Netflix Inc. is working on a new anthology series called “Social Distance” set during the coronavirus pandemic, adapting to the Hollywood’s production shutdown by using actors under quarantine.
Jenji Kohan, creator of “Weeds” and “Orange Is the New Black,” is producing the show, a comedy in which actors will film themselves from their own homes. Writers have begun working on scripts, and production will begin in a few weeks.
“We are challenging ourselves to do something new: To create and produce virtually so that our cast and crew can stay healthy and safe,” Kohan said in a statement. “Writers never physically meet during the writing process. Our director, Diego Velasco, directs our talent remotely. Our showrunner, Hilary Weisman Graham, runs production from her living room. The cast not only acts, but also films themselves at home.”
Kohan’s project is one of the highest-profile cases of a filmmaker looking to adapt production to the demands of the global health crisis. Hundreds of films and TV shows have halted production around the world so as to protect casts and crew during the pandemic.
Late-night talk shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Trevor Noah have resumed production by filming from remote locations. The same goes for singing competition shows like “American Idol.” But sitcoms, dramas and big-budget action movies are another matter.
The slowdown threatens to deprive networks and streaming services of new content when they need it most. Video usage of all sorts has spiked around the world, as people stuck at home looked for entertainment, distraction and news. Netflix signed up a record 15.8 million customers in the first three months of the year, a number it credited to the coronavirus.
Netflix said last week that its pipeline of new shows hasn’t been affected in the short term. It has already finished production on most of its shows for this year. But Netflix releases hundreds of shows a quarter, and has trained consumers to expect new product every week.
Kohan’s prison comedy “Orange Is the New Black” was one of Netflix’s first breakout hits. She is also the executive producer of “GLOW,” another series on the streaming network.