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27th March 2020

COVID-19 and the Creative Industries: A look at the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Film Production Houses

You might think creativity would blossom during self-isolation and lockdown, more time and less outside stimulus can mean greater introspection and time spent with your craft. However, one creative industry that has ground to a standstill during the recent weeks’ events in the film industry.

Around 20% of the world population is currently under total lockdown, with no ability to leave their homes other than for food, medical supplies and exercise, shooting anything outside of your own home is theoretically prohibited. This is a huge roadblock for even a self shooter, but for film and TV industries worldwide this is practically a ban on working. Any serious production will require a crew vastly out-sizing current lockdown limits, aside from this, how do you shoot a scene with multiple people when they aren’t allowed within two metres of each other? Note that we aren’t complaining about current lockdown rules, we recommend you fully comply! This is just an explainer on the current situation.

We’ve heard of stories about product houses that have gone from a jam-packed 6 months to having every single shoot and production postponed. Post-production departments can continue with their current work remotely, but that won’t last forever with no new shoots on the horizon.

It’s not as if people can start work on all those passion projects they’ve always dreamed of, they aren’t even allowed outside, nevermind with a crew, no matter how stripped down. Of course, if you shot it 5 years ago you can finally get round to editing, but that only benefits a select few.

You could call this a perfect storm, lockdown means we are consuming more film and TV than ever, but it also means our capacity to produce this form of media has been crippled. We have all the time in the world to watch films, but no ability to make them. Even for the countries who aren’t under lockdown currently, producing is at worst impossible and at best irresponsible. Hopefully, lockdown won’t last forever, but it will be interesting to see how the film industry responds once restrictions start to be lifted and the public feels more at ease working together. It’s not as if the day the cinemas reopen we’ll be able to produce new films in a week’s time, the average Hollywood movie takes one and a half years to go from the start of pre-production to the end of post-production. Could we see a new film and television drought?

Perhaps there are ways around this though, it’s still possible to create animated films and media, actors can record voice-overs maintaining social distancing precautions and even remotely if needed. At the production house I work for, our post department is still functioning, we can still create media without having to shoot anything, and by extension, so can individuals at home. This can all be done remotely, from pre to post-production, with minimal human contact and no need to ever come within two metres of another human.

Further to this, what about films and TV shows relating to the natural world? With no need to shoot human interaction, social distancing can be maintained whilst outdoors, and as already mentioned, voice-overs and post-production aren’t issues. Indeed, with so much less pollution currently, has there ever been a better time to create such films?

We’re currently only at the beginning of what could be a very difficult few months, so this is all just speculation, it will certainly be interesting to see how this pans out for the film industry, an industry that touches so many of us and is currently so hard hit by the coronavirus. And as already mentioned, if you are under a lockdown or social distancing rules, don’t go breaking them to shoot a film, the world will still be here once we’re done with the Coronavirus.

27th March 2020

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