How showbiz copes with Covid

By Hieu Nhan   August 22, 2021 | 06:44 pm PT
With Covid-19 still posing all sorts of restrictions, the entertainment industry has made a dramatic shift in its working methods to cope.

The industry is coming to terms with the fact that film sets will look very different for the foreseeable future.

With the entertainment industry in a state of suspended animation due to the epidemic, 'Huong Vi Tinh Than' (Taste of Kinship) is one of the rare TV series to be filmed. The crew only film an episode a few days before its broadcast.

Actress Phuong Oanh, who works in it, says on average she has to test for Covid once every three days. She felt a bit nauseous at first but gradually got used to the discomfort.

Actress Phuong Oanh has Covid-19 sample taken. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Actress Phuong Oanh tests for Covid-19. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Masks and hand sanitizers have become Oanh's inseparable companions on the set. After the director says cut, she and her co-stars immediately rinse their throats, put on masks and wash their hands.

When rehearsing or discussing the script, they keep a distance and speak loudly to each other. The actress has her own car, and gets into it to read the script when there is no scene.

Another actress, Minh Cuc, wears protective gear from head to toe whenever she goes to shoot or even discuss a script with someone. She only takes it off when she enters the set. At the end of the shot, she quickly washes her hands, disinfects them and puts back her protective gear.

She explains, "I have young children at home, so I do my best to protect myself and my children."

Director Nguyen Danh Dung says the crew has to get filming licenses and travel passes. While normally it has 70-80 people, the number has been cut by half now, and everyone strictly complies with safety measures at work.

Dung directs from afar, using loudspeakers to coordinate the work. The team has difficulty looking for settings, especially outdoors, and often has to go to locations far from residential areas or change the script to shoot indoors.

Every time they have to shoot outdoors, he and his team have to test the previous night to be able to travel to the location in the morning. Crew members have to carry their lunch since all eateries are closed.

Actor Trung Hieu, who is returning to the small screen after six years, had one of the main scenes shot in an apartment complex. Every time he went in and out, he and his team had to disinfect, make medical declarations and have their temperature screened.

"Shooting outdoor scenes was hard since Hanoi was hot the last few days and recorded more and more Covid-19 cases," he says.

But he is excited nevertheless, joking that "wearing a mask helps me save time doing makeup."

Many artists film and record at home.

Comedian Truong Giang, has also turned his bedroom at home in Dong Nai Province into a movie set for his show ‘Nhanh Nhu Chop Nhi’ (Fast As Lightning).

He set up a simple camera, taped a light bulb to a long stick for lighting, and connected and interacted with other artists by video call.

Kha Nhu, also a comedian, uses the phones of all his family members to get close-up and panoramic shots.

Another comedian, Huynh Lap returned from HCMC to his hometown in An Giang Province months ago to avoid the pandemic. He then turned his room into a movie set to shoot for the web drama ‘Mot Nen Nhang’ (One Incense Stick), volume 3.

Lacking proper equipment, he had to ask his staff to send cameras and computers, order more lights and reflectors and got props from neighbors.

Comedian Huynh Lap while filming a webdrama at his home in southern An Giang Province. Photo courtesy of Lap.

Comedian Huynh Lap while filming a webdrama at home in An Giang Province. Photo courtesy of Lap.

His team consists of two people, himself and producer Hong Tu. They do everything themselves: writing the script, setting up the scene, installing lights, and adjusting the recording equipment.

Many times the filming was interrupted by the sound of traffic, dogs barking or chickens clucking, requiring them to delete and reshoot the whole footage.

The weather was hot, and the corrugated roof over the room made it very stuffy, causing him to sweat profusely while filming.

Once shooting is complete, Huynh Lap cuts and edits it himself. But since he does not have much expertise, he has to call up colleagues in HCMC and seek their guidance.

He says: "It is very tough in general. But I also learned a lot during this challenging period.

"I am happy that I still have a job during the epidemic and glad that my work can cheer people up."

As of Monday, Vietnam has recorded nearly 344,000 Covid cases in the current outbreak that started on April 27.

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