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Australia Launches Insurance-Replacement Fund to Restart Film, TV Production

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Courtesy of Screen Australia

The Australian government has opened the Temporary Interruption Fund that is designed to overcome the problem of production insurance and swiftly get cameras rolling on films and TV shows.

The A$50 million fund will be administered by Screen Australia on behalf of the federal government. It was announced in late June, in response to significant industry lobbying from producers including See-Saw Films’ Emile Sherman and CJZ’s Nick Murray.

While Australia has been mostly successful at controlling the coronavirus, and has well-defined protocols for the operation of film and TV sets and location, relatively productions have started or restarted. One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been the refusal of insurance companies to provide cover for interruptions or stoppage caused by COVID-19.

The TIF will provide coverage during the last two weeks of pre-production and the period of principal photography in Australia. The fund will provide cover equivalent to 60% of the total budget, or A$4 million, whichever is less. Applications will be allowed until the end of May next year, unless the fund has been exhausted before then. And at no point will Screen Australia allow itself more than $50 million of exposure.

Eligible productions include feature films, drama series, documentary series and single episode programs that will be made in Australia and have passed the “significant Australian content” test or have been accepted as an official co-production. They will also have to have secured “Film Producers Indemnity” insurance covering named individuals, from an approved insurer.

Industry body, Screen Producers Australia has estimated that the coronavirus-caused lockdowns affected 120 local productions and over 30,000 working employees, freelancers and contractors.

The March shutdown also halted large foreign productions that came to Australia to use studio facilities and Australia’s post-production sector. These include Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” which was shooting in Sydney at the time. It has since been reported locally that stars including Michelle Yeoh have arrived in the country to resume work on “Shang-Chi.” Baz Luhrmann’s untiled “Elvis” project, was in advanced pre-production at the time of shutdown in March.

Large, inbound foreign productions are being treated separately from the smaller-budget Australian titles. In July, the federal government announced some $280 million (A$400 million) of cash grants over the next seven years, through its “Location Incentive” plan. These subsidies are in addition to the existing “Location Offset” system, under which projects can receive rebates for production and post-production work done in the country, and in addition to similar subsidies from individual state governments.

Most of Australia is currently in a back to work mode, and cinemas have re-opened in much of the country. The state of Victoria, which includes second city Melbourne, however, remains under near lockdown following a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.