EXCLUSIVE: Netflix is drawing up plans to get its UK shows back into production amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the streamer has a hopeful target of August for its hit drama Sex Education.
Deadline has spoken to more than one person who works on the Eleven show, and they say that August is the current ambition for Season 3, but nothing is cast in stone as the situation with COVID-19 is developing quickly.
August is seen as the latest Sex Education could go into production this year because the show is reliant on filming during the longer days of British summer, and the sunshine is an important part of its on-screen gloss. It means Netflix and Eleven will need to make a final decision on the shoot plans next month, given the show requires 10 weeks of prep time.
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Sex Education was originally due to begin production this month, but the plans were put on ice, as Wales — which provides the backdrop to Moordale High — remains in lockdown after more than 1,200 people have died of the disease in the nation.
Cast and crew are said to be itching to get back to work, particularly given the summer camp spirit that has developed around the show’s shooting pattern. They are mindful, however, that production will be far from straightforward.
By its very nature, Sex Education requires intimacy between members of its large ensemble cast, which will pose challenges in terms of observing the UK government’s two-meter social distancing rules, and may mean Laurie Nunn has to rewrite scripts.
The industry as a whole is giving thought to quarantining performers before and during shoots, but it is not known if this is among Eleven’s considerations. Theoretically it might be possible, given some cast have shared apartment blocks in Cardiff and Newport during previous shoots.
The planning comes as other UK dramas are getting back on their feet following the government greenlighting filming again. BBC soap EastEnders and ITV’s Emmerdale will be filming again over the coming weeks, while bigger dramas including Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders are planning for autumn shoots.
Eleven is working closely with Netflix on the restart plan, as are other producers with UK-made shows for the streamer. Among those affected are Studio Lambert, which was in the early stages of shooting Netflix dance show All The Right Moves in March, while David E. Kelley’s new anthology series Anatomy Of A Scandal was also slated to film in the UK this year.
Netflix also makes its big in-house show The Witcher at Arborfield Studios outside of London. The Henry Cavill fantasy drama was one of the first major victims of coronavirus shut down in Britain, with Netflix halting production on March 16 and hours later, actor Kristofer Hivju testing positive for the disease.
The U.S. streamer is playing an important role in helping the British Film Commission draw up production safety protocols, which is why Netflix was not part of the UK broadcaster group (which included the BBC, ITV, ViacomCBS and Sky) that published its own set of standards earlier this week.
A draft of the British Film Commission guidelines, leaked to Deadline, includes recommendations on pre-shoot safety training, temperature testing, quarantining foreign actors for two weeks, social distancing and appointing a properly authorized COVID-19 supervisor to oversee on-set safety.
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, wrote about the challenges of returning to production in an op-ed for the LA Times earlier this month. He revealed that cast and key crew self-quarantined on Swedish show Love And Anarchy both before and during the shoot, while testing has been important on Iceland’s Katla.
Above all, he said flexibility is important. “That means rejiggering productions, locations and set schedules to postpone shooting crowd or action scenes and intimate moments, as well as scenes that require international travel,” Sarandos explained. “Some shows will need to rewrite scripts or look to add visual effects to what previously would have been shot live.”