EXCLUSIVE: Jurassic World: Dominion began pre-production more than 18 months ago when the world was a very different place.
The $165M Universal blockbuster wrapped this morning at the UK’s Pinewood Studios after an unprecedented shoot, which required 40,000 COVID tests, millions of dollars spent on protocols, and for cast and key crew to isolate in a bubble for months.
“There are a lot of emotions,” director Colin Trevorrow told me last night on his way to shoot the movie’s finale, which will include “Jurassic legacy actors Sam Neil, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and newcomers to the movie such as Mamoudou Athie and DeWanda Wise [who we’ve separately heard could have a big role in future instalments]…and some dinosaurs, of course.”
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“I’m not sure I can put it into words,” continues Trevorrow. “It has been remarkable. Our crew and our cast has been so resilient. All producers have worked around the clock to make it the best it can be. It has been inspiring.”
That can-do energy came from many, and began right at the very top. Donna Langley, Chairman Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, told us: “As we continue to contend with the challenges facing our industry during a global pandemic, the collaborative nature of this production allowed us to safely complete nearly 100 days of shooting, and we are so proud of what this team was able to accomplish.”
As we revealed over the summer, Dominion was the first major studio movie to go back into production after the pandemic shut everything down in the spring and upended the whole industry.
Universal commissioned a private medical facility called Your Doctor to manage the entire production’s medical requirements. Testing was the backbone of the safety measures. Deadline can reveal that more than 40,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted, with .25% returning positive. That’s around 100 positive results. Some of these were false positives and some were returned prior to employment at Pinewood.
The studio set up a policed ‘Greenzone’ for the shooting cast and crew and all workers were temperature-tested every day. Two walk-through temperature testing stations were built at each end of Pinewood Studios with capacity of 1,000 crew over two hours, and each test station had a compliment of doctors, nurses and isolation booths.
There were more than 1,800 COVID-related signs across Pinewood, 150 hand sanitizer stations and 60 extra sinks. Cleaning was doubled and in the evenings all communal areas and facilities were antiviral fogged.
All in all, the studio spent between $6-8M on protocols alone.
Langley explains: “We designed our return-to-production guidelines with safety being the foremost priority and everyone associated with Jurassic World: Dominion stepped up, held themselves and those around them accountable, and the results have been amazing. Congratulations to our filmmakers and cast for their tireless efforts that paved the way for other productions across the industry to get back to work.”
Those efforts included the cast and crew creating a bubble at a UK hotel.
“We lived together, ate together, told stories, shared our fears and hopes, played Frisbee on the lawn… there was a lot of laughter at a time when it has been hard to find things to laugh about,” explains Trevorrow.
“We were all far from those we loved at a time when you want to be closest to them. I missed my family greatly. I was away from them for four months. But the cast in our bubble became another family.”
Trevorrow is hopeful that the experience will enhance the final film.
“I think that close proximity to each other has made the movie better. Everything we were going through emotionally we would share. We would rehearse on Sundays, we crafted the characters, which made the emotion of the film richer. I think the movie will be stronger for it.”
The filmmaker claims that the restrictions and delays — filming was initially pushed from February 2020 to July 2020 and then had to pause again in October due to positive COVID results — didn’t alter how he made the film. Designers spent months hand-crafting the dinosaurs, and a second unit still managed to get to Malta. There won’t be a need to fall back on additional VFX, he said: “You won’t be seeing whole worlds created digitally.”
“I’ve never been as immersed in a filmmaking process,” he continued. “Because of the protocols, the actors didn’t go far from set. The distance was stripped away. There were things that happened on this movie that I’d hope to be able to continue on future productions.”
For Trevorrow, Dominion uniquely speaks to the pandemic era.
“This movie is about the need to co-exist and survive together. If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we need the different generations to protect each other. It was the right movie to be making at this moment.”
It’s a long way off, and who know how the world/industry will look, but the plan remains to release the film theatrically in summer 2022: “It’s important to us the world is able to experience the film in movie theaters,” notes Trevorrow, who is also working with Universal on sci-fi epic Atlantis.
How do you celebrate the completion of such an undertaking?
“Tomorrow I will drive back to my house with some boxes and see my family: it starts there,” he says. The work on post-production begins soon after.
Like most in the industry and much of the world, the team has also been following this week’s tumultuous U.S. election. “We’ve all been well aware of what’s happening in the U.S. I hope we can all move forward together soon. A Biden win would be the perfect wrap gift,” he admits.
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