The coronavirus pandemic has halted production on TV shows and movies around the world, with travel plans canceled, gatherings forbidden and shoots postponed.
In Australia, however, legendary soap opera “Neighbours” will resume filming as soon as this week — with a number of creative tweaks.
Actors will have to follow social distancing rules. The cast and crew are isolated in different groups. And to make it all look normal on screen, they’ll rely on clever camerawork and some editing magic.
The drama, which follows the residents of a fictional suburb of Melbourne, first suspended production in mid-March as coronavirus infections in Australia surged. The country now has 6,547 cases, and 67 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The health and safety of cast and crew is paramount and we have been following the government guidelines closely,” said Jason Herbison, the show’s executive producer.
“Due to the style of our show and the vast size of our production studios and back lot, we realized we are in a position to resume filming in a way that protects everyone’s health and still delivers the ‘Neighbours’ viewers know and love.”
Here’s how they’re doing it
The show has come up with a variety of rules and measures designed to keep people safe.
The actors won’t be holding hands, kissing or performing any of the close contact typical of the show pre-pandemic. The studio and other production sites have been divided into different sections, and crews don’t cross over the dividing lines — so if anybody is infected, producers and health officials can easily identify their contacts and movements.
The cast and crew have also been divided into three separate groups, to minimize contact with each other and reduce the risk of widespread transmission.
There will be no more than 20 people in any given area each day — and they’ll be spread out to achieve social distancing as much as possible, with 1.5 meters (almost five feet) between people at all times.
“We have one of the largest studios and back lots in the Southern Hemisphere so this is possible,” Herbison said.
To tie it all together, Herbison said the show will use “creative editing” so the measures don’t look too obvious for viewers, adding: “We are also ready to adapt the production further if required.”
Entertainment industry decimated
“Neighbours” has been on air since 1985, making it one of the longest-running dramas in the world. It also reached international fame, with particular success in the United Kingdom, and is considered one of Australia’s biggest media exports.
A number of Hollywood stars and pop artists started on the show, including Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Kylie Minogue.
The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the entertainment industry. Movie theaters have closed down globally as residents stay home. In the United States, AMC, Regal and Cinemark — the three biggest chains in the country — all have shut their doors.