TBI Weekly: Gunning for a global return to production

Van Helsing

Shows around the world that had been put on hold because of Covid-19 are resuming production, as companies and broadcasters begin to get to grips with new protocols and workarounds. Here are six takeaways from the past week that point to a brighter future.

Great white hope

Scripted production might still be off the cards for large swathes of the US, but north of the border, the cameras have started rolling again. News this week that Nomadic Pictures and Dynamic Television had re-started production on the fifth and final season of Netflix and Syfy thriller Van Helsing prompted an enthusiastic reception from execs, with the show now set to complete filming for the final 10 episodes of its 13-part run in two British Columbia (BC) locations, namely Vancouver and Kamloops. The first three eps were filmed on-location in Slovakia in January and February, before production was shut down on 15 March. Michael Frislev, exec producer and co-chairman of Canada-based Nomadic, underlined the fact that this was no overnight decision, highlighting that restart plans and PPE collections had begun shortly after shut-down.

Tyler Perry’s bubble survives

That foresight is also apparent in reports that Tyler Perry’s production plans remain on track. Way back in April, Perry was among the first to outline a strategy to quarantine casts and crew to ensure shows could return to filming, and it appears the strategy is working with BET drama Sistas several weeks into production, according to US trade Deadline. On-screen stars and production crew were flown into Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios in the first few weeks of July, with those involved undergoing regular Covid-19 testing. The hope is that Sistas will complete in a week or so, then allowing fellow BET drama The Oval to move into production.

The Great British Bake-Off

UK bakes again but insurance saga continues

Things are less rosy on the other side of the pond, where this week politicians said the UK government “must address the urgent need for the UK’s cultural industries to be covered by adequate insurance” – without which attempts to return to production “are doomed to failure.” The select committee, made up of a group of politicians who explored the work of the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), was scathing of government efforts to date, urging the creation of a “short-term fund” to cover potential Covid-19 losses, which could also be supported by the industry. Despite the ongoing saga – which has prompted concerns that the country might get left behind – UK producers are working around the restrictions, particularly on the unscripted side, with shows such as The Great British Bake Off set to return to screens later this year after a quarantined production set-up was implemented.

Death In Paradise

The sun shines once more in paradise

One of the UK’s biggest joint exports, meanwhile, has started cameras rolling again, with the sun-kissed BBC One-France 2 crime series Death In Paradise restarting production this week on its landmark tenth season in Guadeloupe. It will be an important season for the global hit as it celebrates a decade on the air in 2021 and welcomes back a popular cast member in a surprise return. Production company Red Planet Pictures says it is putting the health and safety of its cast and crew first and has been working with the BBC, industry bodies and other prodcos to ensure safety measures such as social distancing, face coverings and Covid-19 testing are in place. Red Planet’s joint MD Alex Jones said “extremely grateful” to everyone who helped get the production up and running again “not least the people of Deshaies and the region of Guadeloupe for their assistance.”

Broadcasters adapt formats…

US broadcaster CBS made headlines a couple of weeks back when it was forced to rejig its schedule, confirming that attempts to deliver the 41st season of Banijay’s Survivor format – due to be filmed in Fiji – for the fall had been unsuccessful. Better news, however, this week, with reports emerging that CBS is in pre-production of the second season of Love Island, with filming of the ITV Studios-owned format set to take place in Las Vegas hotel The Cromwell. Quarantine procedures will again be put into place, although it is unclear how social distancing protocols would be adhered to on a show premised in close contact. CBS is yet to comment.

… and welcome back audiences

Comedy might be in high demand from viewers looking for light relief but for those delivering the funnies, there have been few laughs over recent months. Restrictions have meant most comedy clubs have shut their doors, but UK broadcasters the BBC and ITV both unveiled plans this week to support comedians and bring audience members back into studios. BBC Presents: Stand Up For Live Comedy will imminently start filming in six cities across the UK, while the Jonathan Ross’ Comedy Club will also shoot this summer. The latter, from Ross’ prodco Hotsauce, will also bring comedians back into shouting distance of their audience, all within a Covid-safe environment.

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