It seems to be that it is hard enough to get a script just right for a producer to sign on and raise capital in order to hire the crew and employ the actors in the best of time.
So, what is a filmmaker, a storyteller, to do during the age of Covid-19? Do we wait for better news? Shops, restaurants, and shops are reopening, but not theatres and cinemas in some parts of this country and other parts of the world. Do we change or write our stories to accommodate these trying times, or do we soldier on with the stories of family gatherings, sporting events, and large crowds? At this moment, the movie studios along with all the creative unions are sorting out a way to get back into production that will mean safety for all and at the same time, stay true to a creative vision. Daunting at best is the challenge of the artist endeavor to be expressed in a format that traditionally, employs a large group of people working together in close proximity. The experts say no. Social distancing ad the wearing of masks are now the rules of today. So, what is a storyteller to do?
My project, “Ten Films/Ten Countries: A Cinematic Journey” was sidelined in mid-March because of the pandemic. As of late, both my Ireland and Czech Republic trips have been canceled indefinitely. So, I decided to focus on the movie that I was going to shoot in October of this year, to the forefront. This piece of the big puzzle is the first of the series of the ten films to be shot here, in L.A. After reviewing the latest draft, it occurred to me that not only can I shoot here at home, but that I may be able to adjust the parameters of the script so as not to disturb the integrity of the story and still maintain safety protocols.
The first phase was to consider what was internal to the story and what could be changed. This story has four lead actors and three locations (check). I decided to use my house as the primary location where our hero and his girlfriend live. The other location is the apartment where the ‘baddie’ lives. The final location is exteriors around my house and the neighborhood (check). No crowd scenes, wait. I do have scenes where the hero and his girlfriend are shown as a loving, closely connected, and affectionate couple. What to do? I telephoned the actress who was playing the girlfriend of our hero and we spent a long time discussing and asking and answering each other’s question, which among them was, “How do we show that a couple is wildly in love with each other without physical contact?
This is where the creative mind of a filmmaker along with his very small army of collaborators helps come up with solutions for our new scary times. With the use of creative blocking, long angle lenses and a lot of trust from the actors, the film that is about to begin shooting in August, has come up with a way to work around these limitations and still (hopefully) deliver a story that stays true to the intention of the relationships between all of the characters, without being foolhardy. If you take the time, the answers appear to you.
So, even though principal photography begins in August, we are using a very small crew wearing masks and using principals of filmmaking with adjustments that will reduce the possibility and fear of any contact with the virus. We are also using what is known in the business as, “French Hours” that allow us to reduce the working hours by extending the shooting days. As far as catering and craft services are concerned, all crew and actors will have their own, ‘food boxes’ prepared by a single person using all standards of safety, that belong exclusively to each member of the team. I’m sure red vines will find their way into some of those boxes.
So, time will tell where we all are in the near future. Who do we listen to that will give us the go-ahead to return to ‘normal’ (whatever that means)? I don’t know. For me, the safety of the crew and the actors is paramount and there is a way to continue to work as long as we are willing to change the system a bit to accommodate each other’s safety. Isn’t that the way it should always be?