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Podcast – Impact of COVID-19 on the Australian screen industry

Hear from a COVID safety supervisor, a producer and Screen Australia’s CEO about the ways the local screen industry has persevered in the midst of a global pandemic.

Crew gather around on the set of Five Bedrooms series 2. They are all spaced out from one another and wearing face masks.

On the set of Five Bedrooms series 2

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Every year, Screen Australia releases the Drama Report – a document that tracks production spend across both foreign and local feature films, television and online drama titles, and post, digital and visual effects.

In 2020, that report provides a means of understanding how COVID-19 has impacted the Australian screen industry. On the latest episode of the podcast, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason first breaks down some of the findings and top-level takeaways from the report (for more detailed information on the 2019/20 Drama Report click here).

“People are aware that our sector really came to a grinding halt,” Mason says. “But then we came back with unbelievable ingenuity and perseverance. From Neighbours, the perennial, leading the way and getting scripted back up and running, and then Five Bedrooms, and The Bureau of Magical Things going again in Queensland, to things produced in every state and territory at the moment: Royal Flying Doctors in Broken Hill, Aftertaste in Adelaide, we [even] had shows made during the lockdown, like Cancelled, [and then] winning awards around the world.”

According to the Drama Report findings, five general TV dramas that entered production in 2019/20 had their shoot interrupted due to COVID-19, with one of those being the second season of Five Bedrooms – the Network 10 series from Hoodlum Entertainment. COVID safety supervisor Philli Anderson, who has a background in stunts, talks through how the role came about, what it entailed and the measures they implemented to ensure Five Bedrooms could get back up and running under new industry-wide COVID Safe Protocols, while in Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne. Anderson was also a COVID safety supervisor on the online series Why Are You Like This, funded by ABC and Screen Australia, which had its March 2020 shoot halted when the pandemic hit. Producer Sarah Freeman also joins the podcast to talk through some of the unique challenges they had in filming the half-hour comedy series and her thoughts looking back on 2020.

For feedback about this episode, please email [email protected]

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast, I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. On this episode, the podcast, we're looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian screen industry. We're going to do that in a few ways. Firstly, we'll be joined by Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason, who's going to talk through the findings of the Drama Report. The Drama Report is the yearly report that tracks production spending across both foreign and local feature films, television and online drama titles, and post digital and visual effects. In a nutshell, the industry provides Screen Australia data, which the agency pulls together, and from that it tells us how much was spent across the last financial year. It's also worth noting that the way that the report works is that anything that began filming in 2019/2020 financial year, all of its expenditure is allocated to that year. So even if something is filmed across two years, its spend will be counted only in that first year. So Graeme Mason will join us to give an overview of the report and explain some of the numbers, and then we'll be joined by two other guests. So the first is Philli Anderson, whose background is as a stunt performer and assistant stunt coordinator, but who this year found herself in the entirely new role of COVID safety supervisor on series like Five Bedrooms and Why Are You Like This. Philli talks through what a COVID safety supervisor does and some of the measures that they implemented to ensure these projects could get back up and running safely. Also on the podcast is producer Sarah Freeman, who talks through some of the unique challenges in filming the comedy series Why You Like This and her thoughts looking back on 2020. As always, remember to subscribe to the podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes, where you can leave a rating and review. Any feedback send to [email protected] There's also our Screen Australia industry eNews, where we'll send you all the latest funding announcements, opportunities, videos and more. To start us off, here's Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason, talking through the big takeaways from the 2019/2020 Drama Report.

[00:02:23] Graeme Mason I think what's incredible to look at is, despite COVID-19's impact on the sector, this year, we still reached almost a billion dollars. So $991 million spent on drama production throughout Australia. It's down, and we do know that around 26 Australian scripted titles with budgets well in excess of $325 million were delayed. But there's still, as I said, almost a billion dollars of spending.

[00:02:49] Caris Bizzaca So let's drill down into some of the stats for each of the areas that the Drama Report looks at, because the Drama Report does look at television, both general and children's, online, features, foreign and PDV spend. So if we start with General TV first, what happened in in that area?

[00:03:09] Graeme Mason General TV is quite significantly down this year at $198 million across 20 television drama titles. It's down 39 percent. But again, I would point out that last year was a record year. This year, there's still an awful lot to celebrate. We have great titles like Mystery Road and Five Bedrooms season 2 getting made, getting out there. And, you know, a lot of those things still winning awards. So even though many people were postponed or delayed, there's part of the sector is showing its real talent and ingenuity.

