdown

Kristin Schwab May 4, 2020
Before the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing, the cast and director of "All Rise" promoted the TV show at a fall preview event in Beverly Hills in September. The season finale was made using video chats. David Livingston/Getty Images
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Tonight’s episode of “All Rise,” a legal drama in its first season on CBS, will feel very real. The whole episode takes place over video chat. It looks like Zoom’s gallery view, with boxes of talking heads.

The episode is supposed to mimic what the legal world is moving toward: virtual court.

“That’s actually a dramatic story, professional story for us,” said Michael Robin, who directed the episode.

The show wasn’t done filming in Los Angeles when California went into lockdown and it needed a season finale. That meant Robin had to craft shots through a laptop camera and actors had to light scenes themselves — and then they had to figure out how to perform over video chat. 

“The first couple takes were a little mechanical,” Robin said.

With most of us stuck inside, TV and movies may have our attention now more than ever. That’s great for networks and streaming platforms if shows have already been filmed. But shows that haven’t finished shooting have either had to abruptly end seasons or use workarounds to finish them.

Meanwhile, Hollywood is already talking about how to work when restrictions ease. Social distancing is easy enough for camera people, but actors can’t do a kissing scene 6 feet apart. Some film sets are talking about quarantining together so they can keep working.

“Almost like visiting a biosphere or something where you’re all agreeing to go into this enclosed environment, make the movie and then come out of it,” said Tom Nunan, a professor at the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.

Nunan said filming will be easier for certain story lines, like legal or medical dramas that have smaller casts and tighter plots. But shows like “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” on NBC depend on extras. It’s music-driven, with scenes where people pour into the street and dance together.

“Those kinds of scenes I think are just going to be difficult to shoot and capture safely,” Nunan said. “And in some cases, creatively, they may even feel uncomfortable for the audience.”

If shows keep doing these scenes, it’ll probably be a “fake it till you make it” situation, with the help of computer-generated images and animation.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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