Broadway Stages on Staten Island helps bring back TV, film production amid COVID pandemic

STATEN ISLAND, New York City (WABC) -- Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, production of movies and TV shows hit an all time high in New York City. But like so many other industries, show business had to shut down.

Filming gradually resumed on a limited basis in August, with strict protocols in place.

Reporters are not allowed on sets right now, simply not deemed essential to production, and therefore, I can't watch movies and TV shows get made as I have since I was a teenager.

However, thanks to Broadway Stages, I was able to observe from a distance at their facility on Staten Island.

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At the former Arthur Kill Correctional Facility the sets are so realistic, it isn't hard to imagine what it would be like to be sentenced "For Life."

That ABC series was the first to shoot there after getting the green light to resume production.

"We try to be as safe as possible," stage manager Jimmy Pilinci said. "One production at a time, and everybody, all the productions, go through the same steps."

The first step is to get tested in the parking lot before even entering the former prison.

Once inside, each set is divided into zones.

"Red zone is when you get close to the actors," Pilinci said.

We kept our distance, but we saw a series of tents where actors must wait whenever they are not actually filming. And even outside, there are plenty of restrictions that Pilinci took us through.

"The yellow zone is you must have a mask on and the goggles on anytime you enter the yellow zone," he said. "And the green zone is when you can remove the mask to have a snack or a drink."

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Pilinci is occasionally pressed into service in the front of the cameras. He played a prison guard in a series starring Jessica Biel called "The Sinner."

In another show, "Orange is the New Black," the facility played a prominent role as a women's prison. But in real life, hundreds of men did time here before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo closed the place a decade ago.

"It's not a real prison," Pilinci said. "It looks like a real prison, but it's not.

And I, for one, am very grateful that's true because frankly, the 70-acre facility is so realistic that it's scary.

Surely, this helped Nicholas Pinnock get in character as a man falsely accused and sent to prison "For Life."

Season 2 of the ABC drama premieres November 18.

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