Green screens and social distancing - TV industry publishes guidelines to resume filming

ITV's Isolation StoriesImage source, ITV
Image caption,
ITV's Isolation Stories was one of the few dramas to be filmed under lockdown

Actors will have to stand 2m apart and film in front of green screens more often when TV shows resume, according to new guidance.

The measures form part of a back-to-work blueprint issued by the UK's biggest broadcasters on Monday.

They have been adopted by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky to protect actors and crews during the pandemic.

It is hoped that soaps including EastEnders and Coronation Street will start filming again in June.

William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in Corrie, told BBC Radio Derby on Monday that cast members had been told filming should re-start in mid-June.

"They've said it's all going to be very, very different," he said. "Scenes will be about the lockdown, so people will be isolating. Scenes will be shot more simply with less people.

"Obviously cameras and booms will be placed where there's the required distance. So it's all going to be very, very different when we do get back."

However, Roache, 88, added that older residents of the street would not return immediately for health reasons.

"Senior members of the cast will not be called back for some time, sadly. I'd like to get back," he said.

DIY make-up and fewer stunts

Among the measures recommended in the 15-page guidelines are:

  • Delivering scripts earlier, to help plan a safe work environment on set
  • Changing scripts and scenes to enable social distancing
  • Requiring actors to pick up their own costumes, to avoid direct contact
  • Asking actors and presenters to put on their own make-up and microphones
  • Using green screens - which allow actors to be in front of different backgrounds - to minimise the number of people on set
  • Prioritising outdoor filming over confined spaces
  • Using floor markings to mark 2m distances
  • Using local film crews to minimise the need for travel

The guidelines also urge caution over high-risk scenarios involving stunts or special effects, saying producers should consider the "potential demands on emergency services".

Mental health is also addressed, with producers advised to schedule down-time, along with access to support.

Although some TV shows have continued to film during the lockdown, most major productions have been shut down.

'A significant step'

Last week, the BBC said production would restart on Top Gear and EastEnders by the end of June, while plans are also being drawn up to resume shoots on other independently-produced shows.

"We can only move forward with the right safety measures in place," said BBC director general Tony Hall. "This guidance is an attempt to get that right."

ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall said: "ITV has been at the heart of informing, entertaining and connecting the UK through the Covid-19 crisis.

"Our production teams are now working hard to bring many more much loved shows back for viewers."

The new guidelines were welcomed by the government, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling them "a significant step forward in getting our favourite shows back into production".

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