RESTARTING MEDIA PRODUCTION – IN A COVID19 WORLD
Insurance remains a critical question in restarting production. Production insurance covers so many unpredictable circumstances for cast, crew, sets, etc., And now Coronavirus has added one more dimension to the risk. In essence, a production cannot proceed without insurance. Period. Bond companies and investors will want to know that a production is covered. But for insurance companies, the present situation is a nightmare. In speaking to one insurance company, they had 6 to 8 claims last year in the March and April time period. For the same in 2020, they have over 600 claims.
The situation is pretty straightforward. Whether one is an individual equity investor in a low budget film or a company in mid-level films, then the Risk-Return equation has shifted. The investor would want Insurance and a Completion Bond. When it is pointed out that COVID coverage is an exclusion, then there is greater risk. The investor (individual or company) now has no shield from partial or complete loss of their investment with this exclusion. So if they do assume a Higher Risk, then what is their Higher Return? With numerous layers (Theatrical distributor, distributor fees, box office bonuses, deferrals, residuals, etc., ) before their investment returns, the prospect looks even more bleak.
A studio – which typically insurance but ‘bond’ films on their own – may be in the same situation. Studios make franchises not Indie or specialized movies in general. These Franchises like “Pirates of the Carribbean #17” involve crews of 300-400-500 as well as a half-dozen or more international locations and thousands of vendors. The risk without a coronavirus insurance coverages becomes exponential with increased contact. So what executive is going to give the greenlight and put their career on the line with such risk? They hardly do it for scripts much less such a vast financial investment at a public company. In addition, the shareholders might revolt with such a massive and obvious risk. Especially when theaters have zero traffic. I spoke with an associate about his film festivals. How does one social distance sitting in the middle of an aisle and then going to the restroom? Impossible. Bathroom protocols? Unclear. So Theatrical revenues are currently questionable.
Insurance became a considerable topic for Lionsgate executives at the Banff World Media Festival.
“Lionsgate TV’s chairman Kevin Beggs and HBO Max’s president of business operations & productions Sandra Dewey, appearing as part of Banff World Media Festival, both suggested that a US industry-wide insurance scheme – supported by government – was unlikely, with the focus instead turning to companies accepting and mitigating risks.”
Some efforts have been made in the insurance industry. I was on a Zoom call whereby an insurance executive had a unique perspective on how to adjust an existing policy for Industrial Hemp (no I was not smoking anything) to adapt to a policy with strong but workable limitations. We’ll see. Canada has been making progress too.
“A pan-industry scheme has also been proposed in Canada involving the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), which Catherine Tait, president & CEO of pubcaster CBC, said she was “very hopeful” about.
“The proposal comes from both sides here, the French and the English,” she explained, adding that the aim is similar to that of the French in having the country’s government acting as a backstop, in addition to industry contributions.”
I was on a DGA (Directors Guild of America) Zoom meeting yesterday whereby the Safety Protocols for the COVID19 situation were discussed. Joe Reidy went through the various guidelines. Clearly, there are additional personnel, major workflow strategies required as well as higher budgets for a probable longer schedule. How much is that increase? I have been breaking down the guidelines into a spreadsheet to do the math. I think that it will currently add 15-20% to the budget. A prime factor in this increase is the anticipated additional time – extended schedule – that adds to the budget. On a 25 day schedule, I anticipate 3-5 additional days at (depending on the budget) will add up fast.
From this article here, we hear about UK production:
Jeremy Roberts, partner and head of broadcasting and content distribution at UK law firm Sheridans, reiterated concerns that while production insurance is still available, insurers are excluding Covid-19 from their coverage.
Roberts said that the lack of Covid-19 coverage was one of the “two main hurdles” to overcome to get screen production back on its feet again in the UK, with the other being the cost of implementing safety protocols.
“We’re hearing that can be, dependent on the production, as high as 30% of the budget.
“Now most of the time it seems to be between 10% – 20%, but that is still a huge amount and way more than the producer can just bear out of the budget,” he said.
In many cases, the margin for financing and producing films is pretty thin. An additional cost of 10-20% might tip the balance against making a project, particularly with the worst of the Film economic equation: Greater Cost, Great Risk, Lower Return.
LINKS BELOW – Specific Guidelines
•Broad notes on the differences between Iceland, Poland, France,Czech Republic on filming.
Commercial Art Department Considerations.
•5 pages of guidelines.
Reopening Hollywood Studios – Articles
FUTURE OF MEDIA PRODUCTION
Shooting During the Pandemic: How Global Media Producers Found New Ways to Work
Theatrical Film, TV Ads, Pay-TV Doomed By COVID-19 To Fade Out Like CDs, DVDs, Print – Analyst – Deadline