EXCLUSIVE: Major changes to crewing operations at Neighbours have been initiated by FremantleMedia Australia in a bid to upgrade a drama production model that has been in place since 1985.
The move comes after the soap’s 25th anniversary and before its switch to new channel, ELEVEN in January. UK execs are believed to have recently visited Neighbours to address production cost-cuts.
Sources tell TV Tonight the changes include studio shoots reduced from 3 to 2 cameras, with 1 camera to be used for location without steadicam, grips, dolly and crane. Locations will be confined to the backlot (Lassiters) and ‘Ramsay Street’ with occasional use of one-off locations. As a result the location manager and location catering have been cut. There is talk that technical director, art director, studio sound recordist and designer are also affected or gone.
While FremantleMedia says the changes are to “contemporise” production following 9 months of research and consultation with staff, TV Tonight understands some staff are said to be concerned about job security.
A year ago FremantleMedia invested heavily in the Global Studios site (formerly Channel 10 Nunawading) by expanding its backlot with new sets. While there are also whispers UK broadcaster Five may seek to renegotiate its long-term contract, so far it hasn’t happened.
Five holds a contract with the show until 2017 which secures its long-term future. TEN doesn’t reap any financial benefit from the UK sales, but it is enthusiastic about the show leading the launch of ELEVEN in January. It may also simulcast the show to help remind viewers of the switch.
A spokesperson from FremantleMedia Australia said the changes to crewing would drive the show’s future:
“Neighbours is undergoing a workflow upgrade to accommodate advances in technology and production techniques to ensure we are at the forefront of professionalism and efficiency.
This initiative to contemporaise the creative and production process of Neighbours is being driven by FremantleMedia Australia’s desire to produce the best possible program possible.
“The Neighbours production model has been in place since 1985, it is time to evolve and adapt the international standards now used to create high-turn-over drama production.
“FMA has carried out a great deal of research globally, utilising the services of FremantleMedia’s World Wide Drama Unit, to establish best practice for Neighbours.
“Our primary commitment is to maintaining and growing our incredibly high production standards. We are dedicated to improving the production process to ultimately deliver a better quality of product.
“This process has been very collaborative with cast and crew. The commitment of the Neighbours cast and crew to the process and the potential for change was inclusive and incredibly reassuring.”