Swabs, masks, action! Film-making through a pandemic

Swabs, masks, action! Film-making through a pandemicJuly 31, 2020

British film-makers are back at work – and going to extraordinary lengths to protect cast and crew from Covid-19. Is it possible to make great movies behind face masks and Plexiglass?

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“You get used to sticking a six-inch cotton-wool bud up your nose and down your tonsils every morning,” says Richard Clark. He is describing his typical working day. “The masks are quite suffocating. They’re quite sweaty. You don’t drink as much water, and so people dehydrate. You get headaches. Certainly on the first week, by five o’clock, a certain kind of fugginess comes over everybody. Concentrating during those last two hours … you can feel it being a little bit harder.”

It sounds like the experience of a frontline care worker, but this is film-making in the age of Covid-19. Clark is directing the second season of Fox’s apocalyptic sci-fi series War of the Worlds in south Wales, with a crew of about 70 people. Having shut down in late March because of the pandemic, the UK’s film and high-end television industry is back in business, which can only be good news. But it is by no means business as usual. As the director of one of the first productions to resume, three weeks ago, Clark has been negotiating a whole new way of working – not quite as dystopian as the programme he’s making, but strange and slightly sci-fi all the same

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