Movie and TV sets adapt and find ways to keep filming during the pandemic

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Photo courtesy of André Nemec

A poster reminding the crew of Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” to wear PPE on set.

By Jessica Klein, Assistant Arts Editor

2020’s movie line up was supposed to be quite impressive: “No Time to Die,” “In the Heights,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and “A Quiet Place Part II” were all scheduled to come to theaters, but most movie release dates have been pushed back a year or more due to COVID-19. 

Some productions have already wrapped up and are waiting to be released, while others still need to finish filming. Movies like “Godzilla vs. Kong” and shows like CBS’s “Young Sheldon” had to halt production until they had a plan that allowed them to safely continue filming. Other projects, such as Netflix’s upcoming movie “Cowboy Bebop,” have taken measures such as coronavirus testing and a government-mandated two-week isolation for all cast and crew, according to André Nemec, the Showrunner and Executive Producer. 

Other safety measures from production include the crew wearing masks all the time, staggering meals, cleaning equipment and props and creating pods for the cast and crew. This way, if someone tests positive for COVID-19, it is less likely to affect the entire cast and crew.

“To ensure the safety of actors and stunt actors, we have created ‘quarantine bubbles.’ That means our entire stunt team has been selected, and only work with each other, and only on our production,” Nemec said.

Meanwhile, writer’s rooms have been moved from conference rooms to Zoom. Josh Appelbaum, writer of  “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol,” finds that the new process of scriptwriting is very different.

“It is taking longer to get through pre-production because it is an intricate process to make the set we film on COVID-safe,” Appelbaum said. 

How are sets supposed to execute scenes with big crowds, fights or romance if everyone should be six feet apart? There is what seems like the obvious answer of testing and quarantining, but that is not enough. 

There is a big crowd scene in my upcoming project, but it takes place during a violent protest, so the extras will all be wearing face coverings,” Appelbaum said. “It works for our story and also keeps things COVID safe.” 

With romantic scenes, it is more difficult to ensure the safety of the actors because social distancing is not a given. As is with other precautions, the rules for safety during romantic scenes vary. On Sept. 23, “Riverdale” star KJ Apa posted a video of him and co-star, Camila Mendes, using mouthwash before a scene together. He captioned the post saying “Our new normal is washing our mouths before every take of a make-out scene.”

According to Nemec, when some soap operas first started returning to set, spouses or partners of the main actors stepped in for romantic and close-contact scenes. His wife, Jade Harlow, is a soap opera actress who is known for her roles in “The Bay” and “Passions.” So far, Nemec has not had to step in with Harlow’s current TV series, “Release,” but he would be open to the idea of helping his wife out. 

We do not know how long sets have to work with these changes, but as with everything in our lives right now, production sets are adapting. 

“So far we’ve had no positive test results. Fingers crossed we continue on this good run,” Nemec said.