Ambiguity rides on the future of the film industry, as casts and crews have, along with the rest of the world, adapted to the impact of COVID-19. With the introduction of extra safety precautions, temperature tests, quarantine and social distancing, one would assume that the film industry has pressed pause on filming and productions, in order to align with government regulations. However, Sam Levinson, director and creator of the hit show Euphoria, is the first to successfully shoot and produce a film during this pandemic.
Malcolm & Marie was filmed between 7th June and 2nd July at the Caterpillar House in California. Its 33 acres of land were completely quarantined for the duration of shooting, as the cast, crew, directors and even chefs were bound together for daily temperature checks and increased defences against the virus. The unfamiliar, yet optimistic setting for film making was all compliant with WGA, DGA, SAG_AFTRA approvals and COVID-19 safety protocols. Starring Zendaya and John David Williams, the plot of this ‘secret Corona film’ is still fairly under wraps but is rumoured to echo the modern-day theme of Netflix’s Marriage Story, whilst resonating a number of current global and social themes. Zendaya confirmed her involvement in the film by sharing a shot from the film on her Instagram and Twitter accounts, which encouraged mass support from other cinematic figures, including as director Ava DuVernay and actress Yara Shahidi. A release date is yet to be announced, however the rapid progression of production does bode well for those fervent film fanatics.
With ‘pandemic friendly’ shooting and production adhered to, the financial backing and support of Malcolm & Marie acts as evidence of those keen to support the art of filmmaking. With the safety of the film as a priority, the project was bankrolled entirely, throughout pre-production and production, by Levinson, his production partner and wife Ashley Levinson, producer Kevin Turen and leading cast members Washington and Zendaya. As a result of the past few months, one thing most people will now agree on is the importance and appreciation of the arts and entertainment industry, and better yet, how the importance its survival is. Malcolm & Marie is carrying a curious amount of pressure for the mysterious possibilities of quarantined filmmaking. Regardless of its success in the box office, this film could certainly become symbolic for the filmmaking era. Have they succeeded in making the impossible possible?
Ultimately, the real question is: is this the future of filmmaking? This template approach to the film industry could in fact be in place for the foreseeable future, or at least until it is safe to return to larger, more open sets. Cinema lovers have been swift to recognise that this places limitations on the potential for future films, with limited characters, locations and crews, franchises such as Fast and Furious, Mission Impossible and James Bond may face particular strain on their usual exotic sets. Additionally, filmmakers face the challenge of the inability to film in public spaces, everyone remaining on set until the end of shoot and even greater creativity required for high quality productions. For example, with Malcolm & Marie there were rules including a maximum of 12 people on set at any time, which could significantly affect action films, where stunt doubles and additional crew members are all required. Perhaps the future of film will enter a more simplistic and acting focused era? Or maybe the Golden Era of Cinema might be topped by the Era of Coronavirus? Time will tell.
Following on from the potential hit that Covid-19 could pose on the future of travel in films, the internet was quick to jump to conclusions over rumours of Harry Styles reigniting his acting career and pairing up with Brad Pitt for an upcoming film. Despite the initial disappointment, whilst learning that Mr Styles was not returning to the big screen any time soon, I contemplated those challenges facing films with their settings cast across the globe. Internet rumours regarding the upcoming film Faster, Cheaper, Better, began after film distributor Vértice Cine, posted casting news for the project. The current synopsis, as per Capital FM, reads “The film spans 20 years in multiple locations with intertwined stories of countless characters including: a union boss, a young businessman, an inland farm manager, and a tech millionaire whose lives are cut short when the automation and artificial intelligence transform the world as we know it. In the end, everyone must face the meaning of being human.” Regardless of the casting, and Harry Styles’ absence, the challenge that directors now face is whether or not they will in fact be able to bring their ideas to life for future projects. As we anticipate the ‘new normal’ (if there ever was such a thing) for the film industry, one can only hope that the likes of Harry Styles will return to the big screen and filmmaking can continue to thrive as an international platform for the arts.
© S R D HILL
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