In a surefire sign that things are looking up, our longest-running soap, Shortland St, is back in action this week, but it's not exactly business as usual.

Due to the Government's restrictions during level 4 affecting all non-essential services, South Pacific Pictures closed production on the show and cut back episodes to three a week instead of five.

Production started again this week under level 3.

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Producer Maxine Fleming tells Spy that countless Zoom meetings took place to discuss how to shoot the show safely to meet return-to-work guidelines.

"The schedule has been slowed right down so that we're not shooting at our usual frantic pace - to allow time for everyone to do their bit on set separately and safely.

"All core cast actors have been assigned their own dressing rooms (rather than sharing) during level 3 and have to remain there until called on to set to do their scenes. There'll be no hanging about chatting or running lines together before scenes."

Writers have been coming up with ways for the characters to show love without any forms of PDA, but the biggest shock to the cast was finding out they had to do their own hair and make-up, something that a team of pros usually does. The actors had been taking online tutorials on how to get the Ferndale look.

Nicole Whippy, who plays Cece King, says her tutorials usually ended up in fits of laughter or a burnt face from the hair straighteners.

"After 25 years in the film and TV Industry, I really should have known how to do my own makeup and hair. Shame Nicole, shame."

Scott Smart, who plays Dr Marty Walker, admits to getting make up in his eyes during a tutorial.

Rebekah Palmer, who plays Dawn Karim, says staying 2m away from each other and still trying to create compelling work and continue with their process, which is often driven by intimate human relationships, was going to be a challenge for everyone. All three loved being back at work and waving at colleagues from a distance in the vast halls at South Pacific Pictures.

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"Backing off down the hallway when someone happens to be coming towards you, but also maintaining polite conversation is a new talent," says Smart.

Randall says she will be most proud if the audience can't tell pre-lockdown filming from level 3.

Fleming says Neighbours started reshooting last week under level 3 and, by the looks of things, are doing very similar things to Shorty. As far as she knows Coronation Street and Home and Away haven't started shooting again yet.

"We have enough episodes in the can to last up until mid-June, while still screening three nights a week, so all going well, we have enough time to catch up to ensure there is no gap on screen."

"This is the first time ever the production has had to stop in all these years, no matter what's happened. This is totally new territory for us, and everyone in these unprecedented times, but we're doing our best to make sure the show still looks great, while putting safety absolutely first and foremost. It feels good to have the show up and running again, even if it is at a gentler pace until things return to some form of new normal."