Filming of movie and TV series is underway in China following a months-long shutdown forced by the coronavirus outbreak. But not the whole country is back at work, or working at the same speed.
“We’ve been shooting our TV series ‘Game Changer’ since the beginning of March. We’ve completed all the interiors and now have only one week outside to do,” Wang Haiyi, of film and TV company Hishow Entertainment, told Variety.
“We spent six weeks of lockdown in three hotels, with all the cast and crew, including star Huang Xiaoming. Nobody moved. But we were lucky to be near Chengdu which was not the worst part of the country affected by the virus, so we have been able to restart.”
Chinese state media reports that five stages at Hengdian, the mega studios near Hangzhou, have been back in action since March 28. Lensing of TV series “Legend of Fei,” starring Zhao Liying and Wang Yibo, is one of the projects that restarted at the facility.
State media also report that Zhang Yimou’s spy film “Impasse” restarted in Datong, Shanxi Province, after a 50-day hiatus, and that “Moses in the Plain” directed by Zhang Ji and produced by Diao Yinan (“Black Coal, Thin Ice”) restarted on location in Jilin Province on March 26.
Other facilities to have re-opened include: Xiangshan Film and Television Town in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province; the Shanghai Film Park; Xi’an-based Bai Lu Yuan Studios; and Sunac Culture’s Qingdao-based Oriental Movie Metropolis.
But as much of the rest of China returns to some form of normality — traffic jams are once again reported in Shanghai and Shenzhen, for example — national capital Beijing remains in its own special limbo, which reflects its political importance and symbolic value.
While staff at many Beijing-based companies in the film and TV industry, including Huayi Brothers and Legendary Entertainment, have returned to their offices, the capital continues to impose restrictions on transport, require strict quarantines, and many buildings insist on temperature checks for all visitors. It is not clear when the Huairou Studios, some 40 km from the center of Beijing, will fully reopen.
Nationwide, a ban on arrivals by foreign nationals remains in place, and is expected to continue until after the most important political event of the year, the so-called “Two Sessions” can be rescheduled.
The National People’s Congress was scheduled to have been held in Beijing from March 5, but was canceled for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s. That meant that the National People’s Political Consultative Process was also postponed, without a new date being set.
The lockdowns, delays and de facto ban on foreign crew are certain to have a lingering effect on the industry.
Some have used the time to re-write or finish scripts. For most Chinese TV shows, these are normally written while the series is shooting. However, other productions will have been delayed, especially if backers have suffered significant financial damage.
“We expect to be able to get back on track and ready for broadcast by the third or fourth quarter of the year,” said Hishow’s Wang. “In fact, we may be scheduled earlier because others shows that are in Beijing and Shanghai have suffered longer delays and will not be ready.”