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The Future of Film


When the COVID-19 pandemic first shut down the film industry, it left thousands without jobs and unsure of when they would ever be employed again. Since around September, the film industry has begun to open again with the creation of the White Paper Protocols, which have outlined the procedures and precautions that the industry must take in order to reopen.

For bigger studios like Sony and Paramount, this has meant hiring several news units focused entirely on testing the cast and crew of their shows every 24 hours. Becci Casey, head of Sony’s COVID Ready Team said that many of the people working on her team ended up working in health and safety because “they were working on the shows in other areas and [the studios] really cut back” on the former staff and crews.

Instability struck the film industry again when the second wave of COVID caused another slow down in January as studios didn’t want to risk a breakout with high numbers of maskless actors on set. Today in the studios there can easily be “125 people on set with a crew at an excess of 100 [people]” according to Casey, creating a huge responsibility for every studio’s COVID Ready Teams to test early and competently.

However, these COVID procedures do not come without a cost, as Becci revealed Sony regularly spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in testing costs for shows filming in person on their lot. They also have had to create a “partnership with labs” to deliver overnight tests when rapid testing is unavailable. Due to the new regulations most of the productions happening in this new COVID era are ones that can manage to foot the bill, as Becci pointed out most shows that “don’t have the budget” are fairly “dormant” at the moment.

However, not every independent filmmaker is content to sit quietly. David Gutel, a Cal State Long Beach film school graduate has decided to make directing a feature film his COVID project. Gutel started filming the “Knights of Swing” more than two months ago and finished only last week after having several setbacks due to COVID.

When telling me about his project, Gutel sounded excited to film the final scene with a battle of the bands, “lot of people, lot of testing”, he said. Even indie productions like “Knights of Swing” must follow the testing guidelines set by the unions. “Productions with money can afford this” he said, “but for “Knights of Swing” we’ve spent $60,000 that isn’t on the screen” for testing and safety guidelines. On top of those testing costs, a new department called the Sanitization department and the Health and Safety Department are required for all smaller sets.

Although filmmakers have started to return to work, there is still one big question in the industry: will people return to the theatres to watch movies when pandemic restrictions lift? In 2017 movie theatres had their lowest attendance numbers since 1992, but some filmmakers like David Gutel are hopeful, “I think we’re probably going to see a resurgence of people going back to the theatres...people will actually want that experience again”.

As the general public waits for the theatres to open once again, the film industry will continue producing content for online streaming services, under the new COVID guidelines.

Watch the full video piece here:

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