GENIUS IN THE LA TIMES: How four independent production companies kept going during COVID-19
By SONAIYA KELLEY | STAFF WRITER
DEC. 28, 2020
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Hollywood and the rest of the world to a standstill in mid-March, the entertainment industry is still seeking its return to normalcy.
Although California restarted issuing shooting permits in mid-June, filmmakers first had to adjust to a new normal that includes considerable new safety protocols and workflows that allow for as much socially distant filming and remote work as possible.
Initially, the productions allowed to go on were either short shoots with minimal crew, classified as essential (as in the case of educational film shoots), or commercial shoots, which had been exempt from many of the safety protocols required of bigger productions. (They’ve adopted more rigorous testing as cases surge.)
As filming came back, even large-scale productions, such as Warner Bros.’ “The Batman,” have faced challenges with positive cases on set. In September entertainment unions and major studios came to a consensus on new safety protocols and compensation rules for filming during the pandemic, including paid sick leave and quarantine pay.
On the independent side, smaller productions began implementing Centers for Disease Control and industry guidelines, as well as creating some new rules of their own.
While companies look ahead to 2021 with cautious optimism, here’s a breakdown of how four smaller-scale indie production houses adjusted to life in the age of COVID-19.
Bona fides: Genius specializes in “binge-worthy education,” combining curriculum with storytelling for a product “that has the look and feel of something that you would watch on television,” says the company’s founder, K. Rocco Shields. “When students watch [our content] they’re not just getting told what they need to learn, they’re learning by experience.” Based in: Los Angeles and Dallas Staff size: 50
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Genius Produced had just completed filming a production cycle. “Some of our payment cycles got slowed because everyone was out,” said Shields. “But I was able to get a PPP loan and keep this train moving. And actually, [the pandemic] created even more of a need for our services.”