Matt Glass and Jordan Long of HCT Media

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Destination Film Guide publisher Jeff Gayduk was fortunate to catch up with Matt Glass and Jordan Long, independent film producers from HCT Media. The duo just wrapped up filming a new feature, Ghosts of the Ozarks in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It’s one of a select few productions that’s been completed in the U.S. since the pandemic took hold.

Work on the production began last fall with the building of an 1800s town set and was set to ramp up in March before COVID struck. The filmmakers were determined to persevere, albeit with safety guidelines in place. 

“We felt it was our obligation if we could get people a paycheck and get them working again because nobody else was really doing anything,” said Jordon Long. “To us, it was a big thing to get the people that we always depend on, we wanted them to depend on us.”

Matt Glass added, “The majority of pre-production, most people can do their work from home, so we had costume designers, people making props from their houses.” That process saved time on-set.

The team hired a Safety Task Coordinator in conjunction with SAG to oversee a safe production set. “We tested everybody weekly,” said Long. “Some even more. We went above and beyond just to keep people safe.” The crew that wore masks all day, and talent were masked at all times they weren’t on screen.

Fortunately, just a portion of the script had to be rewritten. Other concerns, like the use of extras were altered to include just a small collection of people who were tested. The duo noted this was one of the first interviews they did as we wanted to wait three weeks post-filming to ensure everyone was safe.

The film crew took up two floors at the Embassy Suites in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “The Embassy Suites literally locked down everything,” notes Long. “They gave us our own rooms that no one else could go in but the makeup department could hang out, the costume and the lighting, so you weren’t alone but you were in a small group in case an infection were to take hold we could quarantine it very fast.”

As for future projects, the team notes that other producers have the luxury of either starting pre-production now or being able to adjust their script for COVID.

“We knew Jurassic World was going to be okay, they were going to figure it out,” states Long. “You see a huge building built just for the testing facility. You’re like, cool, that’s great, but what about indie films, smaller films, is it possible? For us it was very important to go after it. Yes, it is possible to keep people safe and not have that much money.” Long notes that they received hundreds of calls from producers about what they were doing.

The shoot was not without drama. “Everyday something was changing and our protocol had to be adjusted every single day,” notes Long. “We felt prepared, we felt we were the right people to take this on, that if we can do this than maybe indie other films would say, ‘this can happen.’”

Glass states, “Now that we’ve gone through this, there are guidelines as to what’s work. We were kind of the test subject.” He pointed out a film being shot in Bulgaria that’s using the same protocols. “You know there’s a huge swath of people that want to get back to work safely, but it’s a terrifying thing.”

The crew also enjoyed filiming in a fresh location. “Arkansas has tax incentives,” stated Long. “Some parts are local to Atlanta which helps with the unions. There’s a crew from Louisiana that lives in Arkansas. There’s a big hidden film making community in Arkansas that just hasn’t gotten out in the world. Everything we shot, people haven’t seen these locations before. It’s economically a lot better for indie films.”

For more information about Ghosts of the Ozarks or future HCT productions, visit HCT.Media.