COVID-19. The 2020 outbreak of the virus that has caused a worldwide pandemic has affected our lives in the most drastic ways. Borders of countries have shut. People are stuck at home. And, economic downfall seem to follow everywhere. Likewise, the film industry is not an exception.
Incorporating COVID Reality into Filmmaking
Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, most cinemas and performance venues have been closed for an indefinite amount of time. As a result, multiple release dates of promising Hollywood flicks, such as new James Bond film No Time to Die or Denny Villenueve’s Dune have been pushed for more than a year. People prophicized this as the end of cinema. In March 2020, thousands of productions were put on hold. Consequently, significant financial losses to networks, producers, agencies and other entertainment-media companies have resulted.
On another hand, an increase in content produced by streaming platforms and production in the past year, ensures us that the future of filmmaking is not that desperate, COVID aside. Accordingly, the value of Netflix shares have almost doubled in less than a year. Warner Brothers made a decision to release its 2021 release slate on HBO Max.
Yes, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the industry to re-think.
Out of boundaries creativity comes
But how do production companies and streaming platforms find ways creatively to incorporate COVID reality into filmmaking?
A favorite example of how COVID’s limitations in film production is one of Netflix’s latest film releases, Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie (2021). The production of the film was the first one to wrap post-pandemic. Due to COVID, it had a minimal skeleton crew and only two actors to occupy black & white frame for almost two hours. Thus, the production took place over two weeks in the end of June 2020, and the entire cast & crew had to spend 14 days together, for a quarantine pre-production in California ranch.
This resulted in an intimate, intense, and touching story that possibly would not be made if it was not for the pandemic circumstances. And while the film does not explicitly state the effect of coronavirus on the characters of the story, it still translates a solitude-like aesthetic of captivation and friction that so many of us have experienced amid the COVID pandemic. Therefore, film’s creators have found creative ways to overcome
Working Around the COVID Pandemic
Technically, making the films has become much more of a hassle due to health regulations, COVID-19 guidelines and the unwillingness of insurance companies to issue liabilities for film productions. Consequently, a technique that has been more frequently used since the beginning of the pandemic is virtual production. With 270 degrees LED walls and Unreal Engine software, a production of The Mandalorian has set up an elusive precedent for new filmmaking opportunities. Hence, not only you can achieve almost any location set-up you want with the use of virtual production, but the overall cost has generally became much cheaper.
Post-pandemic effects on private lives and the public sector looks more like an apocalyptic science-fiction film, than a reality we are experiencing. These effects, as a result, have imposed increasing levels of anxiety and creative limitations on many. But for many storytellers COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity to craft digital content that is relevant and significant for the modern viewer.
In conclusion, the film industry is an ever-changing environment. And, those who can adapt to its ups and downs, usually prove to be the most successful.