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Difficulties Of Movie Production During The Pandemic

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tom Cruise's profanity-laced rant from the U.K. set of "Mission: Impossible 7" has been making the rounds on social media today. The leaked audio was first published by the British tabloid The Sun. Cruise seems to have caught people disobeying COVID safety protocols.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM CRUISE: I don't ever want to see it again - ever.

KELLY: Ever. (Unintelligible) can be big, lumbering productions with a lot of expensive moving pieces. Here's NPR's Andrew Limbong on the difficulties of moviemaking during COVID.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUISE: Here we are.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Earlier this summer, a much sunnier and bright-eyed Tom Cruise tweeted a video of himself going to a movie theater undercover to watch his movie "Tenet."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUISE: Great to be back in a movie theater, everybody.

LIMBONG: It's a different side of the actor than what's in the leaked tape, but the point is the same. Tom Cruise wants the movie industry to keep going. But that's a tall order.

REGINALD NESBITT: The biggest thing is to make sure that we sort of hardwire the new norm so they can safely continue.

LIMBONG: That's Dr. Reginald Nesbitt from the Safe Way Forward, a consulting group that works with studios and production companies to create COVID safety protocols. A lot of it is the same stuff we all have to do - wearing masks, staying six feet apart from each other. But there are a few things specific to movie productions to consider. For instance...

NESBITT: Scouting of locations become important. What are the size of the cast and the crew that are going to be in a particular square footage? Is there adequate ventilation for your particular shoot?

MONONA ROSSOL: They love to shoot in abandoned buildings. There's no ventilation system there. We got to make it.

LIMBONG: Monona Rossol is a ventilation specialist and a safety consultant for SAG-AFTRA. That's the screen actors union, which also represents some NPR employees. And she's also a safety officer for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Earlier this year, those unions, as well as the Directors Guild and the Teamsters, got together and laid out basic safety guidelines for productions. Rossol was a consultant on that project.

ROSSOL: We just had to look at absolutely everything because on a film location, you've got trailers. You've got the venue itself. You've got places where they do makeup. And, you know, it's just really a mess.

LIMBONG: And if one person tests positive and then another and then another, the production could get shut down. In October, The Sun, the same tabloid that leaked the audiotape, reported that production on Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible 7" had to be delayed for fear of a COVID outbreak. And of course delays cost money. But Dr. Nesbitt says keeping people safe on a movie set goes just beyond money. It even goes beyond keeping people in the movie industry safe.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That's NPR's Andrew Limbong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.