How They’re Filming a Big Budget Movie Like ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ During the Pandemic

Credit: © Universal Pictures/Colin Trevorrow

Apart from the devastating loss of life and the debilitating health of many, it’s also been quite the arduous year for business – in this case, the film industry. Various big-budget productions were forced to go on hold, and studios have been cautious to just jump back in with evolving health regulations and differing levels of precautions enforced from country to country. Well, now at least some big films have started physical production again – a Jurassic one among then.

Cameras have resumed to roll on Universal’s Jurassic World: Dominion, currently filming in England (at this time it’s simply not possible to set up something of this size in California). The sixth film in the franchise, which was forced to stop filming in March, is one the first of the major Hollywood studio projects to get underway since the rampant quarantine and isolation era began. As you can imagine, it ain’t easy to be making a film of this size with so many protocols, but when so much money is on the line, “Life… finds a way.”

A big report from The New York Times has shed some light on how Dominion, being directed by Jurassic World helmer Colin Trevorrow, is coming together during this ongoing pandemic. Eyes from across the industry are on the production to see just how it’s moving along, since, as star Bryce Dallas Howard told the paper, “We are the guinea pigs who are going to take the leap.” Dominion‘s safety protocols are even being used as a model for Marvel’s Shang-Chi, which began filming again two weeks ago in Australia.

Individuals from Dominion‘s 750-person crew were quarantined for two weeks from when they arrived and a 107-page safety manual was drawn up to serve as a guide on everything from temperature testing to sealing meals. As a giant unit, the cast (including Howard, Chris Pratt, Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum) and crew are being isolated as much as possible, with production aiming to emulate a “closed set” – only having key personnel on set, as would be the case when filming more intimate scenes involving nudity, “sex scenes”, etc. Again, something generally difficult to do with so many people.

The production has been divided in to two zones: Green Zone, which has the director, cast and other essential crew, and another made up of departments that don’t need to make contact with the primary sets. Those in the Green Zone are tested for Covid-19 three times a week, the cast film their scenes on antiviral mist-sprayed sets, social distancing setups are in place for everyone between takes, and sinks have been installed to enforce hand-washing. Universal has also booked out an entire prestige hotel for two weeks to keep the cast and crew contained when not filming.

Howard shared some pics from the set on her Instagram, posting that she believes “many of the protocols will last far beyond the current visible crisis.”

It’s no cheap endeavour. Jurassic World: Dominion has a production budget reportedly in the $US200 million range and The New York Times reports that the cost of these new safety measures (including that hotel, 18,000 Covid tests, 150 sanitizer stations, a full-time doctor and four nurses) is adding around another $US9 million to the film’s price tag.  Still, it’s understandable why Universal is willing to fork out the cash. With five films the Jurassic franchise has earned around $US5 BILLION. 2015’s Jurassic World, alone, drew $US1.6 billion.

As of now, Jurassic World: Dominion is scheduled to hit Australian cinemas on June 10 and U.S. cinemas on June 11, 2021.

Among the other big films that have resumed shooting: James Cameron’s Avatar sequels (filming in New Zealand) and Sony’s Uncharted movie (filming in Berlin).

Image credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Universal Pictures