[00:03:40] Caris Bizzaca And so that was general TV drama. What about children's television?

[00:03:46] Graeme Mason Children's television is obviously down this year, but again, with a qualifier that children's normally runs over a couple of years because that's how the points and quota system works. We do know we still had 12 children's dramas entering into production and quite a few titles, one kid's drama was interrupted and two postponed. But we still celebrate and recognise this part of our sector. It always has shows which are adored here and abroad, none more so than probably Bluey and Hardball indicate. But we look forward to working with children's producers, making extraordinary content, which is really loved here at home and abroad.

[00:04:26] Caris Bizzaca And so another area that is obviously in the Drama Report is online. Could you talk to online? What's happening there?

[00:04:35] Graeme Mason Online is a really interesting case this year. So you've got hours up, you've got an increase in spend. So really it's doing pretty healthy. What was fascinating, though, was again, you have projects made, getting finished, but also ones making the most of COVID. Cancelled, premiering on Facebook, having been made in isolation in Spain. You know, it goes on to get over two million views and wins awards everywhere.

[00:05:02] Caris Bizzaca And then there's obviously feature film. Can you talk to the feature film space?

[00:05:08] Graeme Mason Feature films in 19/20 are down some 36 percent on the year before at $205 million. We still had 19 titles commencing production. And we do know that there were eight features that had their shoots interrupted and nine, with budgets probably approaching $250 million or more that were postponed, pushing back. One thing to really comment on is we've had the number one film in the country with Rams recently and we've got an incredible line-up coming over the summer break with The Dry and Penguin Bloom, amongst many others. So there's a lot of great features to see.

[00:05:45] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, definitely. A lot in the pipeline, a lot coming out. And another part that the Drama Report focuses on is foreign and PDV spend. Could you talk to those two areas?

[00:05:59] Graeme Mason So both foreign and PDV were much less impacted than anyone else. So the spend here was a strong result at $447 million coming across some really great titles like Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings and Children of the Corn, which was at one point the only feature I'm aware of, shooting anywhere in the world.

[00:06:20] Caris Bizzaca Why do you think that local productions seem to have been impacted more significantly than foreign with, like you said, spend on foreign productions actually up 8 percent?

[00:06:32] Graeme Mason I think it's largely to do with volume and numbers and partly to do with the way we allocate data. So we put all the spend into the year the production commences, irrespective of whether it has been interrupted. But also I'd look at, that foreign things coming in often have a large budget. So therefore, if they started that number is still going to look really good. But there's fewer of those [compared] to local. So we know we had 26 local dramas that were delayed or postponed, pushed back. So therefore the numbers are going to look much worse for the domestic versus inbound.

[00:07:10] Caris Bizzaca So we've kind of drilled down into the different areas a little bit, but going a bit broad again. Do you have a sense of how many projects were interrupted by COVID-19? And how many were postponed?

[00:07:24] Graeme Mason I think as everyone's aware originally with COVID, pretty much our entire sector ground to a halt. Slowly, but surely, various parts of it got going again. But in our drama space that we're talking about here. We know that some 16 productions were interrupted across all the various mediums because of impacts of COVID. Eight of those being features and then in postponement, we understand some 26 Australian titles with budgets well in excess of $325 million were postponed and pushed out.

[00:07:57] Caris Bizzaca And when we talk about projects being impacted by COVID-19, what does that look like?

[00:08:08] Graeme Mason COVID-19 impacts productions and budgets substantially in just about every way you can imagine whether it be cast and crew not being available because there are other shoots that continued or they're on hold for things. Whether we can't get them across state borders or international borders. The additional costs of keeping everybody safe; from additional hair and makeup trucks; driving costs; the numbers of people out on sets; the fact that it's going to be slower, so you've got to extend the days. Just about everything you can think of has been affected.

[00:08:42] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, right. Everything and anything it seems like. And so COVID-19 happens, it is impacting the industry. What are then some of the ways that Screen Australia helped the industry respond to these challenges?

