Definition December 2020 - Web

PRODUCTION | BOOM AND REGENERAT ION

SILVER SCREEN LINING FOLLOWING A CHALLENGING FEW MONTHS, WE HEAR SOME MUCH-NEEDED GOOD NEWS FROM ADRIAN WOOTTON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE BRITISH FILM COMMISSION

WORDS LEE RENWI CK / P I CTURES BR I T I SH F I LM COMM I SS I ON

T he Covid-19 pandemic hit every floors stood empty and, at times, the entire future of the silver screen seemed to be in jeopardy. Now, just a few short months later, things are looking very positive indeed, or so says Adrian Wootton. If anyone is in a position to make that claim, it’s most certainly him. “When the pandemic took hold in March, we were in one of the busiest periods in UK film and television production history. We’d blown all the records: over £3bn worth of inward investment, an increase of 51% in the volume of high-end television shot in the UK in a single year, and the growth rate of our industry was running at 9%, double the size of the economy growing as a whole. “Then it was like somebody pulled the industry hard, but few more so than film and television production. Crews couldn’t work, production biggest handbrake in the world. There was something like 125,000 people directly employed in the industry, over a billion pounds worth of productions in studios, and it all stopped,” he says. With such huge wheels grinding to a halt, naturally, action needed to be swift. “We had two phases. The first was to work with the government to support the freelancers and businesses, which meant furloughing schemes and assistance. Quickly, though, we moved on to thinking ‘how do we get people back to work? How do we get productions rolling again? How do we start the recovery process?’” Surprisingly, planning for the future required some looking back, as Wootton

CREATING A SAFETY NET “More recently, one of the most important things we’ve worked on is the government Film & TV Production Restart Scheme,” Wootton explains. “I think it’s one of the most robust schemes of its kind.” Specifically, £500m has been offered up to help productions cover Covid-19 related costs. The real issue is insurance. As Wootton tells us, the assurance the scheme provides has been a significant factor in returning the wheels to motion. “Now, productions can get their regular insurance, because the insurer doesn’t have to worry about Covid. They just insure for everything else as they normally would, knowing they’re covered under the indemnity scheme. The production’s financiers also feel comfortable that the production is covered across all the range of likely risks that are analysed in their assessments.”

tells us: “We learned in the crash of 2008 that, actually, it was the creative industries that got out of the blocks to start recovering the economy fastest. So, we aimed to get people working safely and to come up with a new set of guidance in accordance. Ultimately, it was the largest consultation exercise we’ve ever been involved with.” With help from the BFI and thanks to the British Film Commission’s facilitation, the guilds, unions, strategic bodies and many other facets of the industry came together. The guidance was created and passed through the hands of Public Health England all the way to Number 10. “After all that, the lights could come back on,” Wootton says. “We had what we needed so the employees, the production companies and the studios could work safely within the most rigorous procedures. Since then, that’s exactly what’s happened.”

30 DEF I N I T ION | DECEMBER 2020

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