- Production for “The Batman” was paused last week, just two days after filming restarted in the U.K.
- Warner Bros. explained that a member of production tested positive for COVID-19, and several outlets later named the film’s star, Robert Pattinson, as the infected crew member.
- Pattison and those who came in contact with him are under quarantine and it’s unclear if filming will need to be delayed for more than two weeks at this point.
- Figures in the British film industry have expressed confidence in existing safety protocols, but if the case is not contained, it could serve as a cautionary tale as the industry works to convince talent and crew that filming can be done safely.
- The case also underscores why insurers are refusing to cover costs related to COVID-19 in any new policies.
Crew Member Tests Positive
For months now, the entertainment industry has been intensely focused on how to safely restart productions amid the coronavirus pandemic. By July and August, a handful of projects begin filming with strict quarantine procedures, limits to crew size, PPE requirements, regular testing schedules, and other safety measures.
That appears to have been working well since there have been few reports of positive tests and no production halts due to outbreaks that we know of. With all of that looking good, it seemed like more production houses could be ready to move projects down the pipeline as well.
That was at least until reports surfaced that Robert Pattison had tested positive for Coronavirus in the U.K. just two days after resuming production for “The Batman.”
Warner Bros. didn’t name Pattinson in its announcement last week. Instead, it said: “A member of The Batman production has tested positive for Covid-19, and is isolating in accordance with established protocols. Filming is temporarily paused.”
However, several outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and Vanity Fair, later cited sources that named Pattinson as the infected individual. That’s huge news since he’s the star of the film, but right now, there aren’t a lot of details about how he’s doing or how he was exposed to the virus.
What This Delay Could Mean for the Industry
Filming previously shut down in March when the coronavirus forced sets to close, but with this positive case, this film will definitely be delayed even longer.
A source familiar with U.K. filming protocols told Variety that anyone with a positive coronavirus test needs to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. After that, they can be cleared for work if a subsequent test comes back negative and they show no symptoms. Other productions have required at least two negative tests, and no COVID-19 symptoms for at least 72 hours.
Right now, its unknown exactly how long Pattison’s absence will last, especially since we don’t know anything about how he’s doing. On top of that, anyone who came within six feet of him for more than 15 minutes needs to isolate, regardless of whether or not they test positive.
That could mean any number of actors, stunt performers, or any other crew members that support him through the shoot, including the film’s director Matt Reeves, depending on how close he came to Pattison during filming. If any of those people test positive, that means more have to quarantine, which means the situation could get worse for the film pretty quickly.
It’s unclear how strict the film was with its procedures, but there’s a good chance this could be well contained.
Some figures in the British film industry expressing confidence in existing protocols, like Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London. He told Variety, “We know that productions in the U.K. are rigorously following British Film Commission guidance with robust health and safety procedures in place, including stringent testing regimes, which is why any case of coronavirus can be rapidly identified and appropriate self-isolating procedures implemented.”
However, if the virus is not contained, the movie could serve as a cautionary tale for other sets, and it’s already underscoring major issues that the industry faces as it tries to get productions rolling.
For example, now more than ever, production houses need to convince their talent and crew that filming can be done safely. On top of that, they’re dealing with insurers who don’t want to be held liable for COVID related delays.
Since “The Batman” started filming before the pandemic forced shutdowns, there’s a chance this might not be a big problem for them. Still, according to some reports, more insurers are updating their wording to exclude COVID coverage in new policies because no insurer wants to be responsible for millions of dollars for overrun productions when the likelihood of that happening seems high.
Pattinson’s case could have more far-reaching effects depending on how it plays out because if there turns out to be an outbreak, it pretty much becomes the worst-case scenario for everyone involved.
As far as “The Batman,” there have been some rumors floating around that filming continued after the positive test. Those rumors stem from a DailyMail report, but the claims have since been rejected by a source close to the filmmakers. According to Variety, crew members are still doing construction work on sets and props, but people who were in contact with Pattison are quarantining and contract tracing was underway as of last week. As it stands, it’s pretty unlikely that any shooting will happen for at least the next two weeks.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (Vanity Fair) (The New York Times)
Former “Real Housewives” Star Bethenny Frankel Sues TikTok Over Ads Misusing Likeness
The reality star said social media has become “a breeding ground for scams.”
TikTok Hit With Class Action Suit
Businesswoman and reality star Bethenny Frankel filed a class action lawsuit against TikTok on Thursday, accusing the social media app of platforming fraudulent ads that misuse the identities of influencers.
According to the lawsuit, several videos “purloined the images, voices, and content” of Frankel and others in an effort “to sell counterfeit items.”
Frankel claims that one advertisement used footage of her to make it appear as though she was endorsing a knockoff cardigan, even though she never authorized the use of her image. According to the lawsuit, Frankel attempted to warn her followers that the ad was misusing her persona, but TikTok allegedly removed that video for being “abusive.”
“Despite demands on TikTok to remove and police this corrupt conduct, TikTok has ignored such demands, and even taken countervailing positions,” the lawsuit claims. “Aside from not being compensated, the reputation and brand of Ms. Frankel and Class Members are being damaged and tarnished through unauthorized associations with counterfeit goods and other products that they do not support.”
It further alleged that TikTok is “unlawfully” allowing the use of Frankel’s “persona, voice, content, and likeness” in a manner that “constitutes unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.”
In addition to previously starring on “The Real Housewives of New York,” Frankel is also the founder of lifestyle and food brand Skinnygirl, and disaster relief initiative BStrong.
