Tyler Perry on filming of ‘Sistas’ during coronovirus epidemic


Tyler Perry wants you to wear your mask.

After successfully completing production on its beta series “Sista” without a single case of COVID-19 during a two-week shoot, shooting for “The Oval” begins the following day, with cast and select crew Tyler Perry The stents at the “Camp Quarantine” began arriving at the studio on Thursday. And Perry says he doesn’t have much plans to do differently this time around, especially when it comes to everyone wearing masks on set and around the 330-acre campus.

“I’m sure the cast and crew and everyone wore their masks when they weren’t on the set because I know for a fact that masks help prevent proliferation – scientifically, I know, “Perry explains Variety “And everybody followed it, even though we were all testing negative. I didn’t want anyone to incubate [COVID-19] For three to 12 days, and we don’t know it. “

Perry and the crew of “Sistas” wore their masks for between 12 and 14 hours during the shooting of the 22-episode season, with the opportunity to catch their breath with an hour and half lunch.

“Listen, I was a masked cop.” Every time I saw something I was raving about it. “It’s summer in Georgia so credit to the crew – it’s burning here and they were still doing the right thing. So, I gave the guys a lot of breaks to give them water because we had some people who were all summer Were dehydrated, and the water breaks were actually ‘breath breaks’ where you could pull your mask down, drink some water and eat some fresh air. “

After wearing his mask while directing the show, Perry admitted that he felt “mask-drunk” from time to time due to lack of oxygen, but the team got through it. “For me, once I was comforted by looking like a man from the outside, it was okay.” But you remember that I would direct in a wig and a dress, which was sometimes not as strange to me.

To correct their way of working in the quarantine bubble, Perry’s team hired Emory University’s Dr. Carlos Del Rio, Drs. Sanjay Gupta and Drs. Tyler Perry teamed up with Colleen Kraft to execute a rigorous testing program with the upcoming nose swab test at the studio. And follow tonsil tests every four days on site.

“Every fourth day was very important and when I was most concerned, [especially] In the first two tests, because I was very worried, “he recalls.

After the first 160 cast and crew moved to the Tyler Perry Studio, the two tested positive during the initial sequencing period. When the next 200 people arrived a few days later, two more people tested positive during their first test. Those four men never worked on the set and were sent to seek medical attention.

“I felt a wave of relief after the last test result, where everyone was negative, I was like, ‘Well, we pulled it off,’ so I’m proud of my team,” says Perry. “Underdogs” for achievement. “I don’t know how any other production, if you’re not in quarantine, I don’t know how you do it, but testing is important.”

Although Perry took extra care to address COVID behind the scenes, he says his shows would not reference the epidemic in any of the stories.

“All these scripts were over when COVID started showing,” Perry explains. “And I also know that what I know about COVID is that people are tired of hearing about it, and the entertainment has survived, so I don’t think my audience is going to be more of what is happening in their reality Want to bring in All my work has been about escapism, so I’m going to catch escapism. “

One challenge for the production, however, is working with a reduced crew size; Perry states that his crew was reduced by about 80–100 members, with a total of 360 people on site to produce “Sistès”. When asked if he thinks the shows are getting shorter after the epidemic is over, he said that there are some financial arguments for doing so.

“I think the producers and the people who are controlling the wire of the purse definitely want to catch it [size], Says Perry. “But I can tell you that it was stressful on some of my team, because those people were down. Therefore, I will ensure that they had what was necessary to continue in this way. “

Citing a specific example, he said, “Extras are a problem, especially when you’re doing big scenes and you only have 10 extras. You’re changing their clothes, rolling them around the room and hoping. Doing that people won’t recognize them, try to shoot in the back of their heads or jump crew and be extras. It was a challenge. Some things I think we’ll be good for [to continue], But others will not work. “

Another challenge to produce content during the epidemic is the sheer cost – including, in Perry’s case, all cast and crew accommodation at Tyler Perry Studios and out-of-town players in Atlanta via private aircraft Is included. Perry told first Variety They expected the cost to be higher, now speculating that the total could be around $ 18 million after the production of “Sistas,” The Oval, “Ruthless,” and “Brew” (which would all shoot in succession) is.

Michelle Snead, president of production and development for Tyler Perry Studios, further elaborated the filming logistics, stating that the final cost of COVID precautions was somewhat higher than the initial budget, although most of the additional expense was unavoidable.

“The most important thing is to trust people to do their job and to be able to do whatever is in these COVID standards,” Snead says. “What COVID does for production is slow – it costs money and it slows down. So, our point was, do artists find wearing masks ridiculous? Can a cast member really take off his mask as soon as he opens his mouth to do a scene? Absolutely – they can and they did. Can our camera people actually wear a face shield with a mask, even if it wears glasses. Absolutely, yes he did. So I think it is relying on these professionals and the crew to tell them what to do. “

Prior to filming, Perry’s team included 315 one-bedroom housing units in addition to 60 housing units for calls and crew to private bathrooms (including Perry’s “luxury mobile hotel rooms” or pods, which house 14 people in each house) . They cast over 70 golf carts (according to Snade, most presentations will have 20–25 golf carts) around the complex and allow for crew transportation and greater social distances than average production vehicles. In addition to the two COVID compliance officers, Perry’s team also hired a safe service officer to oversee the meal. Sneed says they have doubled the housekeeping staff on the site.

While the most significant cost has come with different types of PPE gear, each department will need to demonstrate its specialty, which requires “trial and error” to detect. “We find out that we have to get $ 15 per face shield, versus the $ 3 we did for the budget, for departments that rely too much on face shields, or these versions of glasses for this department To get in order to really move forward, ”he clarified.

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Tyler Perry Studio Exterior
Tyler Perry Studio

Perry and his team also paid the cast to have some socially disturbing fun. “When you’ve grown to 360 adults these kinds of hours were working, of course, I should have a bar, food truck, and movie night on the lawn and church on Sunday, so that people could feel they were at least Were no less in jail, ”Perry says.

And in addition to working during the epidemic, Perry is also filming during an industry internal calculation of how the Black Lives Matter movement relates to the necessary changes in Hollywood.

“As horrific and tragic as George Floyd’s death was, it was something that was a catalyst to open people’s eyes,” says Perry. “A real-time video of what really happened when people saw that had lasted eight minutes and 46 seconds – I think it’s just a part of America’s conscience. So, at the level of such injustice It is so moving for me to see so many running together to fight and fight. I just want to make sure that message about what we are fighting is not lost. More than anything I am grateful That all industries are awake and going, ‘Wait a minute, there is something wrong we can do here.’ This makes me very proud of the human spirit of our country. “

Speaking of a record-number of Black Actors nominated for Emmy Awards this year, Perry says: “It says a lot about Emmys, governors and voters and all those who are trying to at least listen – that’s So important – that we listen to each other. I’m so glad to see that because I think Hollywood is a place that dreams come true for everyone, and so many people of color recognize the Emmys, it was really, really moving for me Was. “

When it comes to what else he wants to see from Hollywood, Perry defends the mindset he has found professionally so far.

“I come from people who had to find a way – make their way, make their own way, build their business, build their studio. This is my mindset, so instead of asking Hollywood what they can do, I want to see more people like me, just come in myself and swear to do anything, which is unjust. “Ownership is what really changes things long term, because what happens is, when there is a movement, people are excited and they are with it. But when it fades, things go back to where they were. If there are more people in ownership and more people in power and more people are rising through the ranks in Hollywood, then I think this is the change that is really needed to make a long-term difference. “

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