Focusing on development, green-lighting smaller, more containable projects and urging governments to take on the role of insurers are just some of the measures co-producers are taking as they navigate their way through the fallout created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the virtual Cannes Marché du Film’s session on Co-Production in COVID-19 Times, produced by film industry body U.K. Film, Wildgaze Films founder Finola Dwyer said that her company has already postponed shoots in Canada and the U.S. and was now focusing on development and local production.
The London-based producer of “Brooklyn” and “An Education” added: “We’re sticking to what we’re doing, holding our nerve and keeping an eye out on U.K. projects that are more self-contained – because this virus is going be with us for quite a while.”
Dwyer revealed that the company – which released “Dirt Music” last year – is busy in development and has been working on some proof-of-concepts: Including a project by British novelist and screenwriter Nick Hornby.
Co-productions that have had to shut down halfway through the shoot have also faced challenges.
Exec producer Mike Goodridge, currently working on Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” starring Woody Harrelson and Harris Dickinson, revealed that the €30 million ($32.7 million) “production was around “37% complete” when the world went into lockdown.
“Just having to restart preproduction can be a costly process, so there has been a considerable uptick in budget but our co-production partners, our private equity, our bond companies and the banks have all been very understanding, We are all pulling together to get best the result.”
Goodridge – who is optimistic that the Swedish shoot will resume shortly and the Greek shoot will happen “by the end of the third quarter” – added that the film’s Swedish insurance policy (taken out year before the pandemic hit) fortunately covered them for COVID-19.
New Zealand-based “Love Birds” and “Dean Spanley” producer Matthew Metcalf of GFG Films was one of the few panel members who could confidently claim, in his own territory at least, that it was business as usual.
“On a domestic level, New Zealand is effectively out of it now – I can go to work in my office – there is lots of work – but everything is more difficult than it was,” he said.
“The irony is that while we can’t travel all the relationships that I have forged over 20 years have been through jumping on planes and nurturing relationships. That’s enabled me now to reach out on Zoom and keep on going, ” he added.
For Victoria Thomas, a Scottish-based producer, writer and founder of The Polkadot Factory, being grounded in Edinburgh has been a mixed blessing.
The company had been working on a music and archive documentary “Born in New York, Raised in Paris” and had already spent a year chasing rights holders
“Since lockdown there do seem to be a lot more people who are around and willing to answer their emails at least! ” she observed.
Thomas added that other world events have also overtaken the film: “The project cover kids in France and police brutality – so we’re now looking at that narrative in the context of what’s been happening.”
A concern for Claudia Steffen, managing director of Cologne-based Pandora Film (“High Life”), is that crews members can find themselves in very different positions financially depending on the level of support they receive from their governments.
“Each country is thinking of its own people and own costs. The German Government came through quickly to support the crew –they can apply for a grant, which covers 60% of what they earn for a whole year. France has also been supportive.
“Yet we hear of crew from the U.K. that don’t get anything – or their contracts have been canceled. It’s difficult when you start a film and have mix of crew with no security and others who are completely secure,” she said.
In the Netherlands, Marleen Slot producer and founder Viking Film revealed that the Government-backed Netherlands Film Fund has stepped in and is effectively taking the position of a film’s insurer so that productions can resume post pandemic.
Stefan added that, from next month the German government will be operating an insurance fund that will cover up to 30% of a film’s entire budget if its affected by coronavirus. She argued that all governments need to do this to stimulate production. “Hopefully we don’t’ have to use it – it’s the cheapest form of funding they could provide.”