Even though Hollywood shut down nearly all movie and TV productions when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March, that didn’t stop Sam Levinson, the creator of HBO’s Euphoria, from rounding up two of the biggest rising stars to make a secret movie together.
During the coronavirus pandemic, between June 17 and July 2, Zendaya (Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Man franchise) and John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet) got together with Sam Levinson to shoot a movie called Malcolm & Marie. How did they pull this off?
Though details on Malcolm & Marie have been kept under wraps, Deadline was able to learn that the movie “has some echoes of Netflix’s Marriage Story, while resonating a number of social themes that the world is experiencing right now.” We’re not sure if that means it deals with the social themes that have been making headlines due to the Black Lives Matter movement, or if this is moreso tied to the coronavirus pandemic itself. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a little bit of both.
Despite being shot during the pandemic, Malcolm & Marie was able to get the approval of the Writers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America, and the Screen Actors Guild after working with doctors and lawyers to ensure the safety of the production. What made it even easier to follow the new protocols established by the various guilds was that the entire film was shot in the Caterpillar House in Carmel, California, the first LEED Platinum Custom Home on California’s Central Coast. It sits on 33 acres of land, which made social distancing easier to accomplish, especially with a small crew where each member had multiple jobs.
Malcolm & Marie came about after Zendaya asked Levinson if it was possible for him to write and direct a movie during quarantine. It only took him six days to get the script together for the movie. Then the writer/director and his wife Ashley Levinson (producer of Bombshell and executive producer of Queen & Slim) worked with producer Kevin Turen, as well as Zendaya and John David Washington, to fund pre-production and production.
On top of that, New Regency Chairman and CEO Yariv Milchan and president Michael Schaefer also helped finance the movie as executive producers, and they’re donating their proceeds from the film to charity. Joining them as executive producers are also Aaron L. Gilbert, Will Greenfield, and Scott Mescudi (aka rapper Kid Cudi), who also invested some money in the production. Katia Washington, Harrison Kreiss, Stuart Manashil and Kenneth Yu are also co-executive producers. That’s a lot of names for a small, secret movie, but that’s how the world of independent cinema works. This is often why you see so many more production logos before indie movies.
In order to get everything in motion, the entire cast and crew took multiple COVID-19 tests before traveling to Monterey, California for a two-week quarantine before production would start. Everyone was shuttled onto set each day in large SUVs from the quarantine location. Every member of the cast and crew wore masks, though obviously the stars removed them when cameras were rolling, and no more than 12 people were allowed on the set at once. The production team had their own temporary residences and no one was allowed to leave the property during shooting. Even the food on-hand was prepared by a chef who was quarantined with everyone else, and no outside food deliveries were allowed. Planning for each day’s shoot was handled on socially distanced hikes, and rehearsals happened in a big parking lot.
There are many more intricacies as to how this film was pulled off, and it really gives you an idea of just how much more work must go into a film production with all the new safety protocols in place. You can read even more details on how Malcolm & Marie came together, and see shots of the shooting location, over at Deadline.
With production complete, Levinson is surely busy in the editing room, cutting the movie together. The movie doesn’t have a distributor yet, but that will likely come with time. Considering the kind of movie we’re dealing with, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up on a streaming service before the end of the year. But maybe a studio will be interested in picking up what seems like the first movie completed entirely during the coronavirus pandemic.