IN THE NEWS
SET SAFETY, IN COVID-ERA
Ever since the March shutdown of production in Los Angeles, the production community has looked for new ways to still capture content. What was immediately clear was film sets would look completely different when filming resumed. But not only would they look different, the work flow, job assignments, and expectations would change drastically, until a vaccine is made widely available.
Doug Tower, the helmer who usually is most concerned about getting great takes from actors and talent that fit the project’s vision, admits his new focus is talent and crew safety, even if that means a slower production day, and often times a shorter production day.
“The big picture here is how can we stay safe, at every step of the process. That means scouting, casting, building, and shooting. It means being relentless at making sure we don’t move so fast, that we forgo safety precautions at anyone’s expense.” Tower has directed 4 shoots since California’s governor gave the green light to resume filming. Tower has also canceled one.
“We look at how can we be safe all day. We look at who is at risk. We look at creative ways to avoid risks. We spend more time than ever planning on how to be safe. We take time on set, creating a culture of safety, respect. If we believe that we can’t deliver a completely safe set, we cancel. That’s only happened once.”
VIRTUAL VIDEO VILLAGE
The days of 12 producers under a tent, hovering over a group of monitors in a video village are long gone, in the Covid-era film production world. Instead, new technologies are being created, adapted, tested, and pioneered so clients can still see and hear everything, as production resumes in Los Angeles.
Urban Legends Entertainment is leading the way, thanks to its in-house editing team that is shifting its focus. “We’ve already sent our clients images from mountaintops, deserts, and jungles, so we had a head start. But now we are striving to make the process even easier, and more reliable,” says Meghann Coleman, a producer at the Los Angeles production company. “We had to reimagine people’s roles. We had to rethink what equipment is best. But we knew that without a bulletproof virtual video village, our job wouldn’t be possible. Our clients’ vision is too important to not find a way to include it in the live action component. We need their feedback, no matter what.”
Many television networks and film studios are prohibiting their employees from traveling anywhere, until 2021. So a virtual video village became Urban Legends’ immediate focus. Editors became technicians. Producers became hosts. Directors became ringleaders. The process is working. “Some of our first systems had 10-second delays. We found that to be enormously frustrating. Other systems allowed whatever the on-set camera saw, to be shared with everyone, but that wasn’t ideal either. “We evolve the system every single time we use it. Customizing it. It’s amazing how each project presents unique challenges. So we spend the time considering our overall goal, and then we build a system to achieve it,” Coleman said.
“Virtual video village” Coleman said using air quotes. The population in it, is growing.”
COVID-ERA FILM PRODUCTION LOOKS AND OPERATES DIFFERENTLY
Ever since production has resumed in Los Angeles following the mandatory shutdown caused by the pandemic, film sets are looking and operating very differently, says Doug Tower, a director and content creator who has been active in finding solutions to keep the creative process healthy for his clients and crewmembers. Leadtime has been precious, allowing different departments ample time to create and collaborate, with less work being done with multiple departments at the same time. Instead, he has encouraged crews to work separately, with ample time. “Let’s build it, rig it, and light it separately, so departments don’t come in contact with one another,” Tower outlined, as one way he has minimized crew contact.
“Shooting on location now means cleaning the set before and after filming, with Covid-era cleaning crews,” Tower explained, offering other ways that the pandemic has changed production. “Actors often are asking to down their own makeup, and I support that,” he said, in an effort to minimize close contact.
“We have cast actors who actually live together, and found it not to be that big of a compromise,” Tower explained, in regards to a baseball fan shoot he directed.
“Masks are required to be worn the entire day, but crew members are given plenty of time to refresh themselves outside, whenever they need to,” explained Tina Groff, whose role as a producer now is evolving to include set safety. “Temperatures are taken at the start of the day. Crews are briefed with what our expectations are, and how they benefit everyone.”
“We uses fans, to create constant one-way, off-set airflow,” Groff said. “We’ve created comfortable masks, but allow crew members to use their own if they meet our standards, and are more comfortable.”
We had not had a single client join us on set said Meghann Coleman, a producer at Urban Legends. “Instead, we are creating unique new ways to share the set experience with them, wherever they may be. So far, it has been working nicely.”