We don’t know what our future looks like. With COVID-19 still raging, our social interactions, functions, and cultural expressions are not the same. Will we get a vaccine? Maybe. Even probably. But without one, we could be facing years more of on and off lockdowns. For the film industry, which was heavily impacted by the pandemic, things might never be the same.
But amid the bad news and the sadness of our viral predicament, good things are happening, too. From mid-June to early July, Zendaya and David Washington starred in a secret movie entitled Malcolm & Marie. The production was unconventional. Stringent isolation and hygienic protocols were followed diligently. And despite the virus, the crew and cast made the movie come to life. What does this mean for the future of moviemaking?
Malcolm & Marie
In mid-March, Sam Levinson, the screenwriter of Euphoria got the call. He was told that the production of the show’s second season was to be stopped immediately due to coronavirus concerns. Soon after, he got a second call. Zendaya, the star of Euphoria, asked him if it was doable to shoot a film during the quarantine.
A few months later, voila, the cast and crew wrapped up the production on July 2. The project is unprecedented in the history of filmmaking because the whole thing was shot during the quarantine. To make it work, the crew and cast consulted with doctors, technicians, and other safety experts, and a plan was hammered out.
The production headed to Santa Lucia Preserve, on the coast south of San Jose, and filming took place in the Caterpillar House, a new-age glass abode in a relatively remote location. Everyone involved entered a two week quarantine period when they arrived, they were tested regularly for COVID-19 and entered another two-week quarantine upon completion.
Everyone was subject to daily temperature checks, and sanitation was emphasized like never before. The set hands and the actors were isolated separately from the rest of the logistics personnel, creating two bubbles. Rehearsals were often held in the parking lot, in the open air. Everyone wore masks. Food was prepared and arranged strictly within the quarantine confines. Social distancing and safety precautions were taken very, very seriously.
As of now, the film doesn’t have a release date. All we know is that it stars Zendaya and David Washington (star of The BlacKkKlansman) and that it grapples with current social themes. Some rumors say that it has it shares similarities with Marriage Story, which stars Scarlet Johansson and deals with a couple amid a messy divorce. But no one knows for sure.
The Future of Moviemaking
Like most other art sectors, the pandemic has had devastating impacts on the film industry. Thousands of shows have been delayed or canceled. Since theaters have been shut down across the world, box office sales are tanking. Streaming is obviously becoming increasingly ubiquitous, but overall, the film industry is sustaining heavy damage. Some estimate that the industry could lose over $5 billion.
With travel and social gathering restricted due to the pandemic’s ever-present health concerns, it seems like moviemaking is in trouble. But Malcolm & Marie gives some much-needed glimmers of hope. Maybe, even in the worst-case scenario, we can adapt to our new reality and use the production as a model for making movies during the crisis.
More focus and funding can be put toward finding locations that don’t require international travel. New safety protocols can be written as filmmakers and actors can take strict hygienic measures to isolate and protect themselves. With enough hard work and caution, the film industry may be able to make “the show must go on” into a reality.