How one soap opera is resuming production during COVID-19

Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2020 3:38:35 PM

With several safety measures in place, the Australian soap opera Neighbours is about to resume production. Could its coronavirus production plan be a road map for getting US soaps back up and running?

Imagine a soap opera without any love scenes. A soap opera whose characters rarely interact with others outside their own storyline. A soap opera whose actors may not look as glamorous as they usually do. It might not sound wholly appealing, but for most daytime fans, that soap opera would beat not having new soap opera material to watch at all -- which is why those circumstances may become the new reality for the genre as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

With all four daytime dramas currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, none is able to film new material, and three have been airing occasional reruns to extend their run of new episodes. The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless are set to begin airing all reruns starting next week, and General Hospital may follow suit shortly after. However, they might be able to glean ways to resume production from the Australian soap opera Neighbours.

According to Deadline, the long-running drama is set to resume filming next week after a month-long production shutdown brought on by COVID-19. It is believed to be the first suspended TV drama in the English-speaking world to restart production and therefore could serve as a roadmap for US shows to follow.

Some of the coronavirus safety guidelines that Neighbours will follow beginning next week include:

Separated actors and storylines

Fremantle Australia boss Chris Oliver-Taylor explains that the studio space has been divided into four separate sections, and three of those quadrants will contain their own production teams isolated from the others. Only three actors will be allowed to cross between the groups.

"There will be no more than 100 people a day in any area, we'll implement the four-square-metre rule and the one-and-a-half-metre social distancing rule," Oliver-Taylor explains of the setup, adding that if someone gets sick, only the group whose member is affected will be suspended, and the shoot can continue with the other two groups.

Medical assistance

A nurse will be present on set during filming, and everyone entering the site will have his or her temperature taken and checked.

Adjusted beauty routines

Male actors won't wear any makeup in order to lessen contact and the risk of viral spread, while female actors will not be touched up after their initial makeup application.

No close physical contact in scenes (i.e. no love scenes!)

There will be no physical contact between actors, meaning soap staples like kissing, slapping, holding hands, and love scenes will be scrapped. Actors will be required to practice social distancing during scenes, and camera trickery will make them appear closer together than they are.

No extras

Rather than bring in extras, crew members will double as background and atmosphere performers when necessary.

At the moment, no US soap operas have announced plans about how or when they will resume production. However, Deadline reports that due to tricky matters like insurance issues, the earliest projected date for cameras on any sets to begin rolling again is July -- with some studios even saying it'll more likely be September.

What do you think about the coronavirus safety plan Neighbours will adhere to when it resumes production next week? Can you see those guidelines working for US soap operas when they are finally able to get back up and running? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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