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Actors, directors mull cautious return to production during pandemic

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Actors, directors mull cautious return to production during pandemic
Amanda Seyfried says she is not ready to return to production despite the new COVID-19 production guidelines. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, July 20 (UPI) -- Film and television productions shut down in March as cities around the world entered lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Months later, some actors and directors are willing to make sacrifices so they can resume work. Others worry that rushing back could cause setbacks.

Los Angeles released guidelines for film and television productions to resume following strict COVID-19 protocols June 12. Productions outside LA were told to follow similar guidelines provided by The Director's Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild, International Association of Stage Employees and the Teamsters unions.

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Film crews "are used to working in very unusual circumstances," Kevin Bacon told UPI in an interview for his latest film, You Should Have Left. "People are pretty good at rising to the challenges."

Rod Lurie, director of The Outpost, said he is not so sure filming could resume under the guidelines. Lurie feared people could still contract COVID-19 despite the guidelines' best intentions of preventing the spread. Even if actors and filmmakers want to take the risk, Lurie believes the insurance companies that cover productions will not allow them to risk people's lives.

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"I don't know what happens if two or three significant people on a movie set, by that I mean essential players, get the disease while they're shooting," Lurie said. "Will there be insurance companies that will cover any of these things? I think we're a way away from actually being able to start."

Brett Cullen, who stars in Big Dogs, suggested the guidelines could add days to a production schedule. Different departments would take turns preparing a set for filming, when those tasks used to occur simultaneously. However, that ability to separate actors from technicians makes Cullen comfortable to return to work.

He said he hopes HBO can start production on the Untitled Lakers Project, in which he will play general manager Bill Sharman, this summer.

"My big concern is being in a room with someone close by," Cullen said. "That's where I think most people are catching this infection."Too soon

Some actors say the industry is going back to work too soon. Amanda Seyfried, whose movie, You Should Have Left, opened on video-on-demand during the pandemic, said the lockdown should continue.

City and guild guidelines require a health safety supervisor to be on set. With new COVID-19 cases reported daily, Seyfried said she fears daily monitoring won't be enough to prevent spread of the virus at work.

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"If COVID is still that rampant, then we truck on with social distancing and keep things shut down as much as possible," Seyfried said.

Mackenzie Davis, whose latest film, Irresistible, also opened on video-on-demand, is scheduled to film the series Station Eleven as soon as it is safe. She said she hopes her production decides to wait because she anticipates another spike in COVID-19 cases.

"I'm not desperate to get back to work, but that's a very privileged position to hold," Davis said.

Davis and Seyfried acknowledged that many actors and crew members cannot afford to wait longer for work. Seyfried had difficulty reconciling the need for others to work with risking their lives. Her husband, Thomas Sadoski, was directing Perry Street at the MCC theater, but all of New York theater closed before it opened.

"It was heartbreaking," Seyfried said. "The point is to keep people from dying."

Actors trust colleagues

Some productions have resumed. Josh Hartnett is in Paris filming the four-part HBO movie Exterminate All the Brutes. He confirmed everyone involved with the production took a COVID-19 test and wears masks, while departments remain separate.

"I'm self-isolated when I'm not on set," Hartnett said. "I get a car to work and come back to my hotel room."

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Sam Riley is quarantining with his children in their Berlin home so that his wife, Alexandra Maria Lara, can return to work on the German series The Witnesses. He said they will take COVID-19 tests every five days to confirm Lara has not been exposed.

"We're happy to go back into quarantine if that's what it takes for everyone to start getting back to some sort of normality," Riley said.

Phase 1

Many actors agree the government and guild guidelines are thorough. Ron Perlman, starring in Peacock's The Capture, believes the guidelines will continue to evolve as scientists and the industry learn more.

"We're living in shifting sands under our feet," Perlman said. "Eventually, we're going to get this right and we're going to figure it out."

Director Judd Apatow, who released The King of Staten Island on video-on-demand June 12, said he believes the entertainment industry will make a select few productions the test cases for new protocols.

"I don't think it's going to ramp up all at once," Apatow said. "I'm sure there will be a process of learning how to do it in the best possible way."

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If the protocols prove effective, more productions might resume. However, if productions find working within these protocols unfeasible, or if they fail to prevent COVID-19 spread, actors like Cullen are confident they will not proceed.

"I do know that if things start going awry, they'll shut down again," Cullen said.

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