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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

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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