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The American film industry has persevered throughout COVID-19, but at what cost?

When COVID-19 hit us back in March of 2020, Hollywood immediately ceased production on a number of their films. For months, there was no news of Hollywood reopening their studios and production resuming.

Then came June, and Hollywood unions made a detailed breakdown of how to proceed with production within the safety restrictions of COVID-19. 

In Los Angeles specifically, Sony and Warner Brothers have ramped up production on shows such as “For All Mankind,” “Dear White People” and “Big Shot.” All of these productions have hired “COVID-19 handlers.” The entire job for these handlers include weekly COVID-19 tests, constantly making sure those not directly in a scene are wearing their masks, as well as checking trailers to make sure social distancing guidelines are being upheld.

Even with these handlers, however, there have been multiple current working productions that have hit bumps in the road thanks to COVID-19.

Robert Pattinson, the star of the newest Batman movie, contracted COVID-19 after only two weeks of filming and had to halt the production until all members of the cast and crew were cleared of the virus. However, rumors are circulating that director Matt Reeves faked the news about Pattinson having COVID-19 in order to shut down production for two weeks and get Pattinson in the gym. Being a superhero, the director is concerned Pattinson’s stunt doubles will appear more muscular than the actor himself. 

Even so, the mere threat of COVID-19 is enough to shut down entire productions. The “Jurassic World: Dominion” cast had a similar experience this past month. Director Colin Trevorrow tweeted that they had, “Woke up to the news we had a few positive coronavirus tests on ‘Jurassic World: Dominion.’ All tested negative shortly after, but due to our safety protocols we’re going to pause for two weeks. Back soon,” on Oct. 7. 

Whether COVID-19 is genuinely posing a threat on these sets or not, safety precautions take precedence over deadlines. For the first time in Hollywood’s history, we are seeing productions halt at the threat of a virus. Before COVID-19, productions were notorious for being harsh with schedules and firing people who cost them too much money.  Afterall, in the film industry, time is money. 

Even with sets returning to a fast pace and exercising precautions to keep everyone safe, actors who have previously signed on to projects, are terminating their contracts for fear of the virus. New Los Angeles independent horror film “The Knocking” had four actors drop the production when filming resumed in August.  

As a theater arts student, preparing to enter this industry, timid as we are, professors have been willing to share their knowledge with how the film industry will adapt with COVID-19. No more huge party scenes with dozens of background extras, and for kiss scenes they’re introducing an over the shoulder technique to allow actors to kiss their significant others instead of scene partners. 

In only six months, the current BFA class leaves APU and enters the industry on our own in the hopes of finding work in the lucrative film industry. COVID-19 poses problems and produces job insecurity for many actors just coming out of school. The real challenge is finding that balance between precaution and your career, but when your entire career depends on being in close proximity with teams of people, it feels nearly impossible.

Even still, it feels like the shut down of Hollywood did nothing to truly halt its success, and despite the “time is money” mentality, the industry could have afforded the time off.  

The virus is still a concerning factor in these mainstream markets, but it’s clear the film industry has made a decision to move forward in any way they can. The industry will suffer — whether that be from production value or cast/crew dedication to projects, COVID-19 still has control over many aspects of the film world. 

But the film industry doesn’t have the luxury of halting completely for the virus to pass. Much like the NBA and other major league sports, changes are having to be made in order to proceed as normal. 

If there’s one thing Hollywood is good at, it’s adapting.