As the UK eases out of lockdown, TV production on everything from Sunday Brunch to Match of the Day is beginning to resume. What does that mean for studio facilities such as BBC Studioworks and dock10? TVBEurope talks to both to find out how they’ve dealt with lockdown, and how they’re preparing for production to begin again.
For the BBC Studioworks team, production at their studios at Television Centre hasn’t stopped. TVC is the home of ITV’s daytime programmes, including Good Morning Britain and This Morning. Studioworks’ CEO Andrew Moultrie tells TVBEurope the team have been working collaboratively with ITV Daytime’s staff. “We’ve needed to be agile and adapt quickly to provide effective solutions that both adhere to government guidance, but also enable productions to continue,” he explains. “These measures have included stripping back studios so productions can run with reduced crew members, adjusting our approach to scenic activity and implementing operating protocols from social distancing measures and one-way pedestrian routes, through to the implementation of screen dividers in our galleries. These measures are in place across all three of our sites.”
Moultrie adds that this “new normal” has been adopted and respected by all parties. “It’s important to be open and transparent with everyone who works in our facilities,” he explains. “We’ve actively encouraged our staff and clients to feedback any concerns or questions they have, so we can immediately address them. This united front across our workforce and client base has been fantastic to see, with everyone understanding the importance of the implemented changes.”
dock10 has also implemented special measures, including temperature checking scanners, custom made shields in production galleries, two-metre distance markers, a one-way system, extra cleaning, hand sanitiser stations and extra office space. “It’s been easy to add the new safety measures as we have a large television facility with a lot of space to work,” says Andy Waters, head of studios.
Over at BBC Elstree Centre, the Studioworks post production team has also continued working. They recently supported Talking Heads for BBC One and has just finished working on Secrets From The Square, a new show hosted by Stacey Dooley which goes behind the scenes of EastEnders.
“At the beginning of June we facilitated a pilot in Stage 8 at Elstree Studios, which was our first show post-lockdown,” adds Moultrie. “Over the coming weeks we have a number of shows pencilled to return across our three facilities, but plans for these are still being discussed and finalised.
“We have produced tailored working protocol documents for each of our three sites. These guides cover every element of working in our facilities, from our operating procedures and site access, through to our production areas and office space. The health and safety of everyone working on our sites is paramount and these guidelines and protocols have been designed with that front of mind,” he says.
dock10 has also remained opened throughout the pandemic, with shows like Bitesize Daily, Newsround, Blue Peter and Crackerjack all filmed during this time.
It will also soon be welcoming back other shows to the facility, including Match of the Day. Is dock10 implementing different measures for different genres of shows? “Each show is different, and we will be working with the production teams to ensure they have what they need to work safely, but the principles of social distancing are the same for everybody,” says Waters. “We will work with each production team to create a specific risk assessment for their production.”
“We’re continuously looking at new and secure ways of working with our clients,” agrees Moultrie. “As per usual, every show has a host of individual requirements, but for the time being all shows must adhere to the same workplace protocols that we have implemented to ensure the safety of all those working in our facilities. However, there are natural nuances that need to be taken into consideration in terms of set space, the number of people on set at any one time and the time it takes to get specific sets built.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to reveal any details about plans for Strictly Come Dancing, other than conversations are “on-going”.
Both facilities have implemented remote working during lockdown, with only broadcast-critical staff on site. With the gradual return of shows to its studios, Studioworks is beginning to phase more of its workforce, specifically production support and craft teams, back to its sites. “However, we need to continue to keep building populations as low as possible to allow for social distancing and will only bring in our teams on the days that they physically need to be on site, with our business support employees continuing to work remotely for the foreseeable future. We will continue to follow this approach until government guidance changes,” says Moultrie.
“Much of the dock10 team can work from home as our IT systems allow for remote access and anybody that can work from home will continue to do so to keep as much space free for production as we can,” explains Waters. “Our studio managers and engineering team need to be on site, but almost everybody else can be at home. Our remote viewing system enables secure remote studio feeds for any of the production teams to monitor production safely from home.”
“While we have social distancing, we will continue to enable remote working as it’s working very well,” concludes Waters.