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Today - Season 69

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The film and television industry froze when COVID-19 swept the nation.  While the curve is currently trending downward in some states, it still isn’t safe to resume production as they once did before the shutdown.  Cue in Tyler Perry’s recent filming experiment at his studio.

The mogul took a carefully-planned gamble during a two-week production of his  BET show “Sistas,” subsequently wrapping coronavirus-free. The rewarding efforts cost the guy a couple of million, but we all know his money is long. Have you seen Tyler Perry Studios?

In an exclusive interview with Variety, Perry goes into detail about his blueprint.

Whether on or offset, masks have to be worn at all times.

“I made sure that the cast and crew and everybody wore their masks when they weren’t on set because I do know for a fact that masks help stop the spread — scientifically, I know that,” Perry tells Variety. “And everybody adhered to that, even though we were all testing negative. I just didn’t want someone to be incubating with [COVID-19] for three to 12 days, and we not know it.”

On the subject of testing, Perry hired doctors to test everyone every four days, which helped reduce COVID-19 exposure enormously: 

“To perfect their method of working in the quarantine bubble, Perry’s team worked with Emory University’s Dr. Carlos Del Rio, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Colleen Kraft to execute a rigorous testing schedule with a nasal swab test administered upon arrival at Tyler Perry Studios and follow up tonsil tests every four days on-site.

Testing for the cast and crew was handled in two waves, one of 160 people and the second of 200. A total of four people turned up with positive results and were immediately sent to get medical attention away from the production area.

If our math is correct, that’s about 360 people working on set, which, by Hollywood’s standards, is considered a skeleton crew.  It was a challenge that required a bit of creativity to work. 

 “The extras are a problem, especially when you’re doing big scenes, and you only have 10 extras. You’re changing their clothes, moving them around the room and hoping that people don’t recognize them, trying to shoot the back of their heads, or having the crew jump in and be extras. That was a challenge. Some things I think we will be good for this [to continue], but others won’t work.”

Unlike the NBA’s laughable quarantine housing bubble, Perry spent beaucoup money on creating “Camp Quarantine,” a custom residential area built on the studio lot.  

“Before filming, Perry’s team added 315 one-bedroom housing units with private bathrooms (which Perry likes to call “luxury mobile hotel rooms” or pods, which house 14 people each) in addition to the 60 housing units for cast and crew.” 

To summarise his efforts: reduce the filming crew, hire physicians to perform rigorous on-site testing, build luxury housing, and enforce mandatory mask ordnance. Can’t forget to throw in a housekeeping staff, abundant PPE, about 70 golf carts, and a bar to safely blow off steam on location.  Sounds genius if you ask us.

With production for BET’s “The Oval” underway, Perry is preparing to do it all over again, even if it all costs a cool $18 million to safely get through it.  

Here’s hoping he used better wigs than the ones used in A Fall From Grace.

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