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Wednesday 3 June 2020

Soap boss talks Corrie return with facemasks & takeaway hotpots

Guest blog post from Paul Lanagan of @CorrieArt
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Millions of Coronation Street fans around the world breathed a sigh of relief this week when the news broke that ITV were soon to resume filming on the famous cobbles.  Viewers had been enjoying a weekly ration of three episodes a week but were very well aware that the bank of recorded episodes was slowly depleting.  Many were worried that the stories being played out on screens across 104 countries would finish abruptly leaving those watching to wonder whether the devious Geoff ever did get his comeuppance for the abuse he had metered out on poor Yasmeen.
But all those fears were allayed when the news came in that filming would recommence from Tuesday June 9th.  The production team had carried out a safety induction to familiarise themselves with the new safety measures and social media and daytime TV soon became awash with Corrie cast members sharing their excitement at the news of their imminent return to Weatherfield.

John Whiston, Managing Director of Continuing Drama for ITV, appeared live on Good Morning Britain with Lorraine to talk about the good news, today Wednesday 3 June.  John, standing in front of a witty backdrop of the ‘CORRIEWOOD’ hills of California, said, “We have been doing so much work to get back as we were determined not to go off air.  If we get back next week, we will manage that.”

John talked about the new safety protocols and techniques for filming, many of which had been devised in-house.  He said, “We have put Perspex shields on the cameras, like a motorcycling cowling, but we have had to make a lot of this up ourselves.  The guidelines have now come out but when we were starting no one had done drama in a socially distanced way.”

He then said, with a hint of humour, “We have people with poles who will go around prodding actors to make sure that they stay two metres from each other and the cameramen.  One of our production managers has a retractable pole that was given as a present, which he will whip out!  The two metre distance is paramount.”

John went on to explain the painstaking lengths needed to record even a simple piece of action.  “When somebody is handling a letter, the other cast member can’t handle the same letter, so they have to put it down on the table.  We then stop filming, take that letter away and put another in its place for the other cast member to pick up.”

These measures and the diligence of the cast and crew were already paying off in recently filmed episodes of Emmerdale and John said he was pleased with the work produced so far.  “It doesn’t look as if everyone is two metres away from each other and I think I’ll get complaints that the characters are too close when actually it is where you put the cameras and how you stage it!  The episodes look great.”

Back over the Pennines, John confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic would be referenced lightly in Weatherfield and it would be easier to feature the looser restrictions we are now seeing compared to a full lockdown scenario.  Viewers should expect it to be more interesting than a character popping to Dev’s once a week, with the Rovers Return offering takeaway hotpots while the staff of Underworld could be making PPE equipment to reflect real businesses joining in with the national effort.  John also said, “The odd person will be wearing a mask.” meaning the Weatherfield residents in general and not Roy Cropper!

John acknowledged the need for a balance between reflecting the real world and giving viewers an escape during these challenging times.  He said, “You need something that takes you out of it.  Lots of people have been saying it is their one little bit of normality in the day, and they really appreciate that the continuing dramas are still on.”

The older cast members, which are at the heart and soul of Coronation Street, are of course considered to be at higher risk and John gave an update on what viewers should expect to see to Corrie veterans on screen.  “It is their safety that we are most concerned about but Coronation Street wouldn’t be Coronation Street without those characters in it.  We will do whatever we can to film them safely.  We may have some scenes where they film themselves at home.  There is a process to go through before we can decide if the clinically vulnerable cast can come back but if they can’t come into the studio we will find a safe way to bring them into the show.  The senior people in our cast are really important so we are determined to have their presence.”

John joked that Weatherfield would be like ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ with an absence of the Weatherfield youngsters owing to the restrictions on the number of people allowed on set.  He said, “Unfortunately for a while we won’t have many children in the show because children come with extra people, chaperones and tutors.”  With actors Elle Jade Mulvaney (Amy Barlow), Tanisha Gorey (Asha Alahan), Matilda Freeman (Summer Spellman) and Millie Gibson (Kelly Neelan) being adept at using video conferencing from home, as their recent recreation of ‘Mean Girls’ showed, the potential is there for younger characters to be featured on screen one way or another.

John then addressed the all important issue of how to film characters having affairs.  “We will have to use our imaginations a little bit.  We will have a lot of smouldering and our actors are particularly good at that!”  This will be good news for newlywed Adam Barlow who is rumoured to be flirting with Kelly’s mum in forthcoming scenes.  John said the filming techniques could hark back to 1920s Hollywood with scenes of waves crashing on the sea, fireworks going off, or a train going into a tunnel.  It seems that the viaduct on Rosamund Street could be featured in more scenes than ever before!

John ended his interview with a glimmer of hope for a full return to a regular schedule of Coronation Street.  “We will get back to six episodes a week as soon as we can.”


Glenda Young
Twitter: @Flaming_Nora
Facebook: GlendaYoungAuthor
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abbyk said...

No need to rush back to 6. Three solid eps, without pointless filler, has actually been nice. Please keep characters in character and make every action purposeful.

Anonymous said...

Three episodes a week is plenty.


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