Production in Hollywood halted in March due to the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic. Gradually, the industry returned to production with major adjustments, including virtual writing rooms and table readings, as well as strict COVID security protocols on set. It wasn’t easy, said prolific creator / showrunner Mike Schur Rob Lowe on the actor’s Literally Podcast.
“It’s really hard; we’ve done it on a couple of the shows I’m working on,” said Schur, co-creator / executive producer of NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Peacock’s upcoming Rutherford Falls and executive producer of Netflix’s upcoming animated series Q-Force “There’s no substitute for everyone in the room talking. First, if there are more than six people on the Zoom call, half of them are just looking at their phones, but the whole creative process is you Trapped in a room and there is a point in getting out In this room we have to come up with good ideas at the end of the day, it gives it that kind of dynamism and urgency that it is not the same when you are sitting in your own home , each in a small box on a computer screen. “
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Schur, inventor of NBC’s The Good Place and co-creator of Parks & Recreation, fears the current changes in business related to Covid could be long-lasting.
“Among other things, we worry – the big things, the things that really matter – when I think about what we’re doing for a living, I worry about the future of entertainment because I don’t know how it is looks like, ”he said. “It’s hard to imagine being in a writer’s room, it’s hard to imagine being on the set, how do you shoot a scene with 200 extras, how do you go on-site into someone’s house that we are let in with our minds in their house to shoot a scene. It seems so crazy to imagine going back to the old ways we did this. We’re going to find out because we always do. Hollywood has a knack for ingenuity and there is still a long way to go on the other, more important topics before we get to this point, but I’m very nervous about figuring out how this works after it’s all over. “
Producing television shows during the pandemic added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of each episode. It has exacerbated the problems of media companies hit by the closings of cinemas, amusement parks, cruises and other businesses. Schur fears that the financial blow from the pandemic on the media giants could have an impact on production budgets in the future.
“The fear, one way or another, is that the media companies that pay us are losing billions of dollars a month,” he said. “The shows we do are expensive, they’re not small DYI shows, they cost millions of dollars per episode. It’s hard to imagine how they pay for it on the other side. They will cut every staff in half, they will cut every cast in half, they will say sorry this is the upper limit of what anyone can pay they will try to make camera teams they have no assistants. Are you going to try to apologize? Instead of two gazers, you get one gazer. One way or another, every aspect of the business itself, including the creative side of the business, is going to be somehow different, and I don’t know how that happens. I think we are far from anything resembling normal, but even when we get there I don’t know how to explain all of the things that you need to consider. “
During the lengthy conversation, Lowe and Schur discuss how the television business adapted after September 11, sharing their experiences on such as the shows they were working on at the time, The West Wing and Saturday Night Live responded to the tragedy.
“The truth is that for normality to return, everything must return, everything we had before must return. And one of those things is that we have to do film and television shows again, even if they stink, ”said Schur.
“That’s our stupid role in all of this.”
The interview contains a number of anecdotes from Parks & Recreation, in which Lowe starred.
Schur revealed how he and his co-creator Greg Daniels got a 13-episode on-air contract for the show, with the pilot airing after the Super Bowl, paired with The Office. But they wanted SNL’s Amy Poehler to lead, and she wanted to give birth around the time the pilot was about to shoot. In order to win them over to the show, Schur and Daniels, who worked together at The Office, voluntarily cut the order for a premiere three months later from 13 to 6 episodes.
“We always felt that the debut after the Super Bowl is a short-term solution. Getting Amy Poehler on the show is the long-term solution,” said Schur.
You can find more stories behind the scenes at SNL and Parks & Rec in the interview here.