Michael Bay will produce what may be the first major film shot in Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Deadline reported Tuesday that “Songbird,” directed by Adam Mason, will begin production within five weeks.
While it’s unclear exactly how Mason and his team will pull it off, the production could offer a blueprint for completing films when traditional means of production are off limits.
Mason (Hulu/Blumhouse’s “Into the Dark”) co-wrote a script with Simon Boyes (“Misconduct”) that takes place two years in the future, when the pandemic has not gone away and lockdowns have been reinstated as the coronavirus continues to mutate. Casting is underway.
While Bay is known for megabudget blockbusters, “Songbird” is said to be in the vein of tight, low-budget thrillers like Blumhouse’s “Paranormal Activity,” and unites a team of veterans in the genre. Along with Bay, the producers are former Paramount production chief Adam Goodman and Eben Davidson of Invisible Narratives, which is partnered with Catchlight Studios, co-founded by former Blumhouse production chief Jeanette Volturno.
The cinematographer is Jacques Jouffret (“The Purge”) and the production designer is Jennifer Spence (“Paranormal Activity” and “Annabelle” films).
Mason is particular suited for applying this kind of nimble filmmaking in the socially distant era. His contributions to the “Into the Dark” series included a feature-length episode shot in one room with three actors.
Deadline reported that filmmakers are providing “remote training” for actors; that could mean rehearsals and stunt training via Zoom. There will never be people in a room together and social distancing rules will be carefully followed: Actors will not engage face-to-face and scenes will be shot after crew has come in to prep the shots.
It’s unclear exactly where the film will be shot. Los Angeles County authorities have suspended permits for filming and production has been halted, including soundstages.
“Songbird” could advance the methods of recently produced TV shows, including “Saturday Night Live” which aired sketches featuring cast members acting solo from their homes.
While large crews are a roadblock to producing films during lockdown, there are plenty of examples of lean movies. Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” for example, largely followed a solo astronaut with no one but a robot to keep him company. Video calls were a major plot device.
The “Unfriended” horror series plays out on a computer screen showing a Skype group chat. And Timur Bekmambetov several years ago launched a tool called Screenlife that enables filmmakers to make movies exactly in that manner.
“Songbird” will be sold at the upcoming Virtual Cannes Market by ICM Partners and Endeavor Content using a proof-of-concept sizzle reel.