Award-winning photographer Frank Masi (“The Tomorrow War”) was in Atlanta on the Dwayne Johnson starrer “Red Notice” in March when the entire cast and crew were sent home with less than 24 hours’ notice as production shut down due to the coronavirus. Empty sets have remained fully dressed, and crew gear has been locked on trucks as everyone shelters at home.
Masi, who is sheltering at his residence in Los Angeles, decided to capture a time capsule of the environs. Riding down the empty streets on his motorcycle, he has paused to snap pictures of a Hollywood devoid of the typical tourists and street performers, as well as the locked gates of Paramount Studios.
“I’ve never seen the gates closed in my life — ever,” Masi says. “To see them like that is just incredible.”
Generally, Hollywood is bustling with activity, including the work of Masi’s day job — on a set that involves a large crew with people in constant motion. His focus, he says, has been to show the stark emptiness of a normally busy city. “It’s almost like someone shut the lights off,” he says.
Award-winning photographer Hopper Stone, who most recently worked on the upcoming action comedy “Superintelligence,” starring Melissa McCarthy, began his career abroad as a photojournalist before transitioning into the film industry. The images he has shot over the past few months are not about the effects of the pandemic in particular, but rather a reflection of “what society is right now,” says Stone, who seeks out imagery that will provide a record of this moment — such as discarded respiratory masks nestled in the sand amid the seaweed.
Stone has also focused his camera on the protesters who have shattered the pandemic lockdown in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American who died in police custody in Minneapolis when a police officer kept his knee pressed to Floyd’s windpipe for almost 9 minutes.
Stone says that after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Floyd, he has been documenting protests by Cre8 the Change, Black Lives Matter and others, with gatherings ranging in size from dozens of people to thousands. His images aim to “find that frozen moment that tells the story.” Among them: a couple holding hands and crossing the street in front of police in riot gear.
“These all remind me of scenes I used to shoot in areas of unrest around the world, and not what I expected in Hollywood,” says Stone, who wears a mask and carries hand sanitizer to the demonstrations. He says he gets tested for COVID-19 within four days of attending any protest — a free service available for anyone in Los Angeles County.
With the recent release of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s film and television production guidelines for the state, it’s possible that Masi and Stone will be back on set before the end of summer. Right now, though, they’re still on the streets, collecting images of these unforgettable times.