It took months to find ways to safely shoot produce. The twist to the plot? There’ll be a dearth of new shows, then a flood of new shows.
The TV lineup for 2021 is shimmering with fresh drama, and viewers will not be shortchanged, particularly those with access to streaming services.
But the fact is, this year there will be fewer new shows overall: the implementation of Covid security protocols first stopped and then slowed high-end drama production in 2020.
And while film crews have returned to studios and venues, many of those dramas will not be able to air until the fall, when, after a dry summer, audiences can hope for a bonanza of sorts.
“Drama will be thin on the ground at first, then there will be a massive glut, I suspect, as next year should be very busy anyway,”The drama will be thin on the ground at first, then there will be a massive glut, I suspect, as next year should be very busy anyway.
One of those already on its way to screens, but slightly overdue, is the highly awaited sequel to the dramatization of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, a serialization of her first book, Conversations with Friends.
Indefinite Films, the producers of the Channel 4 drama Murder in the Car Park, also regret that the pandemic “made the process weeks longer than it could have been. We had to adjust, but it was painful. The delays made it very complicated.”
During the lockdown, several writers and producers say they created scripts with an enthusiasm that wasn’t possible before.
As a result, in addition to those that were already in progress when the virus struck, more dramas are in the queue.
The past year has been both busy and nerve-wracking for Chris Lang, producer of the iconic ITV crime series Unforgotten. Both the fourth season and the second season of another series, Innocent, managed to shoot. As he says, “The delays ended up not being as bad as people feared,” “Pre-production and finding a crew was more difficult, though, especially now that it feels like everyone is back at it.”
In September, Lang and his team fired “Unforgotten and Innocent,” which he and Matthew Arlidge co-write, which was something of a leap of faith. You had to commit weeks in advance, so the crew and the cast had to line up.
So we were in the vanguard for real.
Before filming ended, we had already begun Unforgotten, so we started fresh and were out in Ireland with Innocent.
In Northern Ireland, Line of Duty was also fired, and we both thought we would do it first.
Ireland has allowed us to continue shooting because they have put it in the construction category.
Lang had to hurry to rewrite scenes with a wide cast that had originally been filmed. “I realized there was another way, and the mother of invention is necessity.”
So the sacrifices that I made in the end always turned out better.
“We had shot 11 weeks of Unforgotten with Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar before we had to stop – and then we shot another four and a half weeks in September, but I’d be surprised if you noticed the difference,” said Lang.
Although some drama series with the backing of a major broadcast or streaming network were able to return to filming, small, independent companies were more at risk. “Everyone in the drama now has a story to share about insurance.
But the fact is, one of the best places you can be is a film set. We all wear masks, spray the rooms, and we’re constantly tested,’ said Lang.
Crews, Lang learned, easily adapted to the new rules of work, “There were a few slow days, but it was okay after that.”
So between now and the fall, there should be a great deal going on.
I don’t know of any major ‘green-lighted’ and cancelled initiatives. They’ve all been postponed.
Petra Fried acknowledges that the steps of social distancing on set helped to concentrate the mind. “When we started back, everyone was incredibly focused and happy to be working again. We found it actually made it more efficient,” she said. “It was just that when someone tested positive, we had to pause and we had three or four cases of that.
It was OK day after day, although the stop-start nature made things more costly.
Finding an available film crew for next summer is the biggest challenge now, Fried said. “