A £500m scheme to jumpstart the UK’s battered film and television industries has been welcomed by producers.
On Tuesday, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced a scheme in which the government effectively takes on the role of a commercial insurer by offering to support productions if they incur losses because of coronavirus.
Film and TV production ground to a halt because of the lockdown, meaning delays to a string of movies and popular TV shows such as Line of Duty and Peaky Blinders. With the easing of restrictions, companies have been desperate to restart production but have been unable to do so because insurers will not provide Covid-19 cover.
“Production insurance is a fundamental part of how you make TV programmes and films,” said John McVay, the chief executive of the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact). “ There has been no insurance written for Covid-related potential losses since the lockdown.”
Shows that have gone ahead have done so in very specific circumstances, such as the BBC’s Talking Heads monologue series, while restarted series, such as Coronation Street, have had to observe social distancing.
“If you want to do something with scale and ambition, which is what the UK is famous for, you can’t even think of it unless you have insurance,” said McVay
He said the announcement was “amazing” and thanked the government for listening to industry concerns. “This has been a long slog. This allows us to get people back off furlough and get the industry back up and running.”
The film producer Elizabeth Karlsen said the news meant her company could now go ahead with filming Mothering Sunday, an adaptation of the Graham Swift novella starring Olivia Colman, Colin Firth and Josh O’Connor.
She said: “It is an understatement to say how pleased we are that a decision has finally been made to support the film and television industry at this unprecedented and crucial time.
“Without the government’s backing our industry, which is held in such high regard throughout the world, was under serious threat.”
The £500m film and TV production restart scheme will cover the whole of the UK. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said: “The UK’s film and TV industry is the envy of the world, and it’s vital that productions get the help they need to restart as part of our plan to kickstart jobs following the lockdown.
“This targeted scheme, which will help fill the gap created by the lack of available insurance, will help protect tens of thousands of jobs, from actors and directors through to camera operators, costume designers, and runners. The sector is worth over £12bn to the UK’s economy, so it’s right that we do what we can to help them reopen and get back to making the films and shows that we all love.”
Dowden also announced more detail on the government’s £1.57bn cultural recovery fund, including the creation of a new board to help administer the programme and advise on the largest grants.
It will be chaired by Sir Damon Buffini, a founding partner of the private equity fund Permira and the chair of the National Theatre.
Money will be distributed by organisations such as Arts Council England, the British Film Institute and Historic England. They will publish much anticipated guidance and criteria for applicants on Wednesday.