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One Director Has Some Blunt Thoughts About Making A Movie During COVID-19

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
(Image credit: (Sony))

In the past couple weeks, Hollywood has finally started to pick itself up from its prolonged shutdown with new guidelines for filmmakers to resume shooting and movie theaters gearing up to reopen. But just because the industry can theoretically get back to work, that doesn’t mean directors are jumping at the opportunity right away.

First Reformed director Paul Schrader has just less than a week left to shoot on his upcoming film The Card Counter, which stars Oscar Isaac, Willem Dafoe, Tye Sheridan and Tiffany Haddish. He and his crew will be returning to set in Mississippi next month to film the remaining dialogue scenes for the drama. That being said, the Taxi Driver writer feels lucky for the few scenes he has left after peaking at the guidelines. In his words:

They are onerous. I would not want to start a film from scratch under those conditions. Five days, knowing what you want, you can work your way through that, or rather limp your way through it.

Under the current conditions, there are a ton of safety measures and restrictions being placed on film sets in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. Intimate moments and sex scenes are particularly prohibited – as the film editors’ trade association notes that they should be ”rewritten, abandoned or CGI fixes them.”

Backstage crews have also been asked to wear masks on set, and actors will be given formal lessons about hand-washing. Auditions may happen with plexiglass between actors and casting directors, and someone called a “coronavirus compliance officer” may be asked to be present on sets. This won't exactly an easy adjustment. Big-budget films such as The Batman, Mission: Impossible 7, Jurassic World: Dominion and Avatar 2 are already looking at start dates to resume their shoots.

Paul Schrader’s film was shut down months back when one extra in a crowd scene tested positive for COVID-19. As the director noted to Deadline, the set had thankfully finished up 90% of its content, including major crowd scenes and intimate moments. In light of the present situation, The Card Counter director isn’t jumping to release it this year even if it is finished in 2020. Here’s why:

I’m not crazy about trying to release a film this year. I will believe Venice and Telluride and Toronto when I see them. It doesn’t take much to stop those festivals. I don’t know what the urgency is. It also affects your ability to write new material, because what are you going to do with it?

Considering the filmmaker’s track record, The Card Counter could very well be an award season contender, which is made more difficult by a slew of festivals being cancelled. Oscar hopefuls often get their start at film festivals and amass buzz there first before hitting theaters. This is a particularly strange year to compete for Oscar glory – even if the Academy has officially delayed the next ceremony.

In the film, Star Wars’ Oscar Isaac will return to his dramatic roots as a card shark who dives into the world of high stakes poker. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more updates on movie releases.

Sarah El-Mahmoud

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.