I love my job and like to think I’m pretty experienced by now.
Aware, alert and able to divert from most potential red flags, but March 2020 like millions of others saw the Juice film team suddenly relocate to kitchen tables, dining rooms and kid’s bedrooms… all somewhere off the M4 corridor. Working from home, producing from Teams and slightly off course from the warm streets of Lyon which had been the location for our next Juice shoot.
This was the beginning of an era that probably most haven’t experienced in a lifetime and one I really didn’t see coming. A time when the film industry momentarily came to a grinding halt, took stock and drew breath before tearing up the production process as we had known it to move into a new age of filming safely in a pandemic.
As my first COVID era shoot loomed, I for one thought I had these new COVID procedures down pat. No problem I thought! It’s a producers’ job to iron out the creases and keep it all on track.
APA declaration form signed. PPE purchased, extra monitors on set, NHS check-in QR code laminated and approved COVID personnel on set. What could go wrong? Well, quite a bit as it happens…
It started at 6pm on the evening before the shoot with a phone call from the talent agency. “Sorry, your main actress won’t be turning up, she’s on another job today and her acting partner has tested positive for COVID”.
“But don’t panic we’ve found someone else last minute that fits the casting brief”.
Phew! Disaster diverted.
New talent approved; call sheet adjusted; release form amended. It’s all systems…Umm no go apparently!
Our in-house cameraman calls, (who incidentally handled all of the kit loading into the van). “I’m so sorry but my flatmate has just tested positive for COVID and we’re all having to self- isolate”.
Wow, this is much trickier than I’d thought.
Frantic calls follow as I try to locate a new cameraman at short notice. By 9pm I had one on board and we were back on track.
The night shoot is upon us and while myself and Alan have to disinfect and repack every piece of shoot kit our original cameraman handled – at least I’m on my way.
But not before another curveball.
The talent agency was fabulous at finding a new actress quickly, but not quite so great at informing me of her different dress size. A quick dash into a retail park on route to buy a whole new wardrobe and I’m on my way…again!
As I leave the drama behind me on the A40 I reach the set and wonder what this new world of social distancing, masks and constant sanitising has in store for me over the next two nights.
Turns out I needn’t have worried. As the Director shouts “Action” from a petrol station forecourt at 10pm, I’m conscious of one thing…
Whether it’s talent no shows, last-minute phone calls or wardrobe mishaps, we producers love a challenge…. at the end of the day, it’s just a night shoot.