In a world still largely struggling with COVID-19 most film and TV productions remain halted. South Korea is one of the few places where filming has restarted – albeit hesitantly.
Among the most prominent are two Netflix original series. “We worked quickly to develop safety protocols so that series such as our new drama ‘Move to Heaven,’ and the popular romantic series ‘Love Alarm’ could continue filming,” Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos wrote in the LA Times.
“Testing there is only available for people with symptoms. So all cast and crew have their temperatures checked regularly, and if anyone were to show signs of infection they would be tested immediately and production paused.” Both productions started filming in April.
Other TV series that had temporarily stopped filming, and which have now resumed production include tvN’s “Hospital Playlist,” and “Hi Bye, Mama!” and KBS’ “Soul Mechanic.”
Circumstances are worse for big budget feature films that are set overseas. After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic in March, Megabox’s “Negotiations” and “Bogota,” Showbox’s “Kidnapping,” and CJ Entertainment’s “The Outlaws 2” all had to cancel or delay filming, due to travel bans.
Some 90% of “Bogota” had been planned to shoot in Colombia. Starring Song Joong-ki and Lee Hui-joon, it started filming in South America before the coronavirus outbreak. But cast and crew wrapped the Colombian section earlier than scheduled, and returned home to Korea in late March.
The film’s lead actor Song is scheduled to star in “The Season of Us” which aims to start production in Korea, in late August. That may cause a delay of unknown duration to “Bogota.” The film’s production house Watermelon Pictures maintains that it is still aiming to restart filming in summer.
Hwang Jung-min and Hyun Bin-starring “Negotiations” was supposed to have shot in Jordan but had to completely reschedule after Jordan closed its borders to travelers from Korea. It has now begun shooting the Korean elements and may relocate the overseas part. “We could no longer delay filming, considering the budget and the stars’ schedules,” a “Negotiations” production source told Variety.
Films that are back in studios are being extra careful, complying with new protocols. Sets are equipped with disposable masks and hand sanitizers, and all staff, including cast, check their temperatures regularly.
Earlier this month, the Korean Film Council set up a special committee for safety management on film sets and cinemas that includes health and medical experts. The committee is planning to dispatch safety management crew to film sets, as well as to provide personal health checklists.