Variety can reveal that producers’ trade body, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), is developing a proposal for a “market-based solution” that asks the federal government to serve as a backstop for coronavirus insurance claims.
An update from the CMPA sent to producers on Monday and seen by Variety details a plan in which producers would pay premiums to access COVID-19 coverage, which would then go into “a dedicated pot to pay for potential claims.”
“The government would only contribute financially if the funds generated [through] the sale of the policies was insufficient to cover the claims made,” reads the memo.
In Canada, like most other countries, insurers are refusing COVID-19 coverage for the production sector. “Left unaddressed, this would mean the financial consequences associated with another industry-wide shutdown, or an on-set COVID-19 incident, would fall primarily to the producer,” said the CMPA, warning that the repercussions of these scenarios would be “potentially devastating” to the sector and threaten its prospects of a smooth restart.
The org has now raised the insurance issue with the government and is to submit a “detailed proposal” in the coming days, outlining what it calls an “industry-wide solution.”
A CMPA spokesperson told Variety: “Without the availability of insurance policies to cover future COVID-19 risks, most production in Canada will not resume. A government-backstopped insurance program will provide confidence to the marketplace, encouraging insurers to offer COVID-19 coverage, allowing producers to purchase policies, and ultimately allowing Canada’s production sector to re-open, once it is safe to do so.”
In recent weeks, the CMPA has hinted at plans to develop a “made-in-Canada solution” to cover productions post-shutdown. The group has been examining international insurance solutions, such as France’s indemnity fund — a $54 million fund that will cover up to 20% of a project’s budget and work on a case-by-case basis — as well as programs being proposed in the U.K. and other territories.
The CMPA said previously that it was also looking at tax credits, shared risk pools and government liability protections.
As revealed by Variety last week, the U.K. recently submitted a proposal to the government for a guarantee around coverage of suspension or abandonment costs relating to COVID-19. This could manifest in the form a government-backed fund that may amount to hundreds of millions of pounds.
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 — whose service industry supports myriad Hollywood shoots in provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario — around CAD$2.5 billion ($1.8 billion) in both domestic and foreign production dollars if it continues until the end of June.
There is, however, finally some light at the end of the tunnel, with the first signs of production resuming post-shutdown. Manitoba became the first province to allow its production sector to restart as of Monday, with local soundstages opening back up for business.
The first wave of renewed production in Canada is expected to focus on domestic projects due to the limitations posed by mandatory quarantine periods for inbound travel, making it tricky for any international projects, particularly U.S. studios, looking to shoot up north.