[00:08:58] Graeme Mason So Screen Australia, along with the federal government, state agencies and across the other people in the sector, we really tried to get to grips with what was the best thing to do for productions themselves, first, and then the sector as a whole. So we were part of the Australian Screen Sector Taskforce to develop the protocols, the industry safe guidelines. We also, with the Office of the Arts, our partner in Canberra, created an industry resource directory. We contributed more than a million dollars in emergency funding to Screen Australia projects that needed to shut down. Make sure that they shut down in the best way to protect the assets that they'd all been creating. We moved money from production and allocated instead into what we called premium plus, which was an accelerated development process to ensure that when people got going again, the projects were in the best possible space. We put more than $2 million dollars into that fund in a matter of weeks. We launched the COVID-19 Budget Support Fund, which is there to cover additional costs for greenlit projects - projects that were ready to go, suddenly to make sure they were implementing the COVID safety and risk assessment plans it was going to cost them more money. So we put cash aside. And to date I think we've provided over $6.5 million dollars to projects to get them working again and to get them back and back safely. And then lastly, we were pleased to be the vehicle that the federal government used for the Temporary Interruption Fund. And this is $50 million, which is there to provide assurance to funders and financiers that everything is going to be okay, that we can keep things going. So we, to date, have allocated money across 23 projects that have now resumed work using that facility.

[00:10:51] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, and for anyone listening, you can obviously find more information on those things on our website, screenaustralia.gov.au. But again, another broad question, you know, COVID-19 has obviously, from everything that you've said today, has obviously had a big impact on the sector. But are there any silver linings to 2020, what has been quite a challenging year for many people?

[00:11:20] Graeme Mason Many people know me as the glass half-full guy. But really, I think in this instance,  I'm justified. People are aware that our sector really came to a grinding halt. We had tumbleweeds in sets and locations. But then we came back with unbelievable ingenuity and perseverance. From Neighbours, the perennial, leading the way and getting scripted really back up and running. And then, Five Bedrooms; The Bureau of Magical Things, going again in Queensland; to things produced in every state and territory at the moment. Royal Flying Doctors in Broken Hill; Aftertaste in Adelaide. We had shows made during the lockdown like Cancelled, winning awards around the world. And that sense of collaboration and unification really shows on the two sides that this report is talking about: local, working at how we can make things here. And then because we had done so well and really we're a shining light to the rest of the world, we had so many shows trying to come down here. Sometimes it's just a big Hollywood [film], like Marvel coming back again into the Fox Studios where they're working back to back. NBCU, doing three back to backs in Queensland. But it would be remiss of me not to note Australians like Nicole Kidman and Bruna Papandrea bringing down Nine Perfect Strangers to go in the Northern Rivers. And all of this is possible, this collaboration, because how we are supported here and how we work together. And at that point, I'd really like to note, the federal government support not just through us and for all the things that we've been doing here, and the TIF fund, but as well, the top ups that went to the location offset adding to that sector's appeal and possibility. So in closing, really, I think I'd want to say what extraordinary work Australians have done in our sector to keep making great content, which is really already loved and honoured here at home and abroad. We're going to have a lot more of it in 2021.

[00:13:26] Caris Bizzaca One of those series that you can expect to see in 2021 is season two of five bedrooms, the popular Network ten series from Hoodlum Entertainment. It was one of the series that was forced to halt production when COVID-19 hit. And when that happened, Philli Anderson was brought on as COVID safety supervisor to work with producer Andy Walker and line producer Ben Grogan and help get the series get back to filming safely under the new COVID safe guidelines introduced by the industry. He's Philli talking about how her role as COVID safety supervisor came about.

[00:14:02] Philli Anderson That wasn't really a job until COVID hit, I guess. And I normally work in the stunt department and it just so happened that sort of where I am in that ladder of things is going through the safety process. I qualified as a safety supervisor maybe three years ago, and I just got a call out of the blue seeing if I would be interested to do it.

[00:14:25] Caris Bizzaca Yeah. And so what does the job entail?

[00:14:29] Philli Anderson I think every show is different, the way that they've set up and the way that they structure their COVID management plan. We were in Victoria, there were increasing numbers a day, and as we were shooting. So my job on Five Bedrooms was pretty full on. I think every day there was a new challenge. I got to work very closely with the wonderful Andy Walker and the wonderful Ben Grogan, who really were on my side, and that made a massive difference. We were dealing with increasing cases. We were dealing with local lockdowns. We were dealing with border closures. So every day was a new challenge, really, which kept it interesting, that's for sure.

[00:15:11] Caris Bizzaca And how is Five Bedrooms impacted when you came on board?

[00:15:17] Philli Anderson I wasn't involved in Five Bedrooms until COVID, so I came on as a completely new role. It was already set up, ready to go. It got shut down as COVID hit. So when it restarted, we sort of had a pre production without any preproduction time. Everybody jumped on board and everybody was great in getting it up and running and making sure that we had the appropriate protocols and we could keep everybody safe. And in fact, effectively, that process continued throughout the shoot because we lost locations as they came into COVID hotspots. And there were a lot of people that were concerned about us being present at certain locations. So as we were shooting, we were sort of going through the preproduction process. And I think everybody on that crew and everybody involved in the set up was on board. And we just rolled with it. And I think that's what the film industry are very good at doing. We're very adaptable. And that's what happened.

