COVID-19

How the television industry is getting back to work

Kai Ryssdal and Andie Corban Oct 26, 2020
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Reality TV productions got back to work before most scripted projects. David McNew/Getty Images
COVID-19

How the television industry is getting back to work

Kai Ryssdal and Andie Corban Oct 26, 2020
Heard on:
Reality TV productions got back to work before most scripted projects. David McNew/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Filming in the Greater Los Angeles area was down nearly 55% from July through September compared to last year. FilmLA, the nonprofit that tracks production in the area, predicts that more large-scale productions will restart in the next few weeks.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Bryn Sandberg, a senior writer at The Hollywood Reporter, about how television shows are getting back to work safely in LA and beyond.

The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Give me the lay of the production landscape now, if you would. Here we are, like eight months into this thing.

Bryn Sandberg: Yes. So it is been a real tough puzzle for Hollywood to figure out, of course. You know, all productions were shut down, starting in March. And it has been a long few months to try to get productions back up and running and to do so safely. So we really started to see productions coming back in summer, actually. And it started with some smaller, unscripted programs, because those are shows that have smaller casts, smaller crew. You know, just fewer people on set. And they’re also shorter productions. They only take a couple of weeks, sometimes rather than, you know, the months and months that certain scripted shows and films can take. We also saw Tyler Perry was a leader in this movement, and he got people back to work at his studio in Atlanta, Georgia. So that was something that, you know, he was really a trailblazer there.

Ryssdal: Yeah. Well, he and he did the bubble thing, right? I mean, he got everybody in there and shut ’em down. I heard an interview with with one of the producers of “Fargo,” they basically did the same thing. So depending on your production model, I suppose, there’s a couple of ways they can go.

Sandberg: That has been a big way that productions have been able to get back successfully is to maintain some sort of quarantine bubble on set. So we saw Tyler Perry do it. You know, he has a big compound there where people could stay. They had little apartments, little rooms that they could stay in. They weren’t going off the property. They were quarantined, you know, for two weeks before to make sure they weren’t infected, and of course tested. We also saw are currently seeing “Jurassic World” doing this in the U.K. And they actually bought out a nearby hotel and have a lot of cast members and crew members staying there. And they test the hotel employees regularly as well, just to make sure that they can maintain that that bubble and keep people safe.

Ryssdal: Yeah. Assuming I could get onto a set, whichever one it was. If I could pierce the Tyler Perry bubble or get back onto a reality show or unscripted set. What does it look like? I mean, they must be checking temperatures and swabbing my nose and the whole deal?

Sandberg: Absolutely. I spoke with one of the actors on a Tyler Perry show, “Sistas.” And she was saying that when she arrived on the set, she felt like she was walking into a sci-fi movie, because you see people that are in hazmat suits people with all sorts of PPE. And also you see that the set is divided into zones now. The strictest zones usually have the actors who aren’t able to wear, you know, their masks when they’re filming a scene, so therefore they’re more susceptible should someone have COVID on set. And so that’s where the most PPE is needed for the crew members.

Ryssdal: So this one’s unknowable, but I’m gonna ask you anyway. Do we think this affects the quality of the product at all — what we’re gonna see eventually when these things get released?

Sandberg: Oh, that’s a great question. I think it’s a little bit too early to tell because we haven’t seen much released that’s actually been produced during the quarantine. We’re talking about scripted series, especially the kind that involve intimate scenes, anything that involves actually touching another person. You know, there’s all sorts of other layers to that now, and this is these are conversations that are happening in writers rooms where they say, maybe we should tweak that scene or maybe we should cut that to make it easier for, you know, our friends on set to be able to shoot it.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

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

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins 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.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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