The Difficulties with Filming a Movie in a Pandemic

Eliza Sutton, Assistant Managing Editor

While it has slowed, the movie industry has not stopped over the last COVID-ridden year. Movies are still being filmed, advertised, released, and even shown in theaters. Of course, like everything else, the process has changed in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. While many movies and TV shows postponed filming and, consequently, release dates, in order to allow the cast and crew to quarantine and prevent viral spread, a few have continued filming. However, the process of creating a movie or show while trying to maintain appropriate safety precautions is grueling and difficult. 

 Additionally, COVID-19 swab tests are performed often (as in weekly or more), and, in many cases, all the cast and crew are put into a mandated bubble consisting of themselves and required to isolate from family and friends to prevent spread.

On set, everyone—except for those being filmed—is generally required to wear a mask at all times and maintain social distancing.


Not only do these new requirements take a mental and physical toll, being so strenuous to upkeep, they are a financial burden on the set as well. Movies financed by large film studios, such as Jurassic World: Dominion (produced by Universal Studios), fare somewhat better than smaller studios, as funds are provided without much difficulty—but the cost is still noteworthy. In May of last year, a few months into the pandemic, experts predicted that COVID-19 precaution costs could add more than an extra one million dollars to the costs of production. For a major blockbuster requiring extensive crew such as Jurassic World: Dominion, it would be fair to assume the additional costs to be even greater.

For independently produced movies, pandemic-related expenses are even more of a financial drain, forcing the producers of the film to be more rigid and cautious with their budget than is typically required for movie production, an expensive endeavor even in normal times. For the movie Rift, set to be released in 2021, 10-15% of the entire movie’s budget had to be set aside for COVID safety related costs, about $300,000 dollars in total. Even that cost was after a complete rearrangement of the plans for the film project because pandemic insurance would not cover the expenses related to safety, forcing the studio to create a new budget. 

Despite all of these new measures working to keep the filming procedures as safe and on-schedule as possible, errors and scares still occur that hinder the process even further. Jurassic World: Dominion, only three weeks out from finishing the filming process, was forced to grind to a halt as numbers of set members began testing positive for the virus. 

With vaccination numbers rising and as the length of the pandemic-motivated “new normal” just surpasses a year in the United States, it seems as though perhaps filming may become easier and less costly in the coming months. However, as difficult as it is now, seeing the commitments that people make to keep producing art, and prioritizing people’s safety as they do it, is rather a heartwarming element of a global situation that largely has very few silver linings.