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How Tyler Perry's 'camp quarantine' fended off the pandemic during filming of 'Sistas'

Anousha Sakoui, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

As filmmakers prepare to resume production after months of shutdown, Tyler Perry has a message for Hollywood: Shooting during a pandemic is challenging.

The Atlanta-based producer was one of the first major filmmakers to power back up production in the wake of the coronavirus health crisis.

He recently wrapped two weeks of filming for the second season of "Sistas," a BET Networks show about the lives of four single Black women.

At his so-called "camp quarantine," Perry implemented a 30-page list of conditions including frequent testing and sequestering cast and crew for "Sistas" at his sprawling Atlanta studio, which is on the site of a former army base.

So how did he fare? Perry said his experience was successful and that there was no COVID-19 outbreak during production. But he had to go to great lengths to make that possible -- and there were hurdles along the way.

Even with extensive safety precautions, several crew members contracted the coronavirus during preproduction. In the weeks before filming on the quarantined set, cases would show up every four days among the crew during preproduction. And there were also delays in getting test results in a timely fashion, Perry said.

 

"To be honest with you, I don't know how it's done safely unless you're quarantined or you're testing every day," said Perry, creator of the "Madea" films.

Perry was well aware of the risks. Before production restarted, COVID-19 had claimed the life of Emmy-nominated hair stylist Charles Gregory Ross, a crew member he had worked with for many years.

In a tribute to Ross, Perry praised his colleague and noted how the disease disproportionately affects the Black community.

In Southern California, many major film productions are still working to relaunch production after almost all filming was shut down since the pandemic outbreak in March. Unions and producers have been working with health officials to formulate detailed guidelines for safe filming on sets without risking new outbreaks.

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