[00:16:17] Caris Bizzaca And what time of year was this, do you remember?

[00:16:21] Philli Anderson Sort of June/July time. So when we started shooting in Victoria, we'd come out of the first lockdown and we went into second lockdown and into stage 4 restrictions as we were shooting. So as we were shooting every day, there were new restrictions added. Every day we watched the local presser, as we like to call it, around 11 o'clock to find out how it was going to impact us, sort of with immediate effect. And by the end of the shoot, you weren't allowed to travel more than five kilometres from your house, you had to have a permit to leave home and it was all going a bit crazy.

[00:16:56] Caris Bizzaca So then what are some of the measures that you implemented, whether it was, you know, deep cleaning, PPE gear, did scripts need to be rewritten for some scenes, things like that?

[00:17:09] Philli Anderson Absolutely they did. So the producers went through the scripts. We were quite heavily restricted on numbers in rooms and on departmental crossovers. During our shoot time, as I said, the numbers were going up. We had people coming from all over Melbourne to join together. So we really tried to protect the shoot by trying to keep people apart as much as we possibly could. Obviously, departmental working means that you have to work close together, but we really tried to segregate those departments. That was also dictated a lot by the nature of the locations we had. The hero house for Five Bedrooms is a regular house. We had restrictions on room numbers in there quite heavily. When we had children on, we were very, very heavily restricted by child welfare regulations. Masks actually became easier as we were shooting. Initially, we wore masks to keep each other safe. And then as we were shooting, it became a government regulation that they had to be worn at all times. So I guess everything just adapted on the run. And everybody, the cast, the crew, we just dealt with it day by day, really.

[00:18:23] Caris Bizzaca Yeah. And did you find in terms of the response from the cast and crew that everyone was proactive about these changes?

[00:18:33] Philli Anderson Everybody embraced the changes. Obviously, people have been working for a lot of time in a certain way. And due to the nature of the environment, we were shooting five bedrooms. We really changed that up to make sure that we could keep each other safe and to make sure that we prevented it, COVID from hitting as it was all around us. It literally, it felt like a safety net that was sort of enclosing in on us every single day. But everybody was great and everybody really wanted to keep each other safe. I think the human element of it was a real factor. It's a real family sort of environment. While we were shooting, everybody knew that they were going, at the end of the day, back to their families. Nobody wanted to be the ones that either brought the infection to set or then took it home to their family. So everybody pulled together. It was really, really great.

[00:19:24] Caris Bizzaca And you talked about separating the different departments. Could you talk through that a bit more? So maybe like an example of, you know, if you arrived at a location, what would happen?

[00:19:38] Philli Anderson So on Five Bedrooms, we had on crew and offset crew quite clearly. We were location by show, so each day we changed locations pretty much. There would be a cleaning process that happened once we took over the location. Then the art department would go and dress it. There would be a high touch clean. Then crew would go in and shoot for the day and then the reverse would happen at the end of the day. So we really segregated the onset crew and then the offset crew. Then in addition, when we were on set, because we were so heavily restricted by numbers of people we could have in the room, we worked very independently. The grips and the electrics made what we call the supergroup. Other than that, art department were separate. They would work, they would leave the set. Grips and electrics, the supergroup would go in, they would leave the set. We would have director to set. And really the order of events was determined by the nature of the scene and what had to happen to get it going.

[00:20:40] Caris Bizzaca And with say, like the actors, was there more onus on them in some ways with say like props, or needing to have more responsibility over things like that on the set?

[00:20:53] Philli Anderson The actors absolutely had to step up and and take more onus for everything, I think really. While we were shooting Five Bedrooms, there was a certain amount of uncertainty around. I think now we're in November, there's a lot more clarity on what this virus is and how it affects people. But in June and July, there really wasn't that. So the actors were very conscious that they wanted to keep themselves safe. They wanted to look after everybody. As soon as the cameras were cut, we split apart. But we can't keep 1.5 metres away on camera. That just wouldn't work for our industry. Obviously, they're working without masks. So there were sort of quite vulnerable, I guess, and they were aware of that. So they were more than happy to step up and to play their part as well.

[00:21:41] Caris Bizzaca And then what was the outcome for Five Bedrooms?

