EXCLUSIVE: UK producers are in talks with the government over extending Britain’s world-leading production insurance scheme, which opened the door to £1BN ($1.3BN) of shoots returning to work after the catastrophic coronavirus shutdown.
Industry sources say producers want to extend the cutoff for the £500M ($665M) Film and TV Production Restart Scheme from February to June 2021 to provide cover for the spring production rush when filmmakers bid to take advantage of longer daylight hours.
Pact CEO John McVay, who has spearheaded the industry’s insurance efforts, confirmed that discussions are taking place and that he hopes to have some clarity by January to help producers plan for their busiest time of the year. He added that there have already been around 200 applications for the scheme and a number of claims against it.
“It’s working really well and doing the job it was designed to do. It’s brought a lot of confidence back into the market and shows are being commissioned,” McVay said. “But of course, without knowing there’s any cover from March onwards, then all those productions will fall off a cliff.”
McVay is hopeful that the government will listen to industry, as it has done throughout the worst of the pandemic. It won’t cost the Treasury any more money, the Pact CEO said, and with the vaccine being rolled out, the intervention won’t be indefinite. “This isn’t forever, this is just to get us to the point when the commercial insurers will come back to the market.”
The scheme, which is the biggest production insurance intervention in the world, has already been extended once from December to February after EU state aid approval was needed. Shoots need to commence within this timeframe to be eligible.
Under the initiative, productions can receive compensation for future coronavirus-related losses including filming delays from illness among cast and crew. The funding is available to all productions made by companies where at least half of the production budget is spent in the UK. There is a total cap on claims per production of £5M, and productions need to pay an appropriate excess when seeking to claim under the scheme, as well as a fee when joining.
Production restarts have shown why the cover is needed with a number of shows and films needing to hit the breaks after positive coronavirus tests or people falling ill. Among the shows that have had to pause and restart in recent weeks are Sky dramas A Discovery Of Witches and Brassic.