After shutting down movie production nearly four months ago, Georgia is ready to get back up and running. Unions and guilds that represent film and TV workers have released guidelines to consider to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while filming during the pandemic. Actors and crews are both anxious to restart the business. And while some big TV and film studios in Georgia have already begun filming, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, which keeps getting worse in Georgia.
So now the question is not when, but should productions get back to work?
Georgia is a major player in Hollywood with film incentives that have helped lure hundreds of productions in recent years, including “Black Panther,” “Spider-Man” and “Avengers.”
“I doubled in Avengers Infinity War. I double Nebula, she’s a blue character. I love her,” said Atlanta resident and veteran stunt actress Shauna Galligan.
Galligan has been a part of the big budget projects that help pump more than $9 billion a year into the Georgia economy. But with the film and TV business shut down since the coronavirus hit, viewers are running out of content on streaming services and pressure is mounting to get back to filming.
“I know we’re all anxious to get back to work, and I’m sure everyone that’s watching TV is anxious for the next season to come out,” said Galligan.
Galligan worked at Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville and on sets that can easily have hundreds of people working in tight quarters, creating just the kind of environment that public health officials have warned can increase the spread of COVID-19.
“Now things are starting to pick back up, and hopefully that momentum keeps going, because now they’re talking about shutting things back down again," Galligan said.
In June, a task force composed of the various unions came up with the industry’s most stringent and approved reopening plan for protecting cast and crew on set.
Under the guidelines, workers would be classified into different zones corresponding to varying degrees of risk, face masks must be worn until filming starts, staggered mealtimes with no buffet-style setups will be implemented, and there are daily screenings for COVID-19. There will also be a designated COVID-19 compliance officer.
These are just some of the recommended guidelines that make local veteran actor Jason Burkey feel at ease.
“I think once those guidelines are in place there’s not much to worry about. I think the work can get done, and we can keep telling stories that way and do it in a safe way,” said Burkey.
But the coronavirus is volatile. Just this week, Georgia set a new single-day record with more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, making restarting production during the pandemic an even more risky expensive. Pinewood and Blackhall Studios have each invested more than $1 million to retrofit their studios, upgrading air quality, health screenings, doors without handles and improved badge systems.
In July, media mogul Tyler Perry is sequestering his entire production on his 330-acre studio campus throughout the duration of filming.
Burkey predicts a rise in smaller projects if COVID-19 cases continue to increase. “Normally on those sets there’s less crew, there’s less people, so I think there’s a feeling of safety there with less numbers on set,” he added.
Sources have told CBS46 that Pinewood Studios has two feature films currently in production, including the next "Spider-Man" movie.
Netflix also plans to return to Georgia with two projects, comedy thriller "Red Notice" starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and the cast of "Stranger Things" is set to start filming again in September.
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