The local screen production sector is kicking back into action this week, with newly issued ScreenSafe guidelines ensuring the health and safety of all cast and crew.
When COVID-19 hit New Zealand’s shores and the country entered lockdown (Alert Level 4) 75-80% of NZ On Air funded productions came to a necessary halt. However, Aotearoa’s creative community is nothing if not innovative. Many productions like Mukpuddy’s animated Tumeke Space, Greenstone’s Go Further South and Notable Pictures’ SIX60: Till The Lights Go Out embraced new ways of working to keep production flowing.
This ‘No.8 wire’ style thinking was adopted by many creatives and production companies, who are celebrating their quick and safe return to production this week, thanks to careful planning.
Production has resumed on documentaries spread wide across the regions. In Christchurch, the cast and crew of Demolition NZ have noticed surprisingly little change in their ways of filming. “You’ve got to keep distance on these sites anyway, so we got the talent to install Go Pros in the diggers themselves and fit their own radio mics,” said producer Jeff Hampton. Extra precautions are being taken, with the crew maintaining social distancing and diggers being thoroughly sanitized.
In Hawkes Bay, filming has resumed on The Barber 2. Producer Kathleen Mantel says the impact COVID-19 has had on the series has been quite personal. “It’s hard when you are making a very personal documentary not to hug people, but we didn’t.” The cast and crew are well stocked with personal protective equipment and have taken care to keep strict contact tracing records.
Production resumed this week on new content for tamariki, with HEIHEI series Young Riders filming again and post-production safely completed on K-Pop. The crew of Young Riders are “loving being back out in the field,” says producer Kylie Croft. “Thankfully, our risk assessment always had a degree of room around the horses (no-one wants a hoof kick!) so it hasn’t been too much of a stretch to apply that to people as well!”
Large-scale drama Westside and popular comedy Wellington Paranormal have also returned to work, not only keeping many creatives in the local production community employed but also keeping great local content in the pipeline for eager New Zealand audiences. “We’re cleaning our surfaces, hand-sanitising and tracking our movements with paranormal fervor,” says Paul Yates, producer of Wellington Paranormal.
“New Zealand’s screen production industry has been hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19, but is emerging strong,” says NZ On Air CEO Cameron Harland.
“With New Zealand productions being some of the first in the world to return to work, we’re proud of the resilience our industry has shown in both their efforts to return to work, and their devotion to the health and wellbeing of all cast and crew. Now is a great time for local productions – both local and international markets are going to be hungry for engaging stories,” he continued.