Entertainment shouldn’t be the exception to pandemic caution

These are still real people bringing real risks to communities

Why can Supernatural socialize outside when I can’t? ILLUSTRATION: Maple Sukontasukkul / The Peak

by Alex Masse, Staff Writer

As a lifetime citizen of Hollywood North (aka Metro Vancouver) it’s a hobby of mine to stumble onto film and TV sets. I live by a park, one that’s seen everything from Sonic to Supernatural, and my mother and I love watching shows and pointing out film locations we recognize. Needless to say, when COVID-19 hit, the entertainment industry came to a screeching halt. 

So imagine my surprise when I see a dozen cars clumped together on my daily walk. Everyone’s wearing masks and there’s a testing site down the road, but it feels wrong when you know just how many cracks the virus can slip through. I know this more than most: my father got COVID-19 from a coworker despite being outdoors and never removing his mask. The gears of the industry started turning again even though the situation remains dire, especially in America where many filmmakers are from. This filming resumed in Canada as of last July, but its continuation just shows how inherently reckless this type of work remains.

Besides safety risks of filming, COVID-19 restrictions can also alter the final product. The last season of the CW network’s long-hauler Supernatural premiered after filming during COVID-19. Some of its disliked finale is blamed on social distancing guidelines, which resulted in the appearance of several strange, masked figures never seen before in the series. This lack of quality was a choice: instead of suspending production, they went on to make a product with limitations, resulting in these underwhelming villains.

This isn’t even half of it. Time-tested shows like The Bachelorette, Wheel of Fortune, The Conners, and even newcomers like Carnival Row and The Witcher, among countless more have chosen to brave these strange times. As it turns out Hollywood waits for nothing — not even a virus that has claimed the lives of 2.2 million people globally. Many other productions have been suspended or delayed, why can’t these?

I especially feel for the crew members of these productions who depend on this work to fund their livelihoods. They already go through so much, with their long, grueling hours of work and lack of career support.

I know these productions are probably doing their best to keep up with prevention practices by mandating quarantining, testing, and social distancing. But that only does so much, especially when it’s followed by hours of close contact on shooting days. Besides, it’s a well-established fact that what we watch affects how we perceive reality. When the entertainment industry starts moving again, projecting these illusions of normal life, we almost feel like it’s real. Even when it isn’t. 

To continue shooting now is inherently reckless, as things can go wrong even when all  precautions are followed. It can also change the end result of these productions, with pandemic guidelines limiting creative freedom. And worst of all, it normalizes the idea of close contact to viewers, and helps contribute to the illusion that the pandemic is “over.” But it isn’t, no matter what the entertainment industries are saying.