Canada’s insurance solution for the film and TV industry could see a CAD$100 million ($75 million) government backstop instated to help productions restart in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Variety can reveal.
Producers’ trade body, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), has confirmed it has asked the federal government to contribute CAD$100 million ($75 million) to top up a “pledged reserve” of funds, pooled from the sale of coronavirus-specific insurance policies.
Canada’s insurance response is one of the more unique strategies to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, with producers, insurers and the government all being asked to put some skin in the game to safeguard the industry.
That collective element is a “key point” in the plan, CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin tells Variety. “We set out parameters that would provide affordable, accessible and comprehensive coverage in a way that would enable producers to [get] production back up and begin employing people.”
Producers will pay a premium to obtain COVID-19 insurance coverage, with those premiums then pooled into a reserve that could be accessed to pay out any insurance claims that may be filed. “The government would only step in where that pot of money was not sufficient to cover the amount of payouts,” explains Mastin, noting a “detailed dialogue” with government officials is ongoing.
The proposal also requires a delicate balance: the premiums can’t be too expensive, but must be substantive enough to build out a significant industry fund.
“[We would need to] make sure the pot of money is big enough to cover COVID-19 claims, while at the same time, not too high to make the insurance unaffordable, which would defeat the whole purpose of the scheme,” says Mastin. “It’s something that needs to be modeled very carefully.”
The CMPA estimates “a very significant percentage of Canadian production,” particularly high-budget film and TV productions, will take part in the insurance plan, if adopted.
A number of Canadian provinces, including Manitoba, Quebec and British Columbia, are gearing up for production after health and safety protocols were agreed.
Last week, British Columbia — a hotbed for Hollywood production that generates around CAD$3 billion ($2.2 billion) annually for the province — finalized its safety protocols for the industry. In its guidance, WorkSafeBC called upon studio bosses to use the org’s guidelines as a template for their own safety protocols across Canadian-shot productions.
One sticking matter, however, is restrictions placed on inbound travel. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed and a number of provinces, such as British Columbia, have a 14-day quarantine period for foreign nationals.
However, U.S. film and TV workers with jobs secured in Canada are allowed to cross the border, as per exemptions for foreign workers from any industry that’s been allowed to reopen by the province. The issue, says Mastin, is that these exemptions aren’t being upheld consistently.
“Where a province opens up for production, foreign workers from the U.S. are allowed to work on those productions,” says Mastin.
“They’re supposed to be granted entry at the border if they’ve got a production job waiting for them when they cross. [But] what we’re hearing is that, on the ground, that policy is not being consistently applied by the Canada Border Services Agency officials.”
The CMPA has now requested Border Services to “ensure agents are consistently applying this policy at ports of entry across the country.”
Once workers cross the border, however, the 14-day quarantine periods will still come into effect.
The CMPA estimated in April that Canada’s production shutdown put around 172,000 jobs at risk, and could ultimately cost the Canadian film and TV sector around CAD$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion) in both domestic and foreign production dollars if it continues until the end of June.