Australia is gearing up for local and international productions to shoot in the country again as it begins to contain the Covid-19 virus and lift restrictions, including opening up beaches and allowing home visits.
“It feels like Australia is going to open up to productions again soon, maybe only weeks away,” Phil Hunt, managing director of UK financier and production outfit Head Gear Films, tells KFTV. The company is financially backing several Australian productions, including The Forgiven (which halted filming in Morocco last month), Romance on the Menu, Sweet River, The Empyrean, Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt) and The Flood. “I was on the phone to our person in Australia who works for Head Gear, and there’s much less Covid-19 there. Beaches are opening and there’s lots of productions that are going to come online again soon.”
Australia was hosting several major films when the virus struck, including Baz Luhrmann’s Untitled Elvis Presley Project, starring Tom Hanks and Austin Butler (as Elvis), which was filming in Queensland, and Marvel Studio’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was filming at Fox Studios in Sydney.
Hollywood studios are already planning for a return to the country by looking at 3D location images supplied by Queensland based Myriad Studios. “The directors and producers are putting on virtual reality headsets in L.A. and walking through potential locations,” enthuses Duncan Jones, head of Myriad Studios and a veteran location manager (Thor: Ragnarok, Aqua Man).
“Nothing is being locked in for obvious reasons, but we are working optimistically. Down here, we are proactively developing plans to manage locations for when we return. In consultation with medical practitioners, and looking at how other industries in Australia have been functioning during the lockdowns (mining and defence for example) my team are drafting systems which will maintain production on a ‘quarantined set’,” Jones adds to KFTV.
Producer John Starke of Paramount Pictures says: “Having this 3D technology available locally in Queensland means that when we shoot a picture down there now, we save considerably on travel and accommodation costs for these teams. That’s a massive bonus for film production in Australia.”
Meanwhile, on the ground, local production has already kicked off with popular soap Neighbours returning to shoot in Melbourne, albeit with strict social distancing conditions.
Cast and crew are being split into groups in separate areas on the vast set in Nunawading, which boasts three large interior studios and two smaller ones, as well as a massive backlot, so there’s plenty of room to stick to the two metre rule.
Erinsborough’s social distancing and safety measures include temperature checks, new hygiene protocols and special officers running the sets to make sure rules are adhered to. In some cases, actors are being scheduled separately, but edited together to give the illusion of larger groups. Likewise, intimate or close contact scenes are being stitched together in post-production.
The soap seems to be leading the way and producers worldwide have been getting in touch with the Neighbours execs to find out how they are managing it.