Blumhouse Productions is reportedly mapping out a way to return to production as the rest of the film industry remains paused amidst the global coronavirus pandemic. It’s been over two months since the entire film industry (and TV industry, too) shuttered production on all projects currently filming, with orders to remain on pause as the world waits to see what will happen next. As a result of the industry-wide hiatus, we’ve seen studios push back release dates on money-making tentpoles, mourned the loss of any typical moviegoing experience, and gobbled up any and all new movies released digitally and on-demand. Can Blumhouse’s coronavirus pandemic filming plans actually work? And if so, would it make sense for this to become the norm, however temporary or permanent, across the film industry going forward?
The Hollywood Reporter shared on Monday morning news of Blumhouse’s plans to film a new movie on the Universal lot sometime in the near future. It’s unclear which movie in particular Blumhouse is looking to film at Universal, but we know it’s a low-budget project ($6.5 million, to be precise). THR notes in their report health and safety measures for production on the project would include a small crew living in a nearby hotel. Traditional production accoutrements like craft services being nixed and, perhaps most alarmingly, no insurance has been secured for anyone working on the movie, which means there is no safety net in place should any of the cast or crew contract COVID-19 during the shoot.
Even though Blumhouse and Universal (the team which brought us The Invisible Man and The Hunt earlier this year) are by no means the only studios assessing how to safely and smartly go back into production, a source speaking with THR taps into the proven past successes of Blumhouse’s low-budget, small crew, “film it quick” approach and how it could be even more beneficial to the studio now, remarking, “Blumhouse productions, specifically, are typically smaller and require a lighter crew, shorter shoots and limited location work, [which is] part of the reason we can consider a fully on-location production on the studio’s sprawling lot,” but go on to add how much caution is being taken before rushing into things:
“Blumhouse and Universal aren’t moving forward with any plans until we get the green light from city, county and public-health officials. None of this preproduction planning work is being conducted on the lot itself. A small team of filmmakers and studio executives are currently working on those plans remotely. Safety of everyone involved is a huge priority, and nobody wants to rush into anything.”
While THR’s report continues, highlighting the potential concerns which arise from a studio resuming production with no insurance to protect the people working on it amidst a global pandemic, what gives me pause is the fact Blumhouse is going forward at all. The eagerness to get the show back on the road makes total sense. If I were a studio exec inundated with projections over the potential financial losses from this industry-wide hiatus and delay of big movie releases, I’d probably be champing at the bit to get back to work, too. But is it worth any kind of risk to go forward with no insurance policy in place — which THR’s report highlights is because of the extreme reticence insurers have in giving out coverage in light of the circumstances of the pandemic — even when the flipside is just as grim?
One thing is for certain: If Blumhouse and Universal are able to move forward on this plan and it actually works out so everyone emerges from filming this low-budget pic with their health intact, it could mean a way for the industry to move forward. Yes, the lack of a safety net of any kind is an uncharacteristically risky move for a studio, including the pretty plucky Blumhouse. But the prospect of being the first to light the way out of a potentially dire situation, one which is already hurting the industry in a matter of weeks, is enticing. Blumhouse setting the new standard for production regulations in the midst of a pandemic (if it actually works!) means production could possibly resume, release date delays would not continue, and some semblance of momentum within the industry would return. It wouldn’t be a complete cure-all for current industry worries, but it would definitely be a start.
For more, check out our updated 2020 movie release calendar.