As audiences still await the big news Unlock 1.0 – the reopening of cinema halls, permission has been granted to resume shooting and complete post-production work in studios.
After months of the pandemic-imposed shutdowns, production has already resumed in Hollywood and close on its heels is our own Gujarati film industry or Dhollywood.
The Maharashtra Government too has given a ‘conditional’ green signal to start shooting. As producers and studios have started sanitizing sets, props and equipment, they are still trying to figure out the logistics of shooting in the social distancing mode.
But one question that needs begging is that ‘Are we really ready to resume production?’ With impositions like a third of the cast and crew on sets, use of masks, face shields, and constant sanitizing, the idea seems far from practical.
Also, most producers will be required to have doctors, nurses and ambulances on the sets. The actors have to do their own makeup and those from the containment zones will not be able to report for the shoot.
Is the risk worth the reward?
The signs are clearly in front of us. The number of COVID-19 positive cases saw a rapid spike post relaxation. While the economy and businesses have suffered and continue to suffer, one of the biggest steps that we can do reduce the spread is continue following social distancing protocols and not take unnecessary risks.
The industry and its people can still withstand some more delay before they resume shooting, but what we can’t afford as an economy right now is another massive shutdown or lockdown. As other countries are still speculating about the second wave of coronavirus and a potential shutdown, we need to ensure we nip the disease now while we can.
No matter how many precautions production houses take, filmmaking by its very nature is an intimate business. The chances of contagion are significant. Most physical distancing ‘hacks’ that are being talked about in the film industry are just hacks at best with no assurance of the longer-term safety and health of the people involved.
Plus, shooting with these make-shift measures will impact the production quality of the films or the television shows. Big spectacle scenes, intimate scenes or fight scenes will have to be put on hold. Even if cast and crew members are tested before shooting resumes and infrared thermometers are in place on site, there is no guarantee of safety especially since the cases have begun to escalate in Unlock 1.0.
What then must the industry do?
Now is a good time to wrap up those tasks that don’t require physical contact. This is the time to get creative with scripting, budgeting, connecting with people, listening to ideas, storyboarding and shot listing, securing locations (albeit virtually) and even cast actors.
Remember that Thomas Edison had famously said that genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. The time is right to seek inspiration and work on chiselling your craft rather than risking a bigger lockdown.
If we are patient now, we won’t have to wait much longer.