Making TV shows involves hundreds of people working side by side, 12 hours a day, for months on end. A social-distance nightmare, but Tyler Perry’s making it work somehow. He shows Deco how he’s been able to pull it off — so far.
Tyler Perry: “I was all ready to go. It was March 16. I’m watching, I’m reading, I’m paying attention to all this happening with the numbers, and I go, ‘OK, we have to shut down.'”
Media mogul Tyler Perry was getting ready to go into production for his new fall TV season when coronavirus changed the world.
Tyler Perry: “When you’re shooting television shows, you work very closely with people. You’re, I mean, you’re pretty much one-on-one with them.”
Tyler Perry Studios is facing the same challenges as any other business: how to most safely reopen.
Tyler Perry: “But a few weeks in, I realized, ‘You got to figure this out if you’re going to do it.'”
And here’s how he did it. Welcome to Camp Quarantine.
It might not be a camp everyone wants to attend, but Perry did do his best to make sure it felt like home.
Here, at what used to be former Army barracks, people eat, sleep and live together during the two-week filming period.
KJ Smith is one of the stars of “Sistas,” Perry’s first show to return to production.
KJ Smith: “I tell people all the time, ‘I 100% trust Tyler Perry.’ He treats us like we’re his relatives, so I knew that we would be fully protected.”
They travel to Atlanta via private plane. OK, I can deal with that.
Once they arrive, it’s more testing for cast and crew that continues every four days. Masks are mandatory except during scenes.
KJ Smith: “I felt like the process was, it was very — there were no loopholes. There was no way around it. Everyone was holding each other accountable.”
But this is no ordinary operation. It’s one that came with what Perry says was a hefty price tag of approximately $18 million, and of course, access to thousands of tests.
No tests, no production.
Tyler Perry: “Let’s be clear about what we’re doing here. I’m trying to have people protect them-, keep their lives, to help the healthy and safe, but also to protect their livelihood. And that is not as important as people out in nursing homes and other places trying to get COVID tests. If that happens, we would step back and shut down, because the important thing is that people are able to get the testing that they need.”
There was no magical vaccine. There was no groundbreaking therapeutic. It was just the basics that we’ve seen work all around the world.
Tyler Perry: “So masks work. They, absolutely, masks work, and testing works, contact tracing works. We were able to manage it just doing that: testing, isolation and contact tracing.”
Perry also offered his cast and crew online church services on Sundays and virtual yoga sessions to help with the stress of working during a pandemic.
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