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

It’s still the question on everyone’s minds: What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The $600-a-week payments have ended, officially, as of July 31. For now, there is no additional federal pandemic unemployment assistance. House Democrats want to renew the $600 payments. Senate Republicans have proposed giving the unemployed 70% of their most recent salary by this October, when state unemployment offices have had time to reconfigure their computer systems to do those calculations. Until then, jobless workers would just get another $200. But, nothing has been agreed upon yet.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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