Popular on Variety
Returning to set for the first time since the coronavirus-forced lockdown, Nina Jacobson now divides her time between monitoring the production of “Y: The Last Man” and navigating safety protocols…
Returning to set for the first time since the coronavirus-forced lockdown, Nina Jacobson now divides her time between monitoring the production of “Y: The Last Man” and navigating safety protocols on site.
During Friday’s Variety Business Managers Elite Breakfast presented by City National Bank, Jacobson, the producer and founder of Color Force, joined senior TV reporter Elaine Low for a keynote conversation on producing TV series and films during the ongoing pandemic.
Joining the event from Toronto, where she is currently shooting “Y: The Last Man,” Jacobson shared that she would stand in long lines to get COVID tested multiple times a week, an experience on set like no other.
“This is just another day at the office or another day on set, and we’ve all gotten used to it,” she said. “And yet, if you’d shown me a photograph of us with our PPE (personal protective equipment) standing in line, ready for three times a week testing, we’d be like ‘what planet is that?’ It’s still so odd, and yet you get used to it, because we’re adaptive.”
While Jacobson and her team are grateful to be back on set, the producer also spoke to the challenges of not being able to multitask or visit family until production is over. But she is hopeful that technology will continue to allow production teams to engage with different sets at once, even though “there’s no substitute for being together creatively when decisions are being made.”
Jacobson continued speaking to her experience living in a production bubble in Toronto, which she considers a “remarkably easy” system. The team limits the number of people on set at all times, and the showrunners and producers have been staying at the same hotel in their own room, communicating via phone calls, she explained.
Jacobson added that when a cast or crew member tested positive for the virus, following COVID protocols have allowed production teams to continue shooting.
“If you’ve followed all the protocol, the opportunities for exposure are really limited, because you don’t spend any time in an enclosed space without masks, and you don’t spend any time on set without shields near your Zone A (in which you’re in close proximity to the actors),” she said. “If you don’t stick to the protocols, if you don’t create the bubble and you don’t create small pods to contain any problems, obviously a positive could turn into a much bigger crisis.”
On the bright side, early days of the pandemic provided ample time for Jacobson’s team to focus on development for upcoming shows, both having more scripts written in advance and navigating the use of VFX to design a pre-pandemic setting with large unmasked crowds, among other details.
Jacobson is hopeful that the 10-hour work days under a collaborative work environment will translate to life on set following the pandemic. “I think we’ll all be happy to go back to a much more communal vibe when it comes to eating and catering and hovering around each other. It’s a very collaborative, very intimate and cozy experience to make a show or a movie with a group of people,” she said.
When the pandemic is over, Jacobson is curious to see how the TV and film market will shift to provide new forms of communal experiences for audiences who have adjusted to accessing content via streaming platforms.
“There’ll be this period of backlog where a lot of big movies have gotten held, and then they’ll come roaring out,” she explained. “But eventually, that backlog will pass, and we’ll see where the business is by then.”