In terms of pandemic-friendly activities, television and film production is a nightmare. Hollywood effectively shut down in March along with the rest of the world until networks, studios, and production companies were given the green light to resume California-based productions again in mid-June. Even so, the three-month halt wasn’t enough time for most productions to prepare for rolling cameras under new health and safety guidelines, and even now, Tinsel Town isn’t exactly moving full steam ahead.
This week though, Deadline reported that production is finally underway on ABC’s The Ultimate Surfer, the competition-style reality show announced last year that will feature up-and-coming competitors training and living together at the WSL Surf Ranch in Lemoore. According to Nicholas Caprio, Chief Content Officer at Pilgrim Media Group, the show was “already logistically a bear of a show” before the pandemic, but as you can imagine, COVID-19 health and safety requirements would add more hoops to jump through each day.
“Every person who came up was put in a hotel and tested. When they got negative, they could go inside the ranch and tested them again a week later. That included anyone who came in whether it was a judge or talent. It was really tough because it was really hot and really dusty. Just because they had two clean tests, we still had to take all of the precautions with masks and stations,” he told Deadline, explaining that they set up a “tent city” of mobile homes and trailers for the entire crew.
The quarantined/bubble-like closed set shouldn’t sound too extreme though, objectively speaking. It’s the expected norm on productions for the foreseeable future anyway. Tyler Perry was the first notable big name in show business to take on the task when productions started on his Atlanta studio lot in April. He’s openly talked about filming an entire season of at least one scripted show, with as many as 360 cast and crew working on a similar bubble-like set with regular testing. It’s tough to imagine TUS requiring as many people for one production of an eight-episode competition series, especially when similar reality series already have closed sets and contestants agreeing to live in a quarantine-like atmosphere through taping.
The WSL also already has this week’s Rumble at the Ranch production and competition set for the same location, and UFC President Dana White (who’s also an executive producer on the show) famously tried to hold a closed-set, no-fans UFC 249 at nearby Tachi Palace Casino Resort just weeks into the pandemic before ESPN executives ordered him to shut it down. If you know anything about Lemoore, then you know Tachi Palace and the Surf Ranch are effectively a visiting surfer’s long and shortlist of things to do in town anyway.