[00:21:45] Philli Anderson We shot during stage four lockdown, which was pretty crazy. And I think probably at the time we underestimated what that meant. There weren't very many industries that were allowed to continue and we were because of the protocols that we had in place. And that wasn't me necessarily putting those protocols in place. That was a whole team of people. And to get through that shoot and to pull together, I think everybody is very proud of what we did. And people are still talking about it in November, even though now the climate in Victoria is very different. Yet people are still talking about how we got through that shoot.

[00:22:25] Caris Bizzaca And you're also COVID supervisor on Why Are You Like This. How is that project different?

[00:22:34] Philli Anderson I think every project is different. Every project is set up different depending on what they're shooting. With both Five Bedrooms and Why Are You Like This, the added challenge was that they weren't set up for COVID because their preproduction anird the beginning of the shoot was before we even knew that COVID existed. So each show has its own challenges, depending on the venues, depending on the scripts, and all of them can be screened. But essentially you still have to make the show. So Why Are You Like This was challenging in that we couldn't separate the departments quite as much, due to the nature - that's a very fast-paced comedy style show. So that was set up in a different way. They had sort of different worker bubbles effectively, which then would have different implications if there was a case. However, when we were doing Why ARe You Like This, the case numbers were much, much lower than they were during Five Bedrooms. And I think as you approach COVID for every production, you have to look at what's happening in the wider world and you have to draw upon that to create the plan for the show.

[00:23:44] Caris Bizzaca And I suppose where are you at now? Are you back in stunt land or are you still working as a COVID supervisor?

[00:23:54] Philli Anderson I am most definitely back in stunt land. I think being a COVID supervisor actually made me look at the industry a little bit differently. And it definitely has taught me a lot about people and about the industry. But I'm very happy now back in stuntland. However, everybody's talking that's involved in COVID or has been involved in COVID. And I think it's really important that we support each other because the only way we can get through it, I think, is if we all talk and talk about what we did, the climate now, what we're doing and how we can make it better and practical in terms of filming, but also keeping everybody safe.

[00:24:35] Caris Bizzaca As Philli mentioned, another project she was involved with was Why Are You Like This, a half hour comedy funded by ABC and Screen Australia, which came through the Fresh Blood programme in 2018 and went on to series in 2020. They began production in March 2020, just as the pandemic was growing in numbers in Australia. Producer Sarah Freeman remembers there being new restrictions every day. And then they began to lose locations, than cast and some crew. The team were adapting as they went, bringing in more safety measures until, like other productions, they had to halt completely. Here's producer Sarah Freeman with more:

[00:25:15] Sarah Freeman So we stood down production in mid-March due to the pandemic. And so there was four and a half months where cast and crew weren't working. And we got the production back up and running in the end of July, start of August to shoot through the state of disaster.

[00:25:31] Caris Bizzaca And so how was why you like this impacted during 2020 when COVID-19 hit?

[00:25:38] Sarah Freeman That was a massive impact financially and with the schedule as well, with COVID. So we had support to work through those costs. A lot of PPE, a lot of extra crew, to keep everyone separated and supported. Extra cleaners, you have to deep clean every place you go into. There's so many additional COVID costings involved. But I think the the hardest thing about it is the time you lose. I feel like maybe you lose two hours a day to COVID protocols in your schedule. So it's whether you're absorbing that into your existing schedule or whether you can build out that extra time is is definitely, I think, the hardest thing to navigate.

[00:26:22] Caris Bizzaca And so work with some of the measures that you implemented in order to be able to get back into production for Why Are You Like This.

[00:26:32] Sarah Freeman So in the four months we were stood down, we were working towards obviously getting the production back up and running. So that meant getting our production COVID officer on board Philli Anderson, to help us, as well as our new COVID risk mitigation plan. So it really was reworking how you shoot in terms of separating all the cast and crew into different pods so that contact tracing, you could keep people a bit more separate. Because we were halfway through production and we were shooting in one block, it meant we were halfway through every episode of our series. So we couldn't really rewrite anything. And we also couldn't really afford to change our locations around. So we really had to work COVID into our existing schedule and location. So that was a bit of a challenge where you lose a bit of time, obviously putting in the safety measures that you need to, to keep everyone safe. So it really did change the way that we shot and how much time we had to shoot. I think that it would be much easier starting a production from scratch or a block from scratch, where you could rewrite scripts or change locations or build your shoot around your COVID protocols. But being partway through, we had to sort of reverse engineer it and fit it all in which is always hard.

