Camera operator Toby Hogan and Arnie Custo on location.

Veteran Home and Away director Arnie Custo and series producer Lucy Addario describe how cast and crew are adapting to the COVID-safe guidelines.

Plus, Custo’s tips for emerging directors. First up are the responses from the director who has been with the Seven Network show since 2013.

Q: How are you, the cast and fellow crew members adjusting to the new health and safety protocols?

A:Very well all things considered. We have great nurses and safety officers keeping us vigilant and the crew are doing a fabulous job getting the job done whilst maintaining distance from each other. The cast have been wonderful as well and very understanding of any changes we make in terms of blocking scenes to keep distance.

Q: I imagine it may be difficult to stop some reflexive actions like touching colleagues or props?

A: Incredibly so, day one on set I grabbed a pair of boxing gloves that were props and was immediately called out by our standby props master. Rightly so. The personal space issue isn’t so hard to maintain as we have all been living it for the last few months.

Q: You have been with the show for seven years?

A: I directed my first episodes in 2013 and enjoyed the experience so much that I never left. It is an amazingly fun show to work on and the cast and crew really are special. There is a real sense of family. Plus I have been fortunate enough to travel all over Australia with the show which has brought great challenges and allowed me to push the limits.

Lucy Addario with Sophie Dillman and Sarah Roberts.

Q: Your CV includes episodes of Wild Boys, Rescue Special Ops, McLeod’s Daughters, Stingers and Around the Twist. You enjoyed working across a range of genres?

A: I have always loved a challenge and scale. I thrive on large set pieces, action and then the joys of helping get a moving performance. I am one of those lucky individuals who truly loves his job. I couldn’t think of anything else I would rather do. I simply love telling stories.

Q: What advice would you give to emerging directors?

A: Learn all aspects of the craft. I am constantly amazed by young directors who can work on the story, talk knowledgeably with the cast but have absolutely no idea about how to cover a scene and leave it up to the poor DOP, and then contribute very little in the edit.

The second piece of advice would be: Never say die. Bite off more than you can chew, then chew like crazy!

Emily Symons, Ray Meagher and Lukas Radovich on set.

And now from Lucy Addario.

Q: The cast and crew were consulted on the protocols?

A: We worked very closely on the return to filming protocols with the cast and crew and it is an ongoing process. As restrictions and government advice evolves, so do our filming protocols. It is a very collaborative process and our top priority, before a camera even starts to roll in the morning, is ensuring the health and welfare of every single person who works on our production.

With an ensemble cast and large crew, it’s also really important to us that there are ongoing clear lines of communication and everyone is aware of their own personal responsibility as well as to their colleagues. We will continue to keep talking and working with our team through the coming months.

Q: Did you see Fremantle’s protocols for filming Neighbours?

A: We reviewed the protocols for a number of different drama shows filming both locally and overseas. We also spoke with directors, looked at news broadcast practices, film sets and all the industry research we could. We are all in this together and we have a responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep people safe whilst the show goes on. The camaraderie within the industry has been really uplifting.

Q: Is there a lot of rewriting of scripts to comply with the safe distancing guidelines?

A: There are a lot of hygiene measures that have been put in place to minimise everyone’s risk. Temperatures are checked on arrival, hand sanitiser is in abundance, strict food hygiene practices and so on. When it comes to storylines, the team has been incredibly creative in making sure there’s as much physical distance as possible.

On occasions when people do get closer to each other for the sake of a storyline, it’s done with full consultation and agreement of all involved. We’ve been challenged as drama creators to think outside the box about how we tell the stories.

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