Definition December 2022 - Web


unable to secure insurance against Covid- related interruptions. The DCMS Restart Scheme was born from that industry and government working group.” Barry Ryan, drama producer and founder of Free@Last TV and The Format Factory, had to stop filming Agatha Raisin Series 4. He says the absence of traditional insurance meant companies had no choice but to sign up to the scheme. “Restart stepped in to underwrite losses from interruptions to schedules from the impact of Covid-19,” he says. “The rules were draconian, confusing and didn’t really match how production works, so new models had to emerge that were expensive, and stop-starts due to infections were costly and disruptive.” Initially, the scheme was scheduled to run until December 2021. However, that October, then UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries extended it for a further six months amid the ongoing pandemic. Applications to the scheme remained open until 30 April 2022, providing cover until 30 June. The rationale behind the decision was to support a further 400 productions. To put this into context, at the time of extension the scheme had helped 640 domestic film and TV projects, including romantic drama Mothering Sunday and Peaky Blinders Season 6. It was, prima facie, great news for the industry. However, from 1 November, the scheme’s registration fee increased from 1% to 2.5% of the production budget, to ‘ensure that the current needs of the UK production industry are maintained while balancing value for money for taxpayers’. McVay says Pact ‘wasn’t keen’ on the hike, but it also turned out to be counterproductive for the government. “Lots of shows with big budgets decided to cover Covid-19 losses themselves, while those with small budgets had to do the same because 2.5% was too detrimental.”

THE FUTURE While Covid-19 is seemingly gone at a pandemic level, its arrival in 2020 was a warning that we should expect the unexpected. Going forward, how is the industry supposed to protect itself? “The big problem we face this year with regards to insurance is that technically Covid-19 is over,” asserts McVay. “Of course, it’s great news that thousands of jobs were protected and many companies saved from going bust; we preserved a lot of jobs and productions are back on. But the scheme was strictly an intervention package. Now there’s no pandemic, it doesn’t exist.” However, Pact was working with the government through the latter half of last year and the beginning of this year, swaying commercial insurers to return to market and offer thorough cover against infectious diseases. “At the moment, the commercial insurance sector isn’t offering anyone cover for Covid-19 at all,” says McVay. “There are some products, but they’re so grossly expensive and offer such limited cover that many find it’s not worth it.” So far, McVay says he’s seen no signs of a shift by insurers, but hopes something changes by this time next year: “Once we’ve assessed what’s going to happen this winter – if there are any new surges or versions of Covid-19 that arrive.” The DCMS declined to comment.

The show must go on

When the UK lockdown was announced on the eve of the BFI’s Flare Film Festival (March 2020), it quickly pivoted to an online offering. The organisation continued that for the BFI London Film Festival in October that year – working to increase its digital backing for audiences. “We maintained support for the sector, refocusing National Lottery- funded activity, such as for the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN), in order to support cinemas and enable them to reopen,” says a BFI spokesperson. “We organised access to BFI Player so that cinemas which were members of FAN could continue to engage with and support their audiences.” Over £3 billion worth of production and over 100,000 jobs have been supported by the scheme, helping to propel the sector into recovery. Nearly 1300 projects got on board, including films Mothering Sunday , Medusa Deluxe , Boxing Day , Blue Jean , The Lost King and The Phantom of the Open – with strong releases and critical success at international festivals. Information supplied by the BFI.

RAISIN HELL Producer Barry Ryan (left) was forced to cease production on Agatha Raisin when the pandemic struck. Mothering Sunday (far left) was helped by the scheme


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