Film productions in the UK allowed to restart
by David Katz
- Government and health bodies have approved guidance drawn up by the British Film Commission to resume film and high-end TV production in the UK
The British Film Commission has published official guidelines for large-scale film and TV productions in the UK to resume filming. The protocols, approved by the UK government and developed in consultation with the BFI and other key industry stakeholders, will pave the way for the domestic industry to get back on its feet in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
The guidelines, which were in the works throughout the month of May, technically allow productions to start up again, but much needs to be ironed out before many will be comfortable planning shoots. Insurance is a chief concern, as the virus won’t be considered insurable by common industry providers. However, a proposal is in the pipeline, headed by producers’ trade body PACT, for a government “backstop” to be put in place, where the UK itself would provide an indemnity fund in case the outbreak halts production on individual projects. This is less likely to be an issue for the US studios or streamers making films in the UK, where they would be willing to underwrite risk to keep product incoming.
The exhaustive 44-page document published this week, entitled Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production, is intended to help personnel understand how to work safely as the pandemic continues, with the emphasis being on maintaining social distancing and strict hygiene practices. Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission, said: “We believe this to be the most comprehensive, most extensively consulted COVID-19 recovery production guidance in the world.”
The production guidance is intended to be revised on a regular basis, and is subject to any change in policy from the government, where measures to relieve the nationwide lockdown are currently in progress. The guidelines themselves are advisory and not mandatory, and each production will need to translate them into actions that suit their unique needs. Every single aspect of larger-scale filmmaking is set to be altered: strict monitoring of movement and regular symptom checks will become the norm, and stunts, costuming, make-up and catering will see socially distanced changes to procedure. Certain content will be less likely to appear, with warnings about social crowd scenes and fewer VFX crew permitted on set.
Unique to the UK is its quarantine system for new arrivals from abroad. Any cast and crew, from high-profile stars to technical personnel, will have to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. Rather than a complete return to normal, production restarts are likely to be staggered: Warner Bros’ The Batman and Fantastic Beasts are set to resume as soon as possible, whilst bigger independent shoots could take much longer, with some estimating September-October.
What’s clear, though, is that the domestic industry is slowly coming back to life. UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The UK is recognised around the globe as a brilliant place to make films, and is home to the world’s best film and high-end TV talent. I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree this step forward towards getting the cameras rolling safely again.”
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