Steven Soderbergh and Amy Seimetz Made the Pandemic Movies of the Moment

With baseball, they got it back up and running but there’s already been a pretty significant outbreak. Could Hollywood face the same risk?

SODERBERGH Having spent a lot of the weekend very happily watching baseball, I was not happy about the Marlins, but I think that’s a much more difficult situation than we’re confronting because of the nature of the game and the fact that they’re traveling all over the place. We have an ability on a project to control how we move, where we move, how many people come with us — it’s something that can be manipulated to keep people safe.

I think if we can withstand the economic surcharge that’s going to come with keeping a project safe — which I estimate is between 15 to 20 percent of the budget, depending on the project — and if we can scale this quickly enough, then I know we can keep people safe. If you follow these protocols we’re about to finish up with, I feel pretty confident saying that you’re not going to get sick at work. If you got sick on one of our projects, it was during the 12 to 14 hours when I didn’t have you and I couldn’t control your behavior. That’s going to be the trick, is all of this downtime when you don’t know what people are up to.

But what happens if people do get sick in that downtime and then come to set?

SODERBERGH Look, it’s complex, but Joel Coen is shooting “Macbeth” in L.A. right now, and there’s a crew member who’s been [keeping] a pretty detailed diary. And it seems to be working! They’re using the rapid testing, which isn’t as accurate as the full-blown nasal PCR test, but they’re making up for that by testing a lot, eight times for every five-day workweek. That’s a good approach.

Amy, is the surcharge Steven mentioned going to limit the amount of independent films that can be made over the next year?

SEIMETZ I think there’s going to be a conversation with unions to ease up on some of the crewing mandates, because you can’t really shoot with a larger crew when you don’t have enough of a budget for those protocols. From talking to other filmmakers, they’re thinking about small crews and small casts and shooting outside, so there’s ways to do it. With “She Dies Tomorrow,” the [Directors Guild] was very gracious in allowing me to have a pared-down crew of about six people — we were pretty much following protocol [long before there was a] protocol.

What about bigger films? How will “Kill Switch” change when you resume shooting that?

SODERBERGH I’ll tell you in eight weeks. A lot of this is all abstract until you get on set and actually see how this stuff works, and I intend to be very public in my experience of making that movie in order to educate people. I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot, and I’m sure a lot of the assumptions that we’re making will turn out to need adjustment. This is a living thing, and it’s going to have to evolve, but in what way won’t be clear until we get out there.

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