[00:27:55] Caris Bizzaca Right. So you were like bound to your locations that you had originally had pre-COVID?

[00:28:05] Sarah Freeman With our locations specifically, I suppose a lot of it was... I mean, we did have to change a few locations for COVID, but we couldn't rechange everything. And also, like, for example, we had a whole script that was about being in a nightclub. So we really did have to rework how many people you would have in the club and where you would put people and how you would separate your pods out, and the size of the club, luckily, could facilitate those numbers in that space. But the whole episode, like the start and the end, was still based around going to this club. So we couldn't really change that at all. So there was a lot of those - same with cafes - a lot of internal locations that I think people would be avoiding just to make it a bit easier. I think the nature of Why Are You Like This, it's young people in their early 20s. They're out and about in the city, they're at cafes, at nightclubs, drag clubs, in cars. I think the nature of the show is full of people and full of life and being a comedy and being a fast-paced one, it is hard when you have those numbers. So we definitely had to rejig extras numbers and figure out where we could move things around. But I think if you had a slower-paced drama with probably a little less action, it would probably be a lot easier with COVID protocols.

[00:29:36] Caris Bizzaca And when you said pods before, what did you mean by pods?

[00:29:42] Sarah Freeman So the pod system is what a lot of productions have been doing, and luckily we weren't the very first one off the bat, so we were asking a lot of questions and seeing how everyone else was splitting up everyone. But essentially, with our pod system our departments were in separate pods, so that meant we had to get a new production office that was much larger, where we could separate everybody else out. You sat with your pods at lunch. You didn't interact with other pods. It changed the nature of how you make television, where it's so collaborative and you normally do your best work when you all kind of cross over and know what everyone else is up to. But it was the way that we kept everyone of the safest I think. There's definitely different ways to split up pods. I know some people are doing on set pods and off-set pods, which I think would probably be a lot easier if you can work with your numbers and your specific production. But for us and shooting, with the case numbers as they were in Victoria at the time, it was probably the best solution for us.

[00:30:49] Caris Bizzaca And so then what is the the outcome? You've wrapped filming. How is it at this point?

[00:30:58] Sarah Freeman So we wrapped our nine shoot days, which was really great and such a relief to get through it safely. And now we are in post-production, which has been just so much easier, and we're just about to deliver the show next week.

[00:31:13] Caris Bizzaca Fantastic. And if you kind of looking back then at this experience, what are some of your takeaways?

[00:31:21] Sarah Freeman As stressful as shutting down a shoot and getting it back up and running and working with COVID protocols was, there was so much support going around from all the cast and crew, everyone who was happy to get back to work, but also everyone was very keen to do it safely. The other thing that I found was all the productions were all in communication with one another, seeing what everyone else was doing, how they were managing it, supporting each other that way. It made it so much easier to figure out how to get the show back up and running when you could speak with other productions and see how they were doing it as well, to make sure you knew what you were doing was right for production, but also that you had all the information and all the pros and cons that had been working for other people.

[00:32:09] Caris Bizzaca And do you have any advice then for other producers? I mean, it's a different situation for them, obviously, because, like you said, you were in the midst of production when you had to stop. But do you have any advice for other producers that maybe are going through having to build a COVID plan and things like that?

[00:32:27] Sarah Freeman Yeah, I think finding a COVID officer and getting across the scripts early would be the best thing you could do for your production. To know what are the things you could work around and what are the things you really need. And for the things you really need, how you can execute them safely, I think would be the biggest thing, as well as figuring out locations that work for you creatively, but also can support you within the COVID protocols.

[00:32:54] Caris Bizzaca And I mean, how do you feel kind of personally now that your, you know, like you said in a post about to deliver? Looking back, how are you feeling about it?

[00:33:05] Sarah Freeman I am just so happy we are at the end of this year and that I've gotten through this shoot and that we're all safe and so happy with the show we've made. I am glad I could just take a bit of a break from production for a little while as I go through the rest of delivery and then some development for other projects. But I think now the Victorian productions and also all the Victorian cast and crew, I think everyone is just so relieved we can be going back to work and doing it safely at the same time. So it's nice to have that support between everyone really. Like it's coming from cast and crew and extras and production companies and networks and everyone. It's a nice spirit to be in going into next year, I think.

[00:33:57] Caris Bizzaca Thanks to Sarah Freeman, Philli Anderson and Graeme Mason for joining the podcast. For more information on the Drama Report, click the link in the show notes and to keep up to date with new initiatives or opportunities, remember to subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter. Thanks for listening.