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U.K. COVID-19 Insurance for Film & TV Production Finally Goes Live After Securing EU Approval

Courtesy of BBC

The U.K.’s £500 million ($648 million) insurance scheme is finally going live.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced Friday that the hotly anticipated government-backed Film and TV Production Restart Scheme is formally launching following state aid approval from the European Union.

It’s expected the scheme — which provides compensation for future coronavirus-related losses, including filming delays from illness among cast and crew — will support over 40,000 jobs across the film and TV sector by ensuring planned productions can proceed after the COVID-19 disruption. Its greenlight comes as welcome news to anxious producers who were waiting for some support for stalled productions.

Eligible productions will be onboarded within days and claims can be backdated to July 28.  Crucially, the deadline for registration and start of production has been extended to Feb. 28, 2021. When the scheme was first announced, the deadline was originally Dec. 31. The extension is intended to “help even more productions access the scheme, reflecting ongoing uncertainty and the continued inability of productions to secure private insurance for coronavirus-related risks,” said a statement from the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Key points below:

  • The scheme, which the government has made clear is a “temporary measure,” supports productions that start filming before Feb. 28, 2021, for coronavirus-related losses through to the end of June 2021. Companies can back-date any future claims for eligible losses to July 28, when the scheme was first announced.

  • There will be a total cap on claims per production of £5 million ($6.4 million), 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 other, more standard insurance to cover non-coronavirus risks to ensure their production is adequately insured.

  • Productions will also need to provide evidence that they can’t return to work due to a lack of insurance.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our film and TV production sector is respected the world over, filled with talented people. I am delighted that this half a billion pound scheme will get cast and crews back to doing what they do best. This move will help support tens of thousands of jobs, provide work for creative freelancers and get cameras rolling across the country.”

The scheme has been accepting applications for two weeks to expedite the process by allowing for early registration and to help productions familiarize themselves with the details of the fund. However, little else was possible until the European Union gave its greenlight — a move that seemed touch-and-go given the U.K.’s latest Brexit Withdrawal Agreement woes.

Funding from the scheme is available to all productions made by companies where at least half of the production budget is spent in the U.K.

One project put forward as a recent applicant to the scheme is the film “Mothering Sunday” from Number 9 Films, which stars Josh O’Connor, Odessa Young, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Olivia Colman, and Colin Firth.

“Without this backing from the government‘s scheme, our industry, which is held in such high regard throughout the world, would have been under serious threat,” said Number 9 Films producer Elizabeth Karlsen. “We have started our own project ‘Mothering Sunday’ working with the best of U.K. talent now secure in their jobs. It is an enormous relief to us and to many people who have been working tirelessly to keep projects alive over the past few months. We would like to thank those who have their given support and to those who have played a hand in reaching this vital and welcome decision.”

Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan, co-chairmen of Working Title, said the government had “rightly identified” that an entire industry was fully financed and ready to move back into employment and production. “All it needed was this assurance for those struggling with COVID-19 cover, which thanks to this it now has. It’s a brilliant initiative that will have a meaningful and immediate impact on the U.K. film and TV industries and we can’t thank DCMS and the Treasury enough for making it happen.”

John McVay, CEO of Pact and one of the key architects of the scheme, said: “This will now give confidence to many hundreds of small indies across the U.K. to get back to what they do best — making TV programs and films enjoyed both in the UK and across the globe.”

Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, added: “As the fastest growing sector making a significant contribution to the U.K. economy the Government’s Restart Scheme supports the U.K. industry’s international competitiveness and is really great news for our production business and for the economy.”

The U.K. film and TV production industry supports more than 180,000 jobs and contributes more than £12 billion ($15 billion) to the economy annually.

Variety's Manori Ravindran contributed to this post.

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