How does a filmmaker affect society?

How Corona is affecting the film industry : The tributes of the pandemic

There is no kissing until the end. Fight scenes now also have to wait until the end of the shooting. The coronavirus pandemic poses major challenges for the film industry, and not just financially. Even on set, many things are no longer what they were before. "The production companies have to reschedule and be much more careful," says Christiane Krone-Raab, head of the Film Commission at Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, a state institution that acts as an intermediary between the film industry, the authorities and other parties involved. “Constant temperature measurements, repeated corona tests and group quarantine before the start of shooting are among the measures.” Or the shooting schedule is restructured in such a way that all scenes with close physical contact are only filmed at the end. "So that the shoot doesn't have to be stopped if someone becomes infected."

The complete lockdown was lifted a few weeks ago, but the film industry is still grappling with the consequences of the crisis. Normally it would be high season in the film capital Berlin and at locations in Brandenburg. More than 3000 days of shooting came together here in one summer in the past few years. But that year the number dropped to zero between March 18 and May. The first film teams are now back in action. But according to the media board, there are not more than a handful of productions yet.

The requirements for virus protection come from the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the responsible trade association. “That has a huge impact on the creative and logistical processes,” says Krone-Raab. Larger, elaborate film productions that are shot in public with many extras are particularly affected. The risk is still too high for the producers. Production stoppages and postponements in March and April have already caused major financial damage.

In many productions, the scripts are now being adapted to the new protective measures. For example, a producer reports on a scene with a mother and son at the kitchen table. So that the large distance between the actors does not look strange to the audience, the boy now puts his legs on the chair between himself and his mother in a defiant teenage pose. But the minimum distance is not always so easy to keep, says Krone-Raab. "Which film can do without human contact?"

One of the feature film productions affected is “Nebenan”, in which Daniel Brühl plays the leading role and also acts as a director. In spring, work on the black comedy, whose script was written by the writer Daniel Kehlmann, had to be interrupted for almost six weeks. The production companies Amusement Park and Warner Bros. recently announced that the shooting was "successfully completed" in May and June, subject to strict protective measures. Luck for the team: The film has the character of a chamber play and was mostly shot in the studio.

Some film companies are reacting to the new situation by using full quarantine. The people who work closely together on the set are accommodated in a hotel two weeks in advance and stay there during the filming. In the case of extras, it is recommended to hire people who also live together privately, i.e. couples or families. Or you can divide the extras into groups on set and make sure that they are never in the same place at the same time.

Director Tom Tykwer goes too far. Under the current Corona restrictions, filming for a new season of the series "Babylon Berlin" is impossible, he said this week after a cinema talk with Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters, who is providing a further 40 million euros for the industry as part of the "Neustart" cultural aid program. Shooting a film means creating spontaneous situations on the set, “finding the uncontrolled in a controlled situation”. Actors in particular felt the new uncertainty, according to Tykwer. He is currently working on the script for the new season of the hit series.

It is easier for the makers of commercials and series that are made in studios. Despite the pandemic, the series “Good Times, Bad Times” was also shot almost continuously in the Babelsberg studio because the hygiene measures could be implemented quickly. This is more difficult with series that are also created on public streets and squares.

Corona affects all areas of film production. “The whole chain is broken,” says Krone-Raab. Before, there was a shortage of skilled workers, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, permanent employees have been sent on short-time work. Many self-employed people in areas such as costume, make-up, lighting and props are still threatened. The few film productions that currently exist in Berlin and Brandenburg also have to adhere to strict requirements for catering, make-up and costume design. For example, every actress and actor must have their own make-up space. Additional tents are then set up on public roads. And in catering, more disposable tableware or separately packaged food is used again - which actually contradicts the goal of sustainability.

The new rules of the game are being monitored by Corona officers, which have recently become mandatory for every film production. Every production company has to document everything precisely so that the chain of infection can be traced in the event of an infection. If you document well, you can, in the best case scenario, prevent filming from being aborted, even if someone becomes infected on the set, says Krone-Raab.

The central organization of the film industry (SPIO) has calculated that around one in three of the almost 80,000 jobs in the German film industry is at risk from the corona crisis. Nationwide, more than 440 film projects are affected by the pandemic, around 6,700 companies in the industry are threatened with a wave of insolvency that could affect one in five companies. Sales losses of two billion euros are feared - a quarter of total sales.

But there are also early signs of a slow recovery. "Several larger projects" are currently in preparation in Berlin and Brandenburg, says the head of the Film Commission, including the video game adaptation "Uncharted" with "Spider-Man" actors Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg in the Babelsberg studio. And from August it will be possible to film more on public roads again. In addition, there are already first works on films that tell of the current pandemic and in which actors can be seen with mouth and nose masks.

The miniseries “The Jungle”, for example, which the UFA is currently planning. She tells of a coronavirus outbreak in a meat factory. A topic where you can probably do without film kisses completely.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page