The age old saying “The Show Must Go On” is more applicable than ever in today’s world. When shutdown measures went into effect on March 13th, no productions in the LA area were unaffected. For weeks, all production halted. Only the news continued with Talk Shows like Colbert, Fallon, and the Daily Show adapting to film from their hosts’ homes instead. That left hundreds of productions cash strapped with rental, studio space, and crew obligations causing major strains on the industry. Thousands of cast and crew were furloughed or let go.
Meanwhile, with the entire population isolated in their homes, consumer demand for content only increased. Broadcast, which can’t rely on library content like streaming platforms, scrambled to fill their fall programming. Streaming platforms, which rely on new shows to drive subscribers, searched for licensable material and shows that could be made remotely. This created an incredible pent-up demand for content as guidelines were put in place to open the country up. As of September, according to our contacts, almost 200 shows have resumed production in LA.
In fact, the safest place in the world right now might be on a soundstage. The Entertainment Industry is taking the greatest amount of measures to ensure the safety of the cast and crew; Wellness and prevention of the spread of COVID-19 is paramount. The amount of protocols to keep the entire cast and crew safe is astounding. These include testing 3-5 times a week for all essential crew and the talent. Medical staff screenings have been put in place to ensure extras, vendors, and other services supporting productions are cleared to enter. Larger productions have formed production bubbles in which all staff, catering, crew and talent live together near the sound stage. Other productions like Avatar quarantined together before entering New Zealand, one of the few countries that stemmed the spread, before they started filming.
Challenges remain. Shows with large group scenes have required groups to quarantine together and cycle through multiple productions. Location shoots remain severely limited with individual productions, laws, and locations determining how to keep cast and crew safe. Anything propped or brought on sets have to be sanitized for two days before use. All of these measures have costs. These preventative measures have made current shows more expensive and time consuming to produce.
BEN has responded with it’s own set of Covid-19 protocols to keep our BEN employees’ and production partners’ safety in mind. This has included comprehensive sanitation of all props, physical distancing, scheduled outdoor pick-ups, and PPE for staff. We compiled all these new protocols in a packet and summarized them below.
We’ve been through similar crises as an industry. The 2007-2008 writers strike shut down productions and led to the expansion of reality television like Chopped and innovative productions like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long blog. The current pandemic has created room for new mediums like podcasts and shows that require remote work. New digital content like Some Good News and celebrity digital content has caught audience attention. Adult animation orders have increased as it remains one of the few mediums that can be produced remotely.
Entertainment has seen audiences through war times, depressions, recessions and many production-halting strikes. While these are uncertain times, what remains constant is the delivery of content and engaging stories direct-to-consumers, whether that be home or mobile devices. It’s a guarantee that the show will go on.