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What does it take to shoot a AAA studio genre blockbuster in the middle of a global pandemic? 18,000 COVID-19 tests, 150 hand sanitizer stations, and $9 million spent on preventative measures (like renting out a whole hotel for the production's duration). Jurassic World: Dominion has been one of the test cases for Hollywood getting back to business — starting back up in June at the stages of London's Pinewood Studios, very early compared to any films apart from the rare indie — and its production is centered around the coronavirus.
The New York Times gives an inside look at the workings of returning director Colin Trevorrow's set. While returning franchise star Sam Neill has given brief insight into the production's process, explaining that he needed to quarantine before coming to set, there's a LOT more going on beneath the amber's surface.
“For Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and all our actors, they were very cautious,” Trevorrow said. “But knowing that we would all be safe together is what really moved the needle. If they hadn’t been willing to come, nothing could have happened.”
The production is split into two groups: those that work before and after filming, and those in the "Green Zone." The latter includes cast, director, camera operators, and other day-of shoot essentials. These members and everyone on staff at the hotel get three COVID-19 tests a week. Sets are sprayed with an antiviral mist in between uses. Traffic cones are orange reminders of social distance guidelines; infrared temperature scanners guard the doors. There's also a heightened amount of responsibility for each member of the team.
“Until now, actors were not really included in prep,” said star Bryce Dallas Howard. “But in order to get any of us on a plane, we had to thoroughly understand the protocols, who was involved and hear second and third opinions. We are the guinea pigs who are going to take the leap.”
They were chosen not only because the Jurassic films are a cash cow (with merch, theme park rides, and more based on the dino franchise) but because by its nature, it's not hard to implement safety measures. There aren't many extras, actual locations, cast members, or...much else real. It's mostly dinosaurs.
“After being on set, all of us actors hope that these protocols stay in place,” Howard said. “Because they are improvements. Nothing feels like a redundancy, nothing feels annoying. It is in a sense a safety reckoning that still feels like a good idea in a post-Covid-vaccine world.”
These precautions seem to have worked relatively well for the production so far (four crew members had positive tests since production started in London; four more in Malta as the production looks to head there next), but there has been one major exception. Chris Pratt's wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, was having a baby. So Universal "worked with the British government and the British Film Institute to secure a quarantine exemption that deemed entertainment workers essential," allowing him to "fly into the country and go straight to work." Precautions will be taken after the fact, with Pratt getting tested "three times in five days" before he's good to shoot once again.
The third film in the World series stars Howard, Neill, Dern, Goldblum, Pratt, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Jake Johnson, Isabella Sermon, Mamoudou Athie, DeWanda Wise, Dichen Lachman, and Scott Haze.
Jurassic World: Dominion aims for a June 21, 2021 release date.