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Hit drama series Outlander has been airing since 2014. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels which have become global bestsellers, Outlander is well-known for its steamy scenes as well some epic battle sequences. However, could these scenes be scrapped from the show going forward in light of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures?
Major British broadcasters and UK media companies are now putting in place safety measures to protect cast and crew such as social distancing, travel restrictions and health checks to be implemented for all crews.
Additionally, there’s PPE, training and insurance which will have a knock-on effect on production and could lead to slower filming.
Filming on series six of Outlander was due to have started already but the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the show in its tracks – much like other film and TV series across the globe.
There’s been no word yet on when Outlander will start filming and if there will be any changes to the script and if any scenes will be axed in light of the new guidelines. Saying this, the coronavirus has markedly changed filmmaking and television production across the board.
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British soaps have tentatively started returning to work with EastEnders shooting once more after a hiatus over several months and ITV’s Coronation Street and Emmerdale have put in place social distancing measures during filming, among other things.
While pre-watershed soaps don’t have to worry too much about intimacy scenes, the same can’t be said for other programmes which feature sex and fight scenes such as Outlander.
Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to expert Jamie Elden about the challenges facing the sector in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Elden has 15 years of experience within the media and entertainment industry, working for multiple broadcasters and streaming platforms including A&E, History, the BBC, FOX, Hulu, Amazon, Warner Bros. He is currently Shutterstock’s Chief Revenue Officer.
Elden said the new pandemic environment will “force projects of all budget levels to get creative in how they deploy resources to ensure filming can effectively restart”.
Reflecting on how the filming more intimate moments could change, Elden said: “As long as strict social distancing measures are in place, sex scenes are likely to be rewritten, abandoned or created using computer-generated imagery to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 on set.
“Technology is going to play a vital role in producing scenes of intimacy for the screen like never before.
I anticipate that companies, if they haven’t already, will invest in and upgrade heavily their software capabilities and find ways to acquire cinematic standard content that can be embedded in their productions.
“An alternative, more costly solution is to have the crew self-isolate together for an extended period before production starts and throughout the filming period, similar to the athletes who are playing without crowds and quarantining together for a long period of time.”
On the action sequences Elden said: “Undeniably, fight scenes and stunts add more drama but these are obviously a challenge to shoot under the revised guidelines.
“Production companies must plan carefully and consider the scheduling of high-risk scenes with stunts and SFX, so that such scenes do not create increased demand for emergency services who are currently under a high level of pressure. This is when pre-shot visual effects can come in handy in post-production.”
His words suggest there are several options open to the cast and crew in this regard.
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With Outlander’s shoot likely to last for many months, quarantining together could be one solution – and this may be one applicable to many similar shows which have big productions and require a significant period of time to shoot.
However, CGI could be a tool used by producers across the business including Outlander to recreate fight scenes.
Season six of Outlander, in particular, could have many fight scenes given the impending American Revolutionary War.
Elden said the cost of green screen was previously only accessible to big-budget productions but costs and scalability over the last couple of years made it a more viable option for lower cost productions.
While the coronavirus pandemic has seen a huge industry-wide shake-up, Elden was positive about this change and hailed it as a “good thing”, preventing the entertainment business from becoming stuck in traditional ways of production.
He added: “I anticipate the pandemic will have encouraged creatives to think outside of the box and be more innovative in the ways they work and tackle production challenges – the industry will return to filming scenes with human contact, however, there is no doubt some changes are here to stay.”
Express.co.uk has approached US network Starz for comment on this story.
Outlander seasons 1 to 5 are streaming on Amazon Prime Video now
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