Production of “Neighbours,” the long-running Australian TV soap opera is set to restart later this week, despite the coronavirus outbreak causing much of the country to remain in lockdown.
The show’s producer, Fremantle Media said that its filming techniques would be distinctly different from pre-virus practices, and that it would be able to stick within government guidelines on health and safety.
“(On Monday) we returned from a scheduled production break, originally two weeks that we extended to three weeks to give our production team time to refine our production model to meet the gov’t guidelines re. health & safety and social distancing. We will be filming with a small unit this Thursday and then full production resumes Monday,” said Fremantle in a statement.
“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.”
Social distancing will be achieved by spreading everyone out and having less people in any environment at any given time. The production sites have also been divided into three production areas and one control area, with no crew crossover, so that if there are any incidents, the movements of anyone impacted can be easily traced.
New camera positions and creative editing will employed to ensure this has minimal impact on screen.
Fremantle said that it has worked closely on the plan, and that no pressure has been put on cast and crew to return, if they are not comfortable. Special measures have been taken for older employees, and the company says it is willing to make further adjustments.
“Communication and collaboration is the key. The response has been overwhelmingly positive with everyone keen to work and produce the show we all love so much,” said a spokesman.
Set in a fictional suburb of Melbourne, where it charts the personal and professional lives of its residents, “Neighbours” has been on air almost continuously since 1985. While its broadcast home has changed, it has not deviated from its 22-minutes per episode, five episodes per week schedule. It is currently broadcast on Peach (formerly Eleven), and has been licensed to broadcasters in over 60 countries. It is understood that it would have run out of new episodes by June had production not restarted.
Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, and Russell Crowe have all appeared on the show before achieving international stardom.
The coronavirus shutdown has halted the Australian film and TV industry in its tracks. Some 119 films and TV shows have been suspended, including two Marvel movies and Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis project which was barely a week away from production when star Tom Hanks was confirmed as infected with COVID-19. Australia now has 6,547 cases, and 67 deaths.