The Wild West of Social Media
In a TikTok video last month, the former Real Housewife told her followers she was considering taking legal action against the video app. As for why she took her complaints up with TikTok as opposed to the brands behind the sham ads, she said that the bigger issue is “the wild wild west of social media.”
“This is something that has to be addressed because it’s a breeding ground for scams,” she said.
After the fake ads appeared to show Frankel giving the knockoff cardigan a thumbs up, many of her followers thought she “sold out” by “hocking” the product. According to Frankel, TikTok offers little help in repairing the issue.
“There’s nobody to call at TikTok,” she said. “You know, calling China, you’re reporting something, it’s like small potatoes.”
After news broke that she filed the class action complaint, Frankel posted a statement to Instagram saying her demands “for creators and consumers is correct and just.”
“Consumers and creators are being exploited with no recourse or power to defend and protect themselves,” Frankel wrote. “That ends now.”
“Social media, and its impact as the most powerful medium on the planet, cannot be a reckless marketplace where people risk their rights and privacy being violated without protection.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Insider) (Reuters)
Halyna Hutchins Family Settles With “Rust” Production, Filming to Resume in 2023
Alec Baldwin said everyone involved was motivated by the “desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son.”
The family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally shot on the set of “Rust” last year, reached a settlement with the production over a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed in February, several months after Hutchins’ death in New Mexico last October. The cast and crew were rehearsing a scene that involved producer and actor Alec Baldwin pointing a gun toward the camera. Baldwin claims he did not know it was loaded when it fired, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.
The actor also claims he did not actually pull the trigger, but investigators determined it must have been pulled.
Hutchins’ husband Matthew filed the wrongful death suit on behalf of himself and his young son. It claimed that the production did not follow proper safety procedures and endangered the crew via reckless cost-cutting measures. Baldwin was listed as a defendant, as well as the set’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, first assistant director, Dave Halls, and others involved with the film.
The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but as part of the agreement, the production of “Rust” will resume in January 2023. The late cinematographer’s husband will join the project as an executive producer.
“I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin),” he said in a statement. “All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.”
A Tribute to Hutchins
Souza will return as the director. In a statement, he said his “every effort on this film will be devoted to honoring” Hutchins.
For his part, Baldwin shared the news of the settlement on his Instagram Wednesday morning.
“Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son,” he wrote. “We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation.”
There is still an ongoing criminal probe happening separately from this lawsuit. It is unclear what impact the settlement will have on that, if any.
Last month, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies sent a letter to the New Mexico Board of Finance seeking additional funding to prosecute up to four people over the incident, including Baldwin. So far, no charges have been filed.
In April, the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined the production after it found multiple safety violations on set.
See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Deadline)
The Try Guys Address Removal of Ned Fulmer: “We Had No Idea This Was Going On”
The group said that by severing ties with Fulmer, it felt like they were losing a friend.
“That Is Not What We Stand For”
Digital comedy and sketch group The Try Guys posted a video on Monday night explaining the recent removal of member Ned Fulmer.
Last week, the Internet was filled with speculation that Fulmer, who is married with children, was having an affair with a staffer for The Try Guys. Fulmer confirmed the reports, claiming he had a “consensual workplace relationship.” The Try Guys quickly announced that Fulmer would no longer be working with the group as the result of an internal review.
In Monday’s video, the remaining three members, Eugene Lee Yang, Zach Kornfeld, and Keith Habersberger, explained what led to their decision to remove Fulmer. While the trio noted there were legal issues that prevented them from sharing certain details, they wanted to be as transparent as possible.
“On Labor Day weekend, multiple fans alerted us that they had seen Ned and an employee engaging in public romantic behavior,” Habersberger explained. “We reached out to check on that employee and Ned confirmed the reports, and since confirmed that this had been going on for some time, which was obviously very shocking to us.”
He emphasized that the rest of the group “had no idea this was going on.”
After this, The Try Guys reached out to a variety of lawyers and HR professionals to make sure they handled the situation correctly.
“This is something we took very seriously,” Yang said. “We refused to sweep things under the rug. That is not who we are, and that is not what we stand for.”
Removing Fulmer From Content
They decided to immediately remove Fulmer from work activities and hired an HR rep to conduct a review. Fulmer was also withdrawn from releases pending the results of that review.
As part of this, his video section was erased, he was digitally taken out of some content, and he was not included in merch drops. The Try Guys said this was a long and tedious process.
“Honestly, I want to give major props to our editing staff for how deftly they handled that,” Kornfeld said. “There are several videos that we have deemed as fully unreleasable, you will never see them, and that is due to his involvement. And that is a decision that has cost us lots of money.”
“We will not be able to recoup that money,” he continued. “But it’s a decision we stand by proudly.”
The group declined to share details of the review but claimed it found that Fulmer engaged in “conduct unbecoming” of the team. Because of this, Yang, Kornfeld, and Habersberger gave written consent on Sept. 16 to ax Fulmer as a manager and employee of The Try Guys company.
The three said they were always planning to make a public statement about their decision, but were initially waiting out of respect to the families and employees involved. As online speculation arose, they chose to deal with it sooner.
“We’re losing a friend, we’re losing someone we built a company with, we have countless memories with, we just made a TV show together,” Kornfeld said. “I’m sure many of you feel the same way.”
According to the group, some upcoming videos featuring Fulmer will be edited to remove him. They said they are currently taking time to reimagine their channel.