Borders still a concern for producers as states scrap hotel quarantine

Hotel quarantine has been removed in NSW and Victoria.

While the removal of mandatory hotel quarantine in parts of the country is welcome, producers remain wary of state border closures and crew shortages on the road to sector recovery.

As of this month, fully vaccinated international travellers arriving in NSW or Victoria are no longer required to complete 14 days of isolation prior to entering the community.

For Ambience Entertainment’s Michael Boughen, the move needs to be accompanied by greater consistency in other facets of COVID policy.

The Sydney-based producer of upcoming Netflix action film Interceptor described quarantine as “one part of a complex puzzle”.

“More clarity is needed around state [policies] and the knee-jerk reactions to closing borders and restricting movement before there‚Äôs a serious positive outcome,” he said.

Michael Boughen

“Two Ambience productions, and we are not unique, have been badly impacted by snap border closures forcing re-casting and re-crewing, often only hours before people were due to travel, even though they had had COVID tests and returned negative results.

“The chaos created and cost to production was horrendous and until this stops, it’s going to continue to be challenging.”

Queensland producer Steve Jaggi was also forced into making multiple changes to the cast and crew as a result of COVID policy.

Jaggi has kept cameras rolling throughout the pandemic, shooting Network 10/Netflix series Dive Club in Port Douglas, as well as feature films KidnappedSit. Stay. Love, Romance on the Menu, Love in Bloom and You, Me and the Penguins.

Jaggi told IF that the mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas travellers had proved a deterrent for potential international cast members “on numerous occasions”.

“The impact was significant, both cost-wise and also psychologically,” he said.

“Whilst we recognise that it was necessary – and for the record we supported hotel quarantine to ensure production to continue in Queensland – there were significant cost repercussions when importing multiple artists, as we did on our series Dive Club.”

‘Love in Bloom’.

“Furthermore, with Queensland being oversaturated with overseas productions there was, and continues to be, a severe crew shortage, and even when we offered to cover the costs associated with quarantine, many interstate crew would turn us down.”

However, like Boughen, he said snap lockdowns had so far proven tougher to navigate.

“The greatest challenge for us was the impromptu border closures, which caused panic on numerous occasions,” he said.

“On one production, the borders closed without any warning less than a week before principal, which meant we had to re-cast the lead and several supporting roles with mere days before cameras rolled.”

Queensland reached its 70 per cent vaccination target on November 14, meaning that domestic travellers that are not arriving from a hotspot are no longer required to isolate for 14 days.

From December 17, or when 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, international travellers arriving in the state will no longer be required to complete quarantine in a hotel.

Jaggi did not expect the move to have an immediate impact on the industry.

“I think there has been a great deal of damage to ‘brand Australia’ which will take a while to repair,” he said.

“Canada has recently re-opened, as have other territories – there is a great deal of uncertainty as to whether Australia will stay open when cases inevitably rise; there is also the issue of crew availability and general industry burnout.”