(Photo by Emma Duffy)
Ah, Los Angeles. Home to the entertainment business, and to the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Film and television, like all of the sectors I have discussed thus far, have been uprooted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been an immense impact on studios and their production methods, as well as on the platforms the material is presented. Instead of staying stagnant, however, the industry has completely transformed their traditional ways of doing business – responding to the current environment by pivoting their production strategies in order to continue their craft and keep workers employed.
According to the Los Angeles Times, film and television shoots have been deemed essential and were able to resume production as early as June 12th, 2020. Of course, not without strict new guidelines (which one can find here). But, film and television workers in Los Angeles county have been back to work for seven months – continuing to produce content in-person with protocols in place, even as cases and death tolls rise.
Shows such as ABC’s This Is Us and Grey’s Anatomy have even intertwined the pandemic into their storylines; incorporating masks into their wardrobes, altering the trajectory of characters’ stories, and inserting subtle script changes such as “let me put on my mask” or “we quarantined before we came.”
Hollywood films that were supposed to be released in theaters (such as Disney’s Mulan) are instead being released on various streaming platforms. One of the most prominent shifts to streaming came late last year, when Warner Brothers announced that all of their 2021 films would be released worldwide both in theaters and exclusively on HBO Max for one month. This newly implemented hybrid model gives viewers a chance to choose which platform they prefer. But, will consumers still want to travel to theaters after the pandemic has subsided? Or, will the benefits of streaming outweigh those of theaters, making the movie-going experience obsolete? What is the future of film?
As I’ve said many times before, there’s something extraordinarily special about being physically present with entertainment. There is nothing quite like taking in the smell of buttered popcorn, candy bar in hand, as you sit present in front of the silver screen. When the outside world dissipates for just a moment, and one is brought into a fictitious world of imagination and infinite wonder. It’s difficult to fathom a society where this magic does not exist.
Still, questions remain. Are these new production protocols and hybrid releases the happy mediums the entertainment industry has been searching for? Or, will this evolution do more harm than good to both workers and theaters?
No one knows.
But, the clouds begin to break as the vaccine becomes more widely spread. A beam of sunlight peaks through, shining on the fact that film and television workers are still employed, paychecks in hand to feed their families, risking their lives each day to create more of the movies and shows you love. It’s only a matter of time before we get clarity on these questions.
We just have to wait for the storm to pass.