Sunday, June 07, 2020

Hollywood Changes in Production: Coronavirus

Hey guys, I wanted to jumpstart our conversations on the future of Hollywood, specifically in production, and even more specifically how it is affected by the coronavirus. We'll be talking about distribution in the coming days too because obviously streaming is emerging as the clear frontrunner now.

We all know that things are changing in Hollywood production and the coronavirus is adding complexity and speeding that up. Technology changes are coming yes, but productions now have to think about crew and talent bubbles, location safety, transportation, etc - it's a lot to consider, let alone implement.

Here are some of the things that need to be considered regarding production in these times:
- Smaller movies. Smaller locations, sets, crews, talent, etc. Think about all the roles that need to be careful - Makeup for example. Very close contact with actors.
- Virtual productions, especially for larger budgets. Think THE MANDALORIAN, AVATAR, TINTIN, THE LION KING, etc. Anything that can be done behind a computer could and should become the gold standard. More on that in upcoming posts.
- Tightly controlled bubbles. Everyone involved in the production needs to be in their own bubble. Just like what the NBA is thinking of doing on July 31.
- Daily testing with swabs and/or non-invasive temperature checks.
- Ensuring locations/sets have exceptional air circulation and filtration.
- Specialized medical teams. Productions are going to need them.
- Specialized cleaning teams. Productions are going to need them.
- Using Zoom for the bulk of required meetings.
- Insurance. The coverage is going to look a lot different. Less extravagant locations and more green screens and perfcap volume sets. More on this in the coming days.

I see some immediate changes. Since theater releases are not going to happen on a large scale anytime soon, productions are going to have to align with digital streaming pipeline workflows and release schedules. That's the new time slots. Anything to ease this transition and integration with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO, Amazon Prime, etc is going to boom.

Other fast changes include production bubbles - studios will need to house, feed, transport, and safely enable sets for all crew members - perhaps even family members for longer productions. This is no small feat. Tight budget controls will need to be in place, especially because distribution is in flux and not as certain as theatrical.

Marketing is going to undergo huge changes. No more festivals or industry events. No more mammoth budgets for red carpets, travel, and awards. Think more about social media, influencers, and short clipped "trailers" on Tiktok for example.

Even as more and more of society opens up, theaters will remain one of the worst places for infection. A second wave is a very real possibility. I shudder to think about it.

Here's the bottom line: Expect many more first-run movies on streaming services. Take the recently released BECKY, starring Kevin James and Lulu Wilson, written by a friend of mine, Nick Morris. It was slated to premiere at Tribeca this spring and be released in theaters, but now it released on several digital platforms like Apple TV+ and Vudu. No theatrical. That will continue to happen in the industry. Hopefully, we can get to a place where there is a simultaneous release on digital and also any theatrical territories that have opened up in the future.

The coronavirus has definitely done one thing: Sped up adoption of streaming services around the world, and the acceptance of that distribution by studios. I don't believe theaters are dead. They're going to change, but they will be back.

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Jim Dorey
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