The government and the production industry have now greenlit agreed guidance for the shooting of film and high end TV during the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, UK Screen Alliance has published its own separate guidance for the post and vfx sector as it transitions back to more on premises working.

Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’, has been published today by the British Film Commission and produced as part of the wider BFI Screen Sector COVID-19 Task Force and has the backing of the government.

The guidance follows an industry consultation with UK and US organisations from large international franchises to independent production; studios; streamers; unions; and UK-wide industry bodies. Input came from Pact and the Production Guild and unions including BECTU.

The production guidance centres on adopting a safe working environment and practices in light of COVID-19 related risks, as well as the latest Government advice; and to be able to factor in changes to current health and safety assessments to achieve this.

It includes considerations for filmmakers at every level of budget, and is intended to be scalable, allowing each production to apply the guidance to their specific project’s needs.

Further support to apply the Guidance will be provided in coming weeks. ScreenSkills is working with Skills for Health, a not-for-profit organisation already delivering COVID-19 crisis training for the NHS, among others, and First Option, industry safety consultants, to develop standards for training to support the safe return to work in film and HETV. Basic level training, delivered free and online, will be rolled out next month.

The work is being supported by the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund, with contributions from high-end television productions, and the BFI through its National Lottery-funded Future Film Skills strategy.

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. We’ve worked hard to support the industry through these difficult times, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree this step forward towards getting the cameras rolling safely again.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said: “We believe this to be the most comprehensive, extensively-consulted on COVID-19 recovery production guidance in the world. It reflects a phenomenal collective effort, for which we must thank the British Film Commission Recovery Group and BFC staff team, alongside the BFI, DCMS and the whole range of organisations, public and private, who contributed.

“The industry is extremely keen to restart production as soon as possible, but not without a comprehensive road map for how to do it safely while the threat of COVID-19 still looms large. Today’s Guidance provides that reassurance, reflecting the latest Government, technical and medical advice available. We will also update it on a regular basis, giving clarity on the latest measures recommended to ensure a safe shoot for cast, crew and the wider public.

“This is a vital step to getting our world class film and high-end TV sector back up and running, giving the world confidence we have the most rigorous safety measures in place, and signaling that our sector is ready to return to full strength, and to making its important contribution to the UK Exchequer.”

Iain Smith OBE, Chair of British Film Commission Advisory Board, and Producer (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Killing Fields, Children of Men, The Fifth Element) “This Guidance represents the most comprehensive assessment of methodologies that industry will need to apply. It’s been an ambitious and large-scale operation to gather, synthesise and publish the range of views from across our industry. I believe this guidance will be a helpful, practical framework as we prepare our risk assessments and schedules to restart suspended production.”

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI, said: “Our film and TV industry has been growing faster than other any other sector, generating over £7.9 billion a year in GVA to the UK economy and employing 166,200 people – so creating scaleable guidance to help restart film and high-end TV production as safely and as quickly as possible has been paramount.

“There is still work to done to address the cost of recovery and business insurance as a result of COVID-19, but Government support has been crucial in getting us to this point.”

Neil Hatton, Chief Executive of the UK Screen Alliance, said:

“The combined launch of two sets of detailed guidance for filming and for post-production is a significant indication that the UK’s film and TV industry is proactively making itself open for business; in fact, post and VFX never closed. The UK Screen Alliance guidance will be a living document that draws inspiration from the resourcefulness of our post and VFX companies in finding innovative solutions, which is a strength the UK is renowned for.”

Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive of ScreenSkills, said: It will be important that this guidance is understood at every level of film and high-end television and ScreenSkills is committed to supporting industry to interpret the guidance clearly and effectively for all scales of production.

“We are working with expert input to develop basic training so that film and TV workers know how to keep themselves, their colleagues and their equipment and environment safer and sanitised in the context of Covid-19. We will also do everything we can to work with practitioners as well as the BFC and BFI on making the guidance itself accessible and useful so productions can tailor it to their own needs.”

The Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance has been drawn together by the British Film Commission’s Inward Investment Recovery Group, as a partner in the BFI-led COVID-19 Screen Sector Task Force. The recommendations will be incorporated into the BFI COVID-19 Taskforce’s Sector-wide recommendations to Government.

Both the BFC’s Production Guidance and the guidance from UK Screen Alliance complement the current UK Broadcasters’ Television Production Guidelines coordinated by the UK’s leading broadcasters and Pact, and published last week.

The Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance can be found here:

Jon Creamer

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