My name is Edward Douglas, and I’m the new Associate Editor here at Below the Line, so you’ve probably been seeing my name pop up around the site over the past week.
Here at Below the Line, we’re dedicated to everyone working in film and television production, and right now, we’re hoping to offer regular news and insights to pave the way for what we all want right now: to get back to work!
There are so many obvious reasons why we need production to get back up and running, but there are just as many changing variables that make it hard to know when it might truly be safe to resume production. Covid-19 is spiking in so many areas of the United States, while at the same time, other countries have seemingly eradicated the virus almost entirely.
Last week, Atlanta media mogul, Tyler Perry, went public with his ideas for “Camp Quarantine,” including a 30-page confidential manifesto, and he made a prominent appearance on CBS This Morning to announce that Tyler Perry Studios had wrapped production on the second season of his show, Sistas, with a cast and crew of approximately 350 people literally quarantined at Perry’s studio lot for two weeks. They were able to film the entire 22-episode season in just 11 days, and they’ve now begun doing the same for the second season of Perry’s BET show, The Oval,
In order to prevent the spread of Covid, Perry had stringent PCR testing procedures in place for everyone involved with the production, both on arrival and every four days during production. (PCR is the test involving a nose or throat swab where the specimen is sent to a lab.) The initial testing was done in waves where 160 people showed up at the complex, they were tested and then everyone waited for results before bringing in more people. Two people who tested positive received the necessary isolation and medical treatment. Without naming names, Perry told The Hollywood Reporter that some of his cast with preexisting conditions were hesitant to return to production even with the precautions being taken, but that was understandable, and Perry allowed them to opt out.
Perry told THR, “You take on a risk coming to work in these situations, and in order to work, you have to acknowledge the risk.”
Even so, the fact that Perry’s idea seems to have worked has created a minor degree of optimism that production might be able resume, but at what additional cost? So many states in the United States have had troubles getting testing, although Perry’s money and clout clearly allowed him to have the likes of Dr. Carlos Del Rio from Emory Hospital, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Colleen Kraft as advisors in creating the groundwork for “Quarantine Camp.” This plan also includes the highly-sought-after rapid testing that gets results back within hours rather than taking many days.
Some might wonder how long it took Perry and his advisors to figure out the best way for his cast and crews to get back to work, but Perry has earned a certain amount of loyalty among his casts and crew to the point where they have trusted him to make sure they could return to work safely, and so far, so good.
Tyler Perry Studios is opening up this system to other productions, as well, including Dwayne Johnson‘s Red Notice, which is scheduled to begin filming there in mid-September. (Marvel Studios has reportedly booked up to 11 stages for Ryan Coogler‘s production of Black Panther II with no set start date.)
Tyler Perry Studios isn’t the only television production gearing up again, as productions in Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles, as well as other Atlanta productions, are also showing signs of restarting. I’ll talk more about some of them later this week.
Below the Line takes what’s happening across the country and the entire world very seriously, and we want to hear from you, the important production crews. Have you returned to work yet? Are you ready to return to work? What will it take for you to feel comfortable with production resuming? Do you feel that “Camp Quarantine” is a viable way to resume production, or would you feel the need to hold out for a readily-available vaccine?
Email me at [email protected] if you want to add to this conversation, and I’ll be back Thursday with the next “Back to Work” installment.