Sound stages are being booked, studios are hiring medical staff to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and many in Georgia’s film industry are anxious to switch on the lights and resume production.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s advisory commission on film, music and digital entertainment is bracing for an overflow of companies heading back to Georgia. Commission vice chair Steve Weizenecker told “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam that it’s time, and the state has lost billions in tax dollars since the pandemic pushed the industry aside.
It’s tough, he said, and production on-set is going to look entirely different.
“Tyler Perry has announced that he’s going to get back to work, and I think he’ll be one of the first, with the very interesting ways he’s going about it,” Weizenecker said.
“He’s hired his own epidemiologist, he has a medical staff, he has all his executives working on how to safely do this, and basically have this quarantined production.”
Weizenecker told Rayam that the film industry can also put a large number of local Atlantans back to work, including mom and pop businesses that provide equipment and production stages.
This comes as Kemp recently issued guidelines for production that features safer filming scenarios in an industry shaken by the coronavirus. The preventative practices were approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health.
When it comes to casting, health officials recommend eliminating “open calls” and asking actors to wait in vehicles until their scheduled time.
During a day of shooting, camera angles, lenses and shot set-ups should be adjusted to allow for greater distance between actors.
If a scene makes it impossible for actors to stay 6-feet apart, staff are asked to keep a record of interactions between actors so the spread of the coronavirus could be traced back. Extras and background actors may be severely reduced. It’s also recommended that costume fittings take place off-set or remotely with personal protective equipment.
But the Georgia Department of Economic Development wrote those guidelines are “non-binding” – and that “guilds, unions, production companies and studios may also have their own regulations.” The department told WABE it hadn’t heard of any full production shutdowns as of the end of May.
Pinewood Atlanta Studios president and CEO Frank Patterson said his 700-acre Fayetteville studio is also resuming production. Pinewood is one of the largest studio complexes outside of Hollywood. Patterson told “Morning Edition” that Pinewood should be back in production by this fall.
“Netflix posted significant gains and subscribers this last quarter, Disney+ is growing through the roof, and these subscription services are what’s entertaining us right now, while we’re all locked in,” Patterson said in May.
“Subscribers want to see new shows, and those new shows have been stopped for a couple of months. It’s hard to put a dollar figure on what that means.”
According to the governor’s office, nearly 400 Georgia film and TV productions in 2019 brought-in more than $9.2 billion in wages for state workers. Officials say the film industry employs approximately 51 thousand Georgians.
Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.