How is life on a Hollywood set post COVID-19? In light of Tom Cruise’s recent freak out on a shoot for Mission: Impossible 7, I decided to find out.
Cruise, 58, made headlines on Tuesday, December 15, when The Sun published a recording of him screaming at the film’s crew for not following COVID-19 protocols.
“They’re back there in Hollywood making movies right now because of us,” he reportedly said in the audio clip. “I’m on the phone with every f—king studio at night, insurance companies, producers. They are looking at us and using us to make their movies. We are creating thousands of jobs, you mother—kers.”
Publicity stunt to whip employees into shape? Or exaggerated fear for a virus less fatal than the flu?
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Tinseltown, which was mostly shut down from March to June, has received approximately 3,552 film permit applications spanning 2,514 unique projects over the past 20 weeks for location shooting in the Los Angeles area alone.
Although many notable TV and film productions have now returned back to set, things are vastly different under the Rona Regime. Think new protocols that involve rapid testing, socially distant crews, thermometer checks, the use of PPE, regular sanitation like having crewmembers dashing over to squirt an alcohol-based spritzer around actors, and COVID-19 compliance officers, among other measures.
Different is one word for it.
“The whole thing’s so eerie and odd and disconcerting,” Meryl Streep recently told Stephen Colbert on his Late Show.
Zones, Bracelets, & Pods, Oh My
“There’s always been a hierarchy but nothing like this. Now it’s crazy,” says Reet Tarted, a seasoned grip of 15 years who has been working on a Lions Gate-produced Netflix show.
Not only are there different zones with their own colored-coded bracelets, each area also has its own bathrooms and areas to congregate. Plastic bubble pods serve as ‘holding areas’ for let’s say extras.
“It’s like hanging out in a bubbled dollhouse,” says Tarted.
The “Orange Zone” consists of most people who go on set when the talent has cleared. Orange people get tested three times a week. Meanwhile, the Blue Zone is for nonessential workers who don’t need to go on set regularly; they only get tested once a week.
“It’s for people who are disposable, like the set painter,” jokes Tarted.
The “Purple Zone” is made up of core crew members like the director along with anyone who needs to come into ‘close contact’ with performers like a makeup artist or a costume designer. Unlike most, actors get to remove their literal mask when the director calls “Action” for a proverbial one. Because, after all, the coronavirus is so intelligent, it knows when to go into suspended animation.
Because Tarted was infected with a mild case of Covid19 while on set, he’s now considered “safe” to enter the “Purple Zone” for the next three months. His color-coded bracelet gives him access.
“I used to get tested five days a week as a purple zone person but now that I have antibodies so I never get tested anymore. I am impervious. I am glad I got the virus. They were initially using nasal swabs but they were too invasive; they now stick a swab down our throats.”
Tarted got infected along with one leading actress and 10 other crew members, prompting the production to close down for three weeks. He thinks being around extras is what got them sick, but I personally think it was the PCR swab test since there have been a handful of people who I know got sick AFTER getting tested. Consider the first initial tests by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control were tainted.
Tarted told me this particular Lions Gate production spends $175K a week on testing.
Ryan Hodges, a seasoned dolly grip of 20 years, suspects that the people at the top manipulate the tests to make sure essential crew members get a pass into the Purple Zone. Because he operates the camera, he is considered essential to a shoot.
“Given the level of false positives of this non diagnostic tool called the RT PCR test, they can change the cycles to get the results they want,” says Hodges.
In a statement released on December 14, 2020 the World Health Organization finally owned up to what hundreds of thousands of doctors and medical professionals have been saying for months: the polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for detection of SARS-CoV-2 is a hit and miss process, with way too many false positives.
“The UN body is now clearly looking to distance itself from the fatally flawed test as a growing number of lawsuits are processing through the courts exposing the insanity of relying on a test that even the inventor, Professor Kary B. Mullis, said it was never designed to diagnose diseases,” writes Principia Scientific.
An Oxford Science Paper and others state that “if a person has positive PCR test at a threshold of cycles of 35 or higher (happens in most laboratories in USA & Europe), the chances of a person being infected is less than 3%. The probability of a person receiving a false positive is 97% or higher.”
Regardless of the accuracy of the tests, there are no compliance officers who live on set to make sure people follow the rules.
