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Coronavirus + The UK Film & TV Industry

For those of us behind the scenes or on-screen, film sets have been in lockdown just like everywhere else and the industry came to a holt. It was hard to imagine what a Film or TV set might look like operating with COVID-19 guidelines, but slowly, productions are reopening including Actors Studio and we have implemented new ways of working in accordance to government guidelines and advice from the British Film Institute. 

As a company that continues to support actors from around the world, we thought it was important that our training adapts to the current climate and gives professional and actors-in-training a realistic insight into how sets are now operating to maintain high levels of safety. The new measures run deeply through each department, covering everything from social distancing and personal hygiene to travel, catering, stunts, hair and makeup. Here at our base Pinewood Studios, shoots such as Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Warner Bros’ The Batman have returned to filming in full force, which is  a real testimony to the buoyancy of this industry. 

BBC/Getty

 

Throughout lockdown the world has been fed from the arts by consuming on-demand entertainment, with platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime seeing record view times. Disney’s Spring blockbuster ‘Artemis Fowl’ became the largest and most high-profile digital release to date when it was added to streaming platform Disney+. Meanwhile, Television Broadcasters had run out of programmes to schedule and are racing to source new content from production companies. You know it’s a crisis when both Coronation Street and EastEnders are forced to stop production. We’re looking forward to welcoming EastEnders director Richard Lynn on our upcoming 5 Day Screen Acting Course, where he will introduce new ways of working with actors and showcase how the UK soaps are adapting. Essentially, TV production faces the same challenges as being on a film set. It’s a collaborative business and involves lots of people working together in close quarters, which sadly is just what viruses love. The demand for the arts has never been so great and this means there’s the potential for a boom in careers in-front and behind the camera! With all the Zoom and home-shot footage on our TV screens lately it’s a reminder of why we need well-trained, talented professionals on and behind the screens.

 

Auditions

With the TV, film and commercials restarting, auditions have been picking up, with casting directors reporting that shorter, smaller productions are the first to cast with confidence. For drama, Soaps are filming again and plans are in place to restart high-end dramas. In reality, getting back onset is slow, with EastEnders cutting 10 minutes of its runtime so it won’t be a busy time for castings just yet. In the meantime, it’s a great opportunity to make sure your home setup is audition ready.

Recording good quality audio and video at home has never been more important, as the amount of digital castings testifies. If you’ve got equipment, including a modern smart phone then now is the time to make use of it. If you need any support, check out my guide on setting up your home studio and and how to self tape correctly:

A Guide to Self-Taping (While you Self-Isolate)

The Impact On Set

As each production returns to filming, there are a number of changes made that impact on both the physicality of scenes as well as logistics. The major being social distancing to reduce the risk of spread. Directors in TV and Film are discovering new ways of blocking a scene and placing the camera without impacting on the viewing experience, while other directors along with their writers are representing the world as it stands in their storylines. The UK’s major broadcasters have joined forces to issue guidelines on how to get production going again. They involve actors doing their own makeup and staggered lunch breaks, where everyone has to bring their own utensils. Outdoor filming is preferred, the emphasis is smaller crews, and stars accustomed to being driven to locations may now have to drive themselves. 

At Actors Studio we have undertaken a risk assessment for all filming and training activities in accordance with government guidance and safety protocol written by the British Film Commission which can be downloaded here: http://britishfilmcommission.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/British-Film-Commission-Working-Safely-During-COVID-19-in-Film-and-High-end-TV-Drama-Production-V.2.4-13-08-20.pdf

Additionally there remains a lot of unanswered questions that will only be told with time as we continue to adapt. Will older actors be affected by the guidance? Will actors generally be happy doing their own makeup and to what extent? Will there be a demand for extras or are crowd scenes set to be replaced by CGI?

Perhaps the critical element is that for whatever problems TV or Film faces, demand is not one of them. And for that reason the industry will continue to figure out ways of making it work. And in doing so, it could unleash a new wave of technical and creative innovation. In the meantime, complete this free online course to understand the best practice of keeping safe while you’re on set: https://practicesafesets.co/certificate/

Here at Actors Studio we’re excited to have our doors open again with the world renowned Masterclass in Screen Acting now available to book for October and throughout 2021. We continue to provide online courses with leading coaches such as Mel Churcher for those who are unable to visit us. For those  who are fortunate enough, you will have the advantage of refunding or discovering your skillset first hand at the forefront of the film industry in Pinewood Studios. 

Take a look at the latest 007 ‘No Time To Die’ trailer, which finished filming here at the studios earlier this year. 

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