After months of gathering dust, Australian television and film sets are getting a proper cleaning as production slowly ramps up again after COVID-19 delays.
And while the arts industry is on track to receive a $250 million lifeline from the government, the handout pales in comparison to the $500 million loss it has incurred during the pandemic.
Following last month’s release of Screen Australia’s extensive and detailed COVID-19 safety guidelines, it seems some programs are getting ready to return – but it won’t be business as usual.
The Bachelor has resumed production at its Sydney mansion, but when the series finally airs, viewers will be able to watch contestants limp through a series of e-dates and video dinners.
Across the industry, guidelines limit the interactions cast and crew can have on set and lays out mandatory practices for close interactions, like hair and make-up.
“The pandemic is temporarily taking away a lot of the perks for actors who are encouraged to dress themselves, do their own hair and make-up, including touchups and make-up removal, and perform their own set checks, where possible,” the guidelines read.
“Hair and make-up should be reserved for feature cast, if practicable. All crew members in proximity of the cast are required to wear PPE.”
Long-running Australian soap Neighbours was already way ahead of the pack and was one of the first TV programs in the world to resume filming in mid-April.
Jason Herbison, executive producer for Neighbours, said production was quick to resume with social distancing measures put in place to “adjust the scripts and reimagine the production model” of this season.
“With every decision, our first objective has been to adhere to the government guidelines and protect health and safety,” Mr Herbison told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Secondly, our goal has been to preserve the editorial of the show.”
According to ViacomCBS Australia and New Zealand’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey, 2019’s break-out show, The Masked Singer, is expected to start filming in the next month or two.
Ms McGarvey told News.com.au that viewers will see some inevitable changes this season, but to expect “some very exciting celebrities”.
“Everyone’s come home to hunker down,” Ms McGarvey said.
“The main thing is, we’re committed to making the show and we will definitely have to do things differently. The Masked Singer won’t look like it did last year. It couldn’t possibly, but we might find some ways to do things a bit better than we did last year.
“If there was ever a show made for lockdown, it was this. People are in masks anyway,” she said.
Ms McGarvey also stated that we can probably forget about the exotic South African scenery in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!
International travel restrictions might see this year’s season swap the tropical creepy crawlies for kangaroos if it makes its home in the Australian outback.
“We love our South African site. The jungle is kind of a character in the show, but we just don’t know if that’s possible or realistic, so we’re just looking at a range of options,” Ms McGarvey said.
But you might have a while to wait before you see the return of some of the other Aussie favourites.
Meanwhile, fans who are eagerly anticipating the return of The Real Housewives of Melbourne have received the frustrating news that the series has been put on hold again.
The show’s fourth season wrapped up all the way back in February 2018, and according to star Janet Roach, the series won’t resume filming until 2021.
“Foxtel have decided that they’re not going to start again until January,” the 61-year-old said on Ticker TV’s Jumpstart.
The good news is, the delay might see the return of psychic and fan favourite, Jackie Gillies, who took a hiatus this season to focus on IVF with husband Ben.
“She’ll be back for the next one – she might be back for this one,” Roach said.