“I call them ‘Covid Karens’ from the Ministry of Truth,” Hodges teases. “They basically go around the set, yelling at people who aren’t six feet apart or wearing masks. On this Sony shoot, I have to wear two masks and when the actors arrive to set, I have to also put on a face shield. It’s insanity.”
All of these guidelines and rules are show-specific, adds Ronald Bull, a featured background actor in Tinseltown. “Non-union productions are less stringent. I’ve been on two TV shows, three music videos, and one movie since the lockdown began, and they all have had different guidelines and restrictions.”
He was on one commercial set that was “ruthless as shit.”
He couldn’t even take off his mask to take a sip of water. To quench his thirst, he needed to go to a certain zone first. He recalled another set where he was fogged down with a sanitizer every time he went to the bathroom. Everyone on set was.
A month ago, Bull, 65, landed a featured role on a Paramount movie, knowing he would need to get tested if he landed the role – something he swore he would never do. A week before the shoot, they asked him to get tested.
Carbon Health, a third-party company that provides tools to keep employees safe as they “build back to a better” future, onboarded him. In order to start work, they asked him to watch a mandatory 30-minute training on how to abide by COVID-19 Awareness Training.
By the way, “Build Back Better” used by Joe Biden, is a reference to the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset proposal. Some describe The Great Reset as “a creative industry movement to embed the positive environmental shifts that have happened during the lockdown as THE new normal.” Others call it a “New World Order,” or a totalitarian global communist technocracy.
Upon arriving on set, Bull was asked to take yet another test. This time it was a rapid one. He waited in his car for 15 minutes until he was cleared as a negative case. After getting changed into costume, the dressing room was fogged with a sanitizing concoction.
“We waste about 1.5 hours a day because of this COVID-19 bullshit. But I am playing the game so I can get on set. I wasn’t going to get tested. I will not get a COVID-19 vaccine unless I land a role as a leading man,” he joked. He also spoke about color-coded zones, bracelets, and holding pods.
While the crew members I interviewed experienced varying COVID restraints, Pamela Greenwalt, Chief Communications & Marketing Officer of SAG-AFTRA, attests there is only one standard for industry productions. She referred me to the Return to Work Protocols agreement negotiated with the motion picture and television industry.
“The vast majority of SAG-AFTRA members working on set are consistently and conscientiously protecting themselves and their fellows by following the pandemic protocols laid out in the Return to Work agreement,” remarked Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who heads the SAG’s Pandemic Safety and Return to Work initiative.
Given the elaborate and sometimes nonsensical measures to ‘stop the spread,’ it’s no wonder everyone in Hollywood hasn’t nailed down this new system. Yet.
“I am immune. I am immune,” Nico Price, a motorbike courier from Los Angeles, yells to a bunch of cops, who are directing guns at him. The ‘munie’ (immune individual) waves a wrist that is adorned with a yellow immunity bracelet.
It is 2024. And this is a scene from Songbird, a Michael Bay sci-fi (not really sci-fi) thriller that was just released. The COVID-19 virus has mutated into COVID-23, prompting brutal restrictions. The world is in its fourth pandemic year.
In the United States, people are required to take temperature checks on their cell phones, while those infected with COVID-23 are violently taken from their homes against their will and forced into quarantine camps, also known as “Q-Zones” or concentration camps.
I was reminded of this flick thanks to the zones, bracelets, immune individuals, and the caste system that is arguably forming on movie sets.
Covid-23 predictive programming… They always tell us in advance.
This Hollywood flick takes place 2 years in the future. Surprise — the p*andemic has not gone away. Ex Paramount production chief Adam Goodman’s teams w/ Michael Bay.
— Maryam Henein/ #Shadowbanned (aka BeeLady) Sassy (@MaryamHenein) November 1, 2020
The movie was filmed in May when most productions were still shut down. No actor on set engaged with one another in-person. It was socially distanced to the max. Movie Magic, COVID-19 style.
Perhaps, current protocols being implemented are viewed as an improvement. But what if this COVID-19 classification of people goes off set? What if it melds with a social credit score to keep you in line? Are people so grateful to have a job that they’re willing to accept a new abnormal that involves constant testing, being hosed down by chemicals, and working all day without seeing the faces of your crew members?
As they say, the show must go on…
** In this new censored world, names have been changed to preserve anonymity. Big Brother may be watching.
Top image: Reuters
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