While French producers guilds and a dedicated committee are finalizing sanitary rules for filming, several non-scripted shows have restarted shooting in France to feed broadcasters’ urgent demand for fresh content.
During the lockdown, which will be partially lifted in France on May 11, select news-driven talk shows such as “C’est dans l’air” and “Quotidien” continued filming, but game shows and other non-scripted programs were stopped — with the exception of a few at-home editions.
Endemol Shine France is among the first banners to have restarted filming on new episodes of popular game shows in a studio, notably “Les 12 Coups de Midi” for TF1. Air Productions, the outfit owned by TV host Nagui who presents top-rated game and talent shows such as “N’oubliez pas les paroles,” has also ventured back into filming, according to insiders.
New guidelines for filming in the COVID-19 era will be submitted to the health minister for approval by the end of the week by a special committee known as the CCHCST (Central Committee for Hygiene, Security and Working Conditions in the Production of Films, Shorts and Commercials).
In the meantime, companies such as Endemol Shine France or Air Productions that are handling non-scripted, small-set productions within a short time frame and without an audience, are able to film. “Most game shows are back on track…While we await the official rules, we have taken advice from producers who shot during the lockdown, as well as health professionals, and have adapted our filming conditions and the set up of our studio accordingly,” said a veteran producer.
“There are less than 50 people on set, no audiences, and at least one meter between each person. In areas where it’s impossible to maintain that distance, we’ve put some space dividers in plexiglass,” he said, adding that other prerequisites include temperature checks, self-application of make-up and catering bans.
Producers of non-scripted, like other producers involved in series and films, are also eager to strike agreements with insurance companies to have them cover risks linked to the coronavirus crisis. But for fiction producers, getting the insurance problem solved is crucial to restarting production.
“For fiction, it’s a whole different ball game because the shoots are much longer, you have a lot more people involved, and it costs way more, so the financial risk is too large for a producer to engage without the backing of its insurer,” said an industry source.
As insurers are unwilling to bend rules on coverage amid a pandemic, the solution being currently discussed will come from the government with the launch of an indemnity fund that producers will be able to access in case of cancellations or the postponing of shoots due to the virus, said Valérie Lépine-Karnik, the head of the film producers guild UPC. Lépine-Karnik said she’s hoping insurance companies will agree to participate in this fund, though they remain unattached so far.
In the meantime, a couple of fiction production companies, including Les Films du Kiosque and Mandarin Production, are eager to start shooting as soon as possible and might be the first two banners out the gate. Les Films du Kiosque has to wrap Emmanuelle Bercot’s “De son vivant” which was stopped in November after the film’s star, Catherine Deneuve, had a stroke. Mandarin Production is looking to start filming Francois Ozon’s next movie with Sophie Marceau.
“Producers are very concerned that they’ll be hit by a second wave of coronavirus and have to endure another three-month hiatus; that’s why everyone wants to get back in right now,” said Lépine-Karnik.