Hong Kong’s TV industry has managed to keep churning out new episodes and even some new series, despite the city’s coronavirus restrictions. Shows have had to adopt clever working practices, and in some cases modify their story lines, but they have emerged better than the territory’s feature film sector, where production remains largely halted.
The production charge has been led by local channel ViuTV, which is backed by PCCW and is a sister company to pay-TV cluster Now TV and multi-territory Asian OTT platform Viu, and by Hong Kong’s traditional TV market leader TVB.
ViuTV’s drama series “Single Dad” is one of the new titles that has started shooting recently. Camera began to roll in mid-April, delayed just by a few weeks. “We had to wait for the infection rate to drop to a certain level,” said the show’s writer-producer Peter Tsi.
TVB has at least four four drama titles currently in production. Since the outbreak production teams have been shooting studio scenes first, as workplaces are not subject to the group gathering ban. “We have been disinfecting the studios everyday and everyone must wear facemasks until the camera starts rolling,” a TVB source told Variety.
Hong Kong, which shares a land border with mainland China, was one of the first places to receive imported coronavirus infections back in January. Since then confirmed cases rose, dipped and rose again in a so-called second wave in mid-March.
The city has adopted social distancing and border controls, and most citizens willingly wear surgical face masks. The combination has allowed Hong Kong to avoid the kind of lockdown seen elsewhere, and to successfully reduce local transmission. There have been no coronavirus infections in Hong Kong in the past four days and no deaths since mid-March, for a total of 1,037 confirmed cases and just four fatalities, as of April 29.
Border controls mean that location shooting in foreign countries has been cancelled, and writers have had to adapt plots so that shows can be shot entirely locally, either in studio or on location within Hong Kong.
Tsi says that a “no-objection notice” from government body CreateHK is required for outdoor location shooting involving more than four crew members. For indoor location shooting, venues must be closed to visitors. Studio precautions include mandatory masks, disinfectants and travel history declarations. Lead actress Maggie Cheung Ho-yee donated 3,000 face masks for the 60-member crew of “Single Dad.”
With many folks working from or staying at home with their children, ratings have received a boost, says TVB. The 30-episode crime thriller series “Forensic” had an average viewership of nearly 2.4 million across all platforms, its highest score since 2013.
The Hong Kong government is now beginning a partial reversal of many restrictions, and has announced that public services will resume on May 4.