By Jensen, Randy on August 11, 2020.
Many industries have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the film industry, but with new protocols and different creative methods, two Calgary-based actors were able to film a project through the pandemic.
Actors and real-life couple, Greyston Holt and Cristina Rosato, were cast in a film as the two leads in an upcoming project that was filmed during lockdown in Kelowna, and were able to go ahead with production and health protocols because of their relationship.
“It is a light rom-com that is about Cristina, my girlfriend, who plays the lead of Olivia Owens, who operates a non-profit community garden that she’s in love with, and my character steps in and I am a land developer and her garden is at risk of being torn down because they want it to build community housing,” says Holt, whose grandparents Mike and Edith Stefancsik are from Lethbridge. “Then what happens through chance is we end up at the same destination wedding where she is the maid of honour and I am the best man. The wedding is in threat of falling apart and her and I have to put our differences aside to save our friends’ relationship, and in the process, fall in love.”
Holt has made an impressive career with TV movies and series. His most recent TV movie was “Love is a Piece of Cake” which was No. 1 in the ratings when it aired on W. He’s also had recurring roles in several TV series including “Batwoman,” “Chesapeake Shores,” “The 100,” “Bitten,” “Alcatraz” and “Durham County,” to name a few.
However, in his most recent project filming was a different environment than typical movie sets, as cast and crew were mostly sequestered in a hotel resort for the duration of filming. Everyone was health screened daily and communal services were replaced with personal services to prevent the spread of COVID.
“There were many different protocols in place. Leading up to the project we were cast we were being extra cautious, essentially completely cutting out our contacts. We weren’t completely isolated, but being extremely cautious,” says Holt. “The shoot itself was a safer environment and at the time, shooting up in Kelowna, at the time there was no cases there for weeks and we were also shooting at a resort where the majority of the shooting took place. A lot of the cast and crew were staying there because the resort had to be shut down, so we had this safe environment to shoot and stay in which helped with containment. Every morning, the cast and crew would take a temperature test, and if anyone showed signs of fever they would have to get tested, but thankfully that didn’t happen.”
The production not only had to follow provincial and federal health guidelines, but also direction from Work Safe BC, as well as the Actors Union. With the amount of health protocols, some fears of filming came up, but the production wanted to help set the example of how they can continue work through these challenging times.
“The fact that they hired Cristina and I as the two leads was a work around for social distancing and any intimate scenes, and really COVID was the reason we were able to be the two leads on this and work together,” says Holt. “These little things take some time out of the day on a shooting day because on set, time is money, but it was very necessary and because we were one of the first productions back. We wanted to set the bar for safety and not mess it up for the rest of the industry, so we were taking precautions that weren’t obligatory because we really didn’t want to mess it up.”
Although set life wasn’t the typical day, with less interaction with the production crew and longer days on set with cleaning schedules, Holt says they were just happy to be back working sooner than expected.
“The first couple days were kind of weird just having everyone in masks. Sometimes you can’t hear people as clearly, but it just became quite normal quite quickly and it became like a normal movie shoot experience,” says Holt. “We were just happy to be back on set and much quicker than we expected. We had thought the industry would be back around maybe August, maybe September, so when we got this offer we were so shocked and excited.”
COVID-19 presented many challenges to non-essential industries and made them think of new ways of going about business. Holt says he anticipates many of the practices they used during this lockdown project will be seen on future sets, as the virus has shined a light on just how interactive and intimate filming sets can be. Holt’s and Rosato’s film project does not have a set date to be released yet, but anticipates for later this year.
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