Below is an article from “The Times” about how the “Leonardo” production has re-started filming amongst the threat of Covid-19. Thanks to Alida for getting the full article.
On a lighter note, we had a report from a fan that Aidan and Caitlin Fitzgerald were out and about in Rome today. Glad to hear he gets to enjoy some down time while he’s there.
The show must go on for Italian audiences
With coronavirus lockdown restrictions finally easing, film and TV studios in Rome are eager to make up for lost time, writes Tom Kington
On a film set near Rome this week the Irish actor Aidan Turner, sporting tights and a long beard, was getting into character as the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, near the hand-sanitiser dispenser.
Along an alleyway on the set, 15th-century soldiers were loitering in armour waiting for their scene and looking totally authentic except for their bright blue surgical masks.“
These days the director yells, ‘Lights, camera, action and take your mask off!” joked Luca Bernabei, head of Lux Vide, the production company which owns the studio.
Filming of the TV series Leonardo restarted on June 15, the first big production in Italy to do so as the country emerges from lockdown, and the studio is taking no chances with Covid-19, swabbing all 800 members of the crew and staff before they are allowed on set.
To get access, I was taken in a sanitised studio car to a Rome hospital the day before my visit and swabbed to check I was negative, and that was just the start.Anyone entering the studio at Formello, among them the British actor Freddie Highmore (star of The Good Doctor), must pass daily through a corridor where they are sprayed with disinfectant vapour and have their temperature taken.
A slightly sticky material underfoot disinfects the soles of shoes. Beyond that is a medical booth where all staff are blood-tested for antibodies every fortnight, while the 35 crew members working in close proximity to the actors are also swabbed once a week to check if they are positive, with the results ready in 15 minutes.
Masks are still widely worn on set by crew, but the actors are allowed to kiss, hug and generally get close to each other during scenes.
“The other industry taking these kind of precautions is professional football, which is also a kind of theatre,” says Mr Bernabei, who runs the studio with his sister Matilde.
It reminds me how the pornographic film business has been taking its HIV testing on set seriously since the 1990s, which is why it has now offered Hollywood its experience in the fight against Covid-19.
Heading into the studio, we pass make-up rooms where brushes, combs and other kit are bathed in ultra-violet light overnight to sanitise them. On set, we enter Leonardo’s studio, where cleverly plastered walls resemble ancient stonework and the artist’s sketches litter the floor.
“Props are sprayed with ozone which kills bacteria, and this room is sprayed every night with alcohol-based disinfectant,” says Corrado Trionfera, executive producer.
After rising to fame in Poldark, where he famously went shirtless, Turner will now explore the enigmatic character of Leonardo in a series which charts the polymath’s career, from his apprenticeship to the painting of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. The producers are giving little away, but claim they have unearthed clues about the man which explain the secrets of his genius.
As we turn into an alley to find the crew and actors — all scrupulously swabbed and blood-tested — who are working with Turner on his scene, I realise it is the first time in months I have felt comfortable standing in a crowd.“
The testing protocols and speed of results here have reopened the world,” says Daniel Percival, the British director behind the camera. “The UK is way behind on this and is nowhere near ready.”
The safeguards, which follow Italian government guidelines, have added around 15 per cent to the budget, but it is worth it for Lux Vide and its co-producers on Leonardo which include Italy’s state television network RAI.
RAI is also reopening other sets, including Un Posto al Sole, its Naples-based daily soap opera, which has been running since 1996 and will return to screens in mid-July after shutting down in March. Due to the soap opera’s intense filming schedule, safety protocols cannot be as draconian as on the Leonardo set, but actors will keep a distance from each other for now.“
We can use filming tricks to make actors seem closer, but we cannot have more than three people on set in a scene at a time,” said Francesco Nardella, deputy head of RAI Fiction. “We didn’t want to keep fans of the show waiting, even if it means that for now there are no kisses and no hugs, just plenty of very intense stares.”