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Home / US Business / ‘We Are the Guinea Pigs’: Hollywood restarts its Blockbuster Machine

‘We Are the Guinea Pigs’: Hollywood restarts its Blockbuster Machine

Like most actors, Bryce Dallas Howard is used to appearing on film sets and knowing what lines to say, when to say them, and often not much more.

Things Are Very Different on "Jurassic World: Dominion," one of the first major Hollywood films to start production since the coronavirus pandemic led to a global end in March, before agreeing to return to Pinewood Studios outside London , Howard and other members of the cast produced producers and executives from the studio behind the film, Universal, through a series of Zoom calls and emails about what precautions were taken.

Ms Howard now knows everything from how to attach the microphone before filming – she does it herself outside, with the help of her dresser, as a bomb operator who has a mask and a shield instructs them – to the person who lays the bed in the luxury hotel Universal has rented for 20 weeks for the cast and crew. [19659002] "Until now, actors were not really included in prep," Howard said in a telephone interview, referring to the filmmaking process as "a need to know business." "But to get some of us on plane, we had to understand the protocols involved and hear second and third opinions thoroughly. We are the guinea pigs that will take the leap.

Hollywood has not been able to restart production on its own California soundstage due to surging infections in the state, plodding negotiations with unions over protocols and the time it takes to get test results. So large film studios, under pressure to get their production lines back on track, have focused on shooting abroad. The "Avatar" sequels are filming again in New Zealand. Sony Pictures has "Uncharted" its adaptation of a popular video game coming to Berlin.

Manufactured is Universal, with "Jurassic World" and a 107-page safety manual describing everything from infrared temperature scanners and crew meetings on arrival to the vacuum-sealed meals provided by masked workers behind plastic partitions in the takeaway-only cafeteria. The security protocols serve as a model for other studios, showing, for example, Marvel how to resume the shooting of "Shang-Chi" two weeks ago in Australia.

About 750 people are involved in the $ 200 million production of "Jurassic World". , ”Which started again on July 6, and the set would normally be a life of activity.

But Universal has divided production into two categories. The larger one consists of departments that do not need access to the set during filming, such as construction and props. The more exclusive category, called the Green Zone, includes the director, the cast and the only important crew, such as the camera operators and the sound department.

The result, Howard said, can be compared to a "closed set", which in pre-pandemic times was commonly used for physically intimate scenes.

Those working in the Green Zone receive Covid-19 tests three times a week, and the kits are covered with an antiviral mist before each use. The chairs that the actors sit in between take are surrounded by orange cones to remind people to stay socially distant. When there is more lag in a day, the cast can retreat to a special Green Zone living room, complete with sofas, rugs, lamps and plants. There are many washes, and every time someone leaves or enters the Green Zone, he or she has to wash his or her hands.

The goal is to keep everyone healthy – and think less about coronavirus and more about roaming the earth with dinosaurs. [19659002] "In this small moment, we are able to be in the world we are creating and leave the rest of the world behind," director Colin Trevorrow said in a telephone interview.

"Jurassic World: Dominion," scheduled for release in July next year, is more than just the sixth installment in a franchise that has raised nearly $ 2 billion at the global box office. It's a chance for Hollywood to see if it can move past the many industry sufferers the pandemic has put – from closed cinemas to an audience that has become increasingly comfortable watching premium movies from the couch.

Hollywood studios have kept profits that have come in recent years by focusing on potential blockbusters based on well-known intellectual property, mainly because such films run so many additional businesses and are almost guaranteed to draw people to the cinema. "Jurassic World" is a perfect example, it is a merchandising machine, and NBCUniversal trusts it to give life to its struggles theme parks; a "Velocicoaster" link is under construction at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida.

Donna Langley, chair of Universal & # 39 ;s Filmed Entertainment Group, called the court watch to production "symbolic of industry."

"If a production of this magnitude can succeed in dealing with the uncertainties of filming in the middle of a pandemic, and keeping people at work and the production pipeline moving, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for filming in all sizes to create safe and sustainable environments, ”said Langley, who also heads the Los Angeles County economic workforce centered on getting Hollywood up and running again.

Cases are still too high in Los Angeles County – and the number of tests and laboratories available to treat them too low – too large productions to progress. A film starring Ben Affleck was five weeks from the start of production there when the virus shut it down. The producers thought of Austin, Texas, before cases arose there.

Now the producer, Mark Gill, is looking to London. "It's practically impossible to shoot anywhere in the United States right now," he said.

Universal chose to move on with "Jurassic World", despite being a great action-adventure film, it required few real locations, a minimum of extras and only a relatively small cast. The film had also started production in England shortly before the pandemic closed, which made it easier to get it going again.

Attempts to create a safe environment included the acquisition of 18,000 Covid tests and 150 hand cleaning stations. The cost of the security protocols is about $ 9 million and includes the cost of renting out an entire hotel, said people involved in the production.

The studio received test guidance from Your Doctor, a private medical conglomerate in London. One general practitioner works with the production full time, together with four nurses at temperature stations at the entrance to the set. There are also a handful of medicinal medicines.

The cast is tested every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Crew members who do not interact with the cast so often and can wear protective equipment at all times are tested less frequently.

Renting out the hotel during the shooting – a move that Mr. Trevorrow called a "banana idea" "- was also key.

" For Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and all our actors, they were very careful, he said. "But knowing that we would all be safe together is what really moved the needle. If they had not been willing to come, nothing could have happened."

Those involved in the production were each quarantined for 14 days on arrival. After that they were free to roam the hotel. Masks are optional and no social distancing is required. (Each hotel employee is tested three times a week.) People eat breakfast together, have access to the gym (and a virtual trainer) and the pool and plays frisbee on the hotel lawn every Sunday. Some of the cast traveled with the make-up and hair people. Goldblum took his wife, two toddlers and two nannies with him.

"We practice on Sundays after Frisbee, every scene as we are going to shoot it uk one, "said Trevorrow, who wrote the script for Emily Carmichael. "We work dialogue together. All the questions that usually come up – & # 39; Why does my character want to say this? & # 39; – all this has been addressed before.

A complication involved Chris Pratt, one of the stars of the film, whose wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, was about to give birth. Universal worked with the British government and the British Film Institute to secure a quarantine exemption that considered entertainment workers essential, meaning they could fly into the country and go straight to work.

Mr. Pratt was in the production for three weeks at Pinewood, and then flew home to be with his wife for the birth of their baby, and will return to England in early September. Production will then move to Malta, the Mediterranean island, for eight days before returning to Pinewood for another seven weeks. When Mr. Pratt arrives in Malta, he will be tested three times in five days before being cleared to be part of the production again.

Four crew members in the UK have tested positive for the coronavirus since early July. Two did not yet have to be on the set. They were quarantined for two weeks, and after three negative tests, they were allowed to return to work. The other two were similarly isolated, as were all they had been in contact with. No one has become seriously ill, the studio said. (Of the crew members sent to Malta in advance, four were positive. They have been isolated.)

"After being on set, all the actors hope that these protocols stay in place," Howard said. “Because there are improvements. Nothing feels like a redundancy, nothing feels annoying. It is in a way a safety calculation that still feels like a good idea in a world after vaccine vaccine. "

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