Culture secretary Oliver Dowden hails ’jump-start to get cameras rolling again’ 

The government has launched a £500m scheme to help indies overcome the insurance woes created by coronavirus.

After months of negotiations with industry bodies, the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme will fill the gap left by the lack of available insurance and cover coronavirus-related losses that leads to disruptions in filming.

Described as a “jump-start to get the cameras rolling again” by culture secretary Oliver Dowden, the funding will be made available to all productions made by companies where at least half the production budget is spent in the UK, and is being estimated to cover more than 70% of the film and TV production market by the end of 2020.

There is no budget cap on the contributions, meaning that expensive high-end scripted projects can have access to big amounts in order to get the cameras rolling again.

Dowden added: ”Today’s announcement means more clapperboards snapping into action in studios across Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, Watford.”

Pact chief executive John McVay, who has been leading the industry’s insurance taskforce, described the move as “welcome news”, which will not only help hundreds of small indies but also the thousands of freelancers who have been without work and unable to access the government’s financial support schemes.

McVay said: “This shows that the UK government has listened to one of our key industries and has taken unprecedented steps to support our highly successful indigenous film and TV production and broadcasting industry to get back to what we love most - making TV programmes enjoyed by UK audiences and many more millions around the globe.”

All3Media chief operating officer Sara Geater, who is also chair of Pact, described the move as “critical and hugely appreciated”, helping turn around a sector that has been ”very badly hit by Covid-19”.

”Our sector now has every chance of a return to being the successful global industry that we are renowned for,” she added.

Other big names from both the production and broadcasting world breathed a sigh of relief.

Sky Studios chief executive Gary Davey said: “This is the greenlight the industry needs to get back into production. The government has taken a significant step to support the UK’s world-leading indie sector, helping to get cameras rolling again on the nation’s favourite TV programmes.”

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said both indies and freelancers have “been through a torrid time in recent months”, which will now hopefully be addressed.

She went on to say: ”Our vibrant TV and film sector is a brilliant international success story, so it’s hugely important and significant that the government has recognised this and stepped in to help get production back up and running again.”

Fremantle chief executive Simon Andreae added: “This is very welcome support from the UK government, which will re-launch productions at a critical time for the industry.”

How it works

The ‘restart scheme’ will be available to compensate productions after they have restarted, and only where costs are then incurred due to delays or abandonment as a result of coronavirus.

It was also made clear that this just is a temporary measure, supporting productions which commence filming before the end of 2020 and for coronavirus-related losses through to the end of June 2021. It will be possible to backdate any future claims for eligible losses to today’s date. Further details on the eligibility process and claims system will be provided in the coming weeks.

Subject to approval, the intention is that eligible productions will receive compensation for costs caused by coronavirus delays up to a value of 20% of the production budget, with abandonment of productions due to coronavirus to be covered up to 70% of the production budget, upon agreement with the government that abandonment was necessary.

There will be a total cap on claims per production of £5m, and productions will need to pay an appropriate excess when seeking to claim under the scheme, as well as an appropriate fee when joining the scheme. Productions will also need to purchase insurance to cover non-coronavirus risks to ensure their production is adequately insured.

Productions will also need to provide evidence that they cannot return to work because of a lack of insurance.