Industry reels as TV dramas shutdown

First AD Jeremy Grogan, DOP Martin McGrath and camera operator Nicolas Owens on the ‘Wakefield’ set (Photo: Lisa Tomasetti).

The Australian TV drama production sector has virtually ground to a halt with multiple shows suspending shooting last Friday.

Jungle Entertainment and BBC Studios shut down the ABC-commissioned Wakefield, the eight-episode drama set in a Blue Mountains psychiatric hospital.

“The limitations we’ve put on our incredible cast and crew over the last two weeks have made shooting more and more difficult and it is now logistically impossible and unsafe to continue,” Jungle CEO Jason Burrows tells IF.

“We’re lucky to have partners in the ABC, Screen Australia, Screen NSW and BBC Studios who have been very supportive. I just hope the government will provide some financial relief to those in need in our team, and the wider industry, while they are out of work.”

Hoodlum Entertainment called a halt to season two of Network 10’s Five Bedrooms in Melbourne and season 3 of the ABC’s Harrow in Queensland.

Hoodlum executive producer Nathan Mayfield tells IF: “In light of this ever evolving situation we’ve made the difficult decision to suspend all production, including Harrow and Five Bedrooms.

“Hoodlum’s top priority is the mental health, well-being and safety of our cast and crew. We take our duty of care very seriously and in light of the increased restrictions and recommendations, we believe this is the right decision to comply in every way we can.

“The Hoodlum family is a tight bunch; we are humbled at how this amazing group of professionals has supported each other in these extraordinary times. We are gutted at the impact this is having on the 400+ people who are being affected directly and indirectly by this event.

“Now is the time to take stock and for Hoodlum to work closely and swiftly with our industry colleagues and all levels of government to ensure the industry gets the support it needs to keep screen businesses running and the livelihoods of those who work with us intact.

“The impacts will be felt for years to come if we don’t act now to put the right measures in place to make sure we can all hit the ground running as soon as we can.”

Michael Lucas, who co-created Five Bedrooms with Christine Bartlett, says four of the eight episodes have been shot and post will be completed on these eps.

“No one texted positive, thankfully, it was just a myriad of logistical issues as we have so many interstate cast and crew,” Lucas says.

“It’s definitely just a pause; we’ll be trying to resume as soon as it’s safe. Safe to say this was one of the hardest working weeks of my life.”

‘Wentworth’ cast muck up for the camera.

Doris Younane, who plays the libidinous Heather in 10’s show, tells IF: “Everyone is pretty devastated as you can imagine. Work in the can is beautiful. We just want to get back and finish what we started.”

Seven Studios has paused Home and Away and Back to the Rafters, the Packed to the Rafters reboot commissioned by Amazon Prime Video.

Today Fremantle halted filming in Melbourne of its four-part thriller With Intent (formerly Breathless) created by Neighbours executive producer Jason Herbison for Network 10 and the UK’s Channel 5.

Seven days of the 20-day shoot were remaining on the Scott Major-directed show starring Brett Tucker and former EastEnders star Charlie Brooks as a couple in the UK who seek a fresh start in Australia after infidelity threatens their marriage.

The only drama that has not been affected, IF understands, is Fremantle’s Neighbours, which resumed shooting today after a brief pause last week.

Last week Fremantle brought forward the planned hiatus of Foxtel’s Wentworth.

Endemol Shine Australia’s drama RFDS (working title) for Seven, which will follow Royal Flying Doctor Service doctors, nurses, pilots and support staff at work and in their private lives, is due to shoot in Broken Hill later this year.

Justine Clarke, Rob Collins and Stephen Peacocke lead the cast of the series to be produced by Imogen Banks.