According to a survey by film and TV union, Bectu, only half of film and TV workers think they will be back to normal levels of work by June 2021.

The mood will be compounded by the lack of any new support for ‘forgotten freelancers’ from today’s Summer Economic Update from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Over 1500 people took part in the survey which asked them to rate each of the next 12 months from: ‘I expect to have no work’ to ‘I expect to be working normally/busier than normal’.

The findings demonstrate that nearly three-quarters (73%) of those who took part were not working in June and only 50% expected to return to work in July. However, only 7% of respondents expected to be not working at all by October.

Despite the findings revealing that film and TV crew will start going back to work in the autumn, they do not expect to return to normal levels of work until June next year.

The people who took part in the survey work in nearly all parts of film and TV production including: low to high budget dramas and films, outside broadcast, factual TV, entertainment TV and commercials.

The majority of the film and TV workforce is freelance and the industry also slows down from December to March. Many people were just about to start working again just as coronavirus lockdown started.

The survey also asked people to predict their expected earnings for this year. Overall the respondents expected to earn 42% of their usual income in 2020. However that figure varied quite widely depending on which type of production people worked in.

People working in factual and entertainment TV as well as high-budget and inward investment feature films were more optimistic overall – expecting to earn 49% of their income this year.

Those who worked in lower budget scripted productions including children’s and comedy were the least optimistic and predicted they would only earn 31% of their salary this year. Low-budget and mid-budget feature film workers expected to make only 35% of their salary this year.

As well as asking people what they expect to earn, the survey also asked how much they earn each year and what proportion of that would be paid.

The answers revealed that people on the lowest salaries expected to take the biggest earnings hit this year. Workers with an average annual income of under £20k expect to make 31% of the usual earnings, whereas those earning over £50k expect to make around 47%.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “These findings reveal that film and TV workers believe there is a long journey to recovery for the industry.

“Many of these people have already been cut off from government support during the pandemic because they either operate as a limited company, are employed as a PAYE worker from contract to contract or have earned just over the threshold to qualify for the self-employment income support scheme.

“Unlike people who have been furloughed their earnings have dipped significantly and there is no guarantee that they will get back to work soon. They have had to rely on other forms of support such as borrowing money from credit cards, overdrafts and from friends and family.

“With so many people falling through the gaps of the support schemes there are questions to be asked about how much longer they will be able to survive financially. What is most worrying in these findings is that lower paid crew, who are often entry level, expect to be worse off for many months still.

“Without reassurance that there is a plan for solid recovery for the film and TV industry which includes government underwriting insurance we risk talent drifting away from a sector that is already facing a skills shortage.”

Jon Creamer