Neighbours was the first English-language soap to resume filming after production shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now the cast has given a peek behind the scenes to see how social distancing safety measures have impacted on how the programme is made.
In a new video released by the Aussie drama on Friday 22nd May on the soap’s official social media, Takaya Honda (David Tanaka), Matt Wilson (Aaron Brennan), April Rose Pengilly (Chloe Greyson) and Tim Robards (Pierce Greyson) take viewers on a tour of the Melbourne set and explain the restrictions put in place since shooting started back up earlier in May.
The studio is now split into colour-coded zones, with tape on the floor and lanyards worn with corresponding colours to indicate where you can and can’t go – as Robards and Pengilly demonstrate their ‘blue team’ credentials prevent them from entering the ‘pink zone’ so large groups do not mix.
There are hand sanitiser stations everywhere, the place is as paper-free as possible so things such as scripts or notice board announcements are now digital rather than printed out.
Make-up artists are wearing masks, and the amount of cast who need make-up has been reduced (Wilson has perfect skin, apparently…), another way of preventing contact.
Crew members have stepped in to be extras in scenes, with Pengilly revealing even the soap’s big cheese producers have pitched in to mill about as background artistes.
The Neighbours team are back on set, but under very strict new rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We caught up with some of the cast to see what life is like filming with the safety measures in place. pic.twitter.com/fUc3AN6cm5
— Neighbours (@NeighboursTV) May 22, 2020
To further minimise the amount of people in the building some departments are still working remotely, such as scriptwriters and storylines who, as Honda reveals, are at home hard at work on the numerous rewrites to accommodate social-distancing.
In order to preserve a 1.5 metre distance there is no touching or kissing allowed, but camera tricks, including shooting one half of a conversation between two characters in a mirror, give the illusion they are standing closer together. And, as screen couple Pengilly and Robards demonstrate, can even make it look like they’re kissing while standing the required space apart!
It’s a fascinating insight into the brave new world for soap post-lockdown, and has provided the blueprint for other shows to follow.
Rival Australian soap Home and Away is back in business on Monday 25th May, while Emmerdale became the first UK continuing drama to return on Wednesday 20th May with six new episodes now filming that will air in June, focusing on small groups of characters in their own households coping with lockdown in the village.
Similar-sounding measures are in place at the ITV Yorkshire studios in Leeds to keep cast and crew safe and observe the government advice on social distancing.