Back in August, Doctor Sleep director and The Haunting of Hill House creator Mike Flanagan got back behind the camera to begin production on his new Netflix horror series Midnight Mass. It was the first American series to start production in Vancouver during the coronavirus pandemic, and unlike some movies and TV shows that started back up in the middle of this mess, the production had an uninterrupted 83-day shoot that was free of COVID-19 scares.
So, how did they do it? Flanagan has shared his experience and it’s illuminating.
Little is known about Midnight Mass other than it focusing on a community that experiences miraculous events and frightening omens after a mysterious priest’s arrival. But Mike Flanagan celebrated the wrap of production yesterday, and despite the circumstances under which this season of TV had to operate, Flanagan was pleased with his experience working on the series.
That's a wrap on MIDNIGHT MASS. It has been an extraordinary, unprecedented production, and I cannot be prouder of this amazing cast and crew. In fact – and I do not say this lightly – this has been the best production experience of my career.
— Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) December 16, 2020
In the thread that followed, Flanagan explained, “We were mere days away from shooting when the production was shut down in March 2020 because of the pandemic. We left our sets standing, dropped everything and frantically got our cast and crew to their homes as the lockdown began.”
The sets on location in Garry Point Park in Vancouver were left to the elements for months with no guarantee that they’d be back anytime soon. But thankfully, the cast and crew were back on set in August, but this wasn’t a small production that had an easy time making this work. Flanagan recalled:
“Our COVID safety protocols were thorough, scientific, and strictly enforced. Our precautions paid off – we did not miss a single day of production, and unlike a lot of other shows, we did not shut down once. Not one time. 83 shooting days, without interruption.
Which isn’t to say it wasn’t harrowing. HUGE crew. Dozens of extras. Over 100 people in some interior scenes. It was the biggest and most ambitious project of my career thus far, and figuring out how to accomplish it safely became an unprecedented challenge.”
The cast and crew were isolated from anyone who wasn’t working on the show, and there were only two areas in which they could interact with each other. There was daily COVID testing when large interior sequence were being shot, and testing once or twice a week with less risky scenes. The key was constant vigilance, even as the cast and crew heard about other shows being looser with protocols. Every now and then they had to deal with people who chose not to be so strict, but Flanagan noted “they weren’t here long.”
Midnight Mass operated so seamlessly and carefully that other productions were looking to them for advice on how to run their set. The result was the completion of production on time this month, and now we’ll be waiting patiently to see it debut on Netflix. Flanagan added:
“This series has been a dream project of mine for many, many years. It is the most personal story I’ve ever told. I’ve been reluctant to direct a whole season again after Hill House, but I’m so glad I did in this case. I am so lucky to have worked with this cast and crew.”
It sounds like Flanagan was much luckier than Tom Cruise, who recently had to unleash hell on some crew members of Mission: Impossible 7 after they were spotted violating COVID-19 protocols on the set in the United Kingdom. For more from Flanagan, you can read his entire thread about making Midnight Mass right here.
Midnight Mass doesn’t have an official release date yet, but the cast includes Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater, Robert Longstreet, Annabeth Gish, and Henry Thomas, and also features Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Abburi, Crystal Balint, Matt Biedel, Alex Essoe, Rahul Kohli, Kristin Lehman, Igby Rigney, and Annarah Shephard. Stay tuned for more.
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