Netflix Head Honcho Reveals How Covid Protocols On Set Are Actually Saving Money

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The film and TV industries have changed in some major ways this year. Possibly for the first time ever, there was something much bigger than a writer's strike which led to every major production shuttering its doors for several months, beginning in mid-March. With the arrival of the pandemic, the entire industry had to figure out when and how to get back to filming, and what steps to take so that everyone who's needed to work on productions could stay safe for the duration. Now that all of those new safety features have been implemented, though, Netflix's head honcho is revealing how those COVID-19 protocols are actually saving money.

It took several months for those behind film and television productions to even begin to seriously think about heading back to set. One thing that became obvious very early on, though, was that there would have to be new equipment put into place to keep on-set communications going without making cast, crew, or staff interact with everyone directly. It was thought that all of the new equipment and procedures would send production budgets and timelines skyrocketing, but Netflix's co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, is now saying that it hasn't been so bad.

Ted Sarandos spoke recently at Mipcom (via Deadline), and talked about the unexpected upside he's begun to see from all of the new safety practices which have been put into place. According to Sarandos, part of this upside has to do with how everyone on set is handling the new normal of filming:

Because of all these safety protocols and people being very supportive of these safety protocols, productions run much smoother, so you actually save some shooting days sometimes. Shooting days are shorter, the sets are better run, there’s fewer people on sets sometimes, which keeps the trains running on time.

Alright. Well, I have to say that I didn't expect anyone to be able to come up with any positives from all of the new safety features, aside from the obvious plus of keeping everyone safer. I mean, I was just in my office today for the first time since early March, and it was super weird in that whole building. Luckily for everyone working on Netflix productions, though, it sounds like they've all adjusted to the newness and are following the rules, which has actually led to filming going quicker in some cases, meaning that they have to spend less time on set overall and can save some cash.

Or course, what Ted Sarandos didn't mention is the fact that Netflix has cancelled a lot of shows lately, and some of those have been given the boot because of the pandemic. The streamer cut both I Am Not Okay With This (which had reportedly been granted a second season even though that hadn't been announced) and The Society (which had been publicly granted Season 2 in the summer of 2019), and specifically issued a statement saying they were "disappointed to have to make these decisions due to circumstances created by COVID." It's thought that those "circumstances" were both uncertain production start dates and increased budgets because of the new protocols.

Many fans were also upset (not to mention the cast and crew) when GLOW suddenly had its life cut short, even though it had also been given another season. The amount of time required to film the series was cited as a reason for the cancellation, along with all of the new financial obligations required to make the set safe.

Sarandos continued when speaking about the benefits he's seen, noting that the shorter filming times have helped to offset the increased production costs, and that he expects the practices to be good, overall, as we head into flu season:

So there’s been some recovery in that. The other thing is you get unforeseen financial benefits of people not getting sick. Going into flu season, all these safety protocols for Covid are going to prevent people also from getting the flu as frequently as they did and you would lose shooting days to the flu. In general, it’s been not as difficult a financial pain point.

He's probably got a point here. Anyone who has any kind of suspicious temperature will now be sent home before fully stepping foot onto a set. And, as we know, everyone's going to be covered in masks, face shields and other PPE equipment when not on camera, so if any cold or flu bearers do get through the screening process, they'll be sneezing into their very own faces until they're sent packing.

Netflix hits, like the supernatural Stranger Things, the Henry Cavill-led fantasy The Witcher, and the teen dramedy Sex Education are all back in production, so be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for updates!

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.