Filed in: Columns, Featured, Film, News

Back to Work: London Calling!

August 18, 2020 | By

Jurassic WorldLast week, I wrote a “Back to Work” piece that included a few tidbits about how Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World: Dominion was renewing production.

Thanks to a recent New York Times piece that was a tad more official, we can get a clearer picture of what’s involved with getting such an enormous production back up and running after being shut down with nary a warning.

Much of the move to England and other countries like New Zealand may be due to the added complications when unions are involved in the conversation about how to reopen. In fact, the California studios remain shuttered due to “surging infections in the state, plodding negotiations with unions over protocols and the time it takes to get test results.”

It makes sense for studios wanting to get back to the business of making product for when theaters fully reopen to look for other options, and Jurassic World: Dominion was always planned as one of the bigger movies of the summer of 2021 even before everything ground to a halt. Universal Pictures even delayed F9: The Fast Saga, the next chapter in their lucrative “Fast and Furious” franchise to the summer of 2021, even though that movie had already wrapped production.

These are some of the interesting things we learned about the precautions on the Jurassic World set from the New York Times piece:

  • Universal Pictures put together a 107-page safety manual that included infrared temperature scans on arrival, vacuum-sealed meals provided by masked workers behind plastic partitions in the take-out only cafeteria.
  • Universal purchased 18,000 Covid tests and 150 hand sanitizer stations.
  • The studio also rented out an entire luxury hotel building for cast and crew.
  • The added costs for these new protocols is thought to make-up $9 million of the movie’s overall $200 million budget.
  • Actors have to attach their own microphones (instructed by a boom operator wearing mask/shield from a safe distance) and are more involved in the prep than normal.
  • Production is separated into two categories with the “Green Zone” for those that need access to the set during filming: director, cast, camera operators and sound; and then everyone else.
  • Those in the Green Zone receive COVID tests three-times are week.
  • Sets are fogged with “antiviral mist” between takes and the chairs are separated by orange cones to keep people apart.
  • The Green Zone has its own “living room” with couches, lamps, blankets for those working on set to remain separated and safe.
  • There are added locations to wash hands when traveling in and out of the Green Zone
  • Four of the crew tested positive for COVID but only two had been on set, and they were quarantined until they each received three negative tests.
  •  The production is also filming in Malta, and four of the crew members sent there tested positive for Corona and were isolated before anyone else arrived.

One of the bigger tidbits from the Times piece is that director Robert Rodriguez, whose Troublemaker Studios has been the crux of the film industry of Austin, Texas, would be going to London to make his next movie, Hypnotic, with actor Ben Affleck, for the fledgling Solstice Studios.  Originally, the movie was going to film in L.A. County but cases there got too high and the same has been happening in Austin, so producer Mark Gill began to look at England to start rolling cameras on schedule.

London is also hosting production for the seventh Mission: Impossible movie, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, although that production temporarily shut down due to a motorcycle fire while filming a stunt. Because the Tom Cruise starrer is as steeped in secrecy as Jurassic World, there hasn’t really been much intel as far as how the production is dealing with safety in regards to COVID, but that might come second to making sure no one else (especially Cruise, who has achieved some notoriety for doing his own stunts) gets injured.

It’s also been reported by Deadline that director Kay Cannon  (Blockers) will be resuming work on her Cinderella musical for Sony Pictures, starring pop idol Camila Cabello in the title role, in the UK this week after being shut down by COVID. The production will continue through the end of September with “robust safety protocols” including extensive testing, social distancing, daily disinfection and contact tracing, which I discussed in a previous column.

There seem to be many merits for filming outside North America right now, especially if distance from home isn’t an issue, because it makes more sense for everyone on cast and crew to remain quarantined together in order to protect the sanctity and safety of the set.

Email me at edward@btlnews.com if you want to add to this conversation, and I’ll be back on Thursday with the next “Back to Work” installment.

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