Inside Hollywood’s Expensive and Exhausting Road to Making Movies During Coronavirus

Jurassic World Dominion

“Making movies in 2020 is not for the faint of heart, but it’s possible” says Director Sean King O’Grady. That’s quite the understatement considering all of the precautions, planning, stress, and money that comes with creating films during this unapologetic pandemic

Every day at Pinewood Studios (London), where “Jurassic World: Dominion” has been filmed, a voice shouts over the PA system every several hours to deliver a dystopian message: reminding cast and crew members to change their masks. Many moviemakers and people in the industry are coming to terms with the fact this new normal will alter the way big and small sets look for the forseeable future.

One of the changes is the increased budgets needed to shoot movies and the overall filmmaking process during COVID-19. Making movies is already a tedious, labor-intensive, and careful process that involves countless help from extras, to makeup artists, videographers, editors, and that’s all excluding the main contributors: the actors. Dominion was the first major production to continue filming after the outbreak, so they in many ways wrote the rules for “pandemic productions” and how productions can safely be held. Routines like temperature checks, swab tests, daily safety briefings and color coded zones meant to organize cast and crew have become the new normal on set.

An example of the color coded zones would be the key cast members receiving green wristbands at the start of the day in order to avoid “cross contamination” from other members of the production. These key cast members are tested 3 times a week, which is, you guessed it, “phenomenally expensive”. To add to this, members are given iPads to view the working scenes instead of crowding around a central camera. Add that to the bank statement. Oh and don’t forget the extra people hired to ensure people are maintaining social distancing, which doesn’t sound like the best job. It’s actually “really annoying” according to Alexandra Derbyshire, executive producer.

Money has become one of the main things to focus regarding productions because rigorous procedures like testing, ventilation, addition sinks, sanitizers, face masks, etc. Larger sets like Dominion, who had approximately 90 additional sinks, 200 hand sanitizer locations, and 50,000 swab tests throughout the shoot, actually don’t have to worry much about this additional cost because they are backed by huge production studios, like Universal. The same can’t be said for smaller productions like the upcoming movie Rift.

Producer Kevin G. Lee had to allocate 10%-15% of the films budget for covid-related expenses. This is a significant amount especially for a film with only a $300,000 budget. The team had actually planned to shoot a different project, but had to scrap it when they couldn’t get production insurance to cover pandemics, which is definitely frustrating considering they already booked the location. Nothing some reverse engineering won’t fix!

As with every other industry and demographic, it seems the individuals with less money are hit harder during this pandemic. While the production of Dominion didn’t bat an eye to the additional thousands of dollars, smaller productions don’t have the same luxury and are even forced to completely change their creations and ideas. Nonetheless, making a film during this pandemic is “not for the faint of heart” says director Sean King O’Grady, “But it’s possible”.

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