British Film Commission (BFC) film and high-end TV drama production guidance (Coronavirus COVID-19) FAQ

1. Is this guidance mandatory and legally binding for productions?

The British Film Commission (BFC) Film and High-End TV Drama Production Guidance (Coronavirus COVID-19) is not a mandatory or legal document but is a comprehensive and detailed best practice manual which productions can use to tailor protection measures that work to their specific production.  This guidance follows current UK Government advice and has the approval of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  Every production needs to be approached individually, to undertake its own risk assessment and will also have risk assessment requirements as part of insurance cover and financier requirements.  However using the guidance will demonstrate productions are working to comply with social distancing.

Please note that any individual production wherever they are made in the world will still need to ensure that they satisfy any requirements put in place by insurers, financiers or completion bonders.

2. The guidance is so extensive that it appears to be suited more for big budget films and high-end TV series. Is it workable for smaller independent productions?

The guidance is a comprehensive and detailed manual designed to generated safe working environments for productions of different budgets, crew sizes and production conditions. It is not designed to be ‘one size fits all’ guidance but a full set of robust measures which productions can adapt for the own specific schedules, cast and crews.

3. How do I implement these guidelines?

Productions can consider this guidance when formulating their own policies and procedures but should additionally ensure a risk assessment is completed by a competent person, in consultation with those involved, which communicates the measures necessary across the business to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19.

This risk assessment should be under regular review, particularly if there are changes in the work or processes, as well as when relevant guidance is updated. The policies, and procedures and arrangements for control measures, should then be clearly and effectively communicated to all cast and crew, and anyone else who may be present on set.

4. Is there help such as training and resources available?

Now the guidelines have been endorsed, the BFI and the British Film Commission will be working with ScreenSkills to develop an on-line training programme to guide people on how to implement them. ScreenSkills is working with Skills for Health, a not-for-profit organisation already delivering COVID-19 crisis training for the NHS among others, and First Option, industry safety consultants, to develop standards for training to support the safe return to work in film and HETV. Basic level training will be delivered free and online. This training is funded by the BFI through its National Lottery funded Future Film Skills strategy and the ScreenSkills High-End TV Skills Fund.

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ScreenSkills is working with Skills for Health, a not-for-profit organisation already delivering COVID-19 crisis training for the NHS among others, and First Option, industry safety consultants, to develop standards for training to support the safe return to work in film and HETV. Basic level training, delivered free and online, will be rolled out next month.

5. How was the guidance developed and who has been involved?

The guidance has been developed by industry practitioners and following extensive, detailed industry consultation, possible the largest ever conducted in the film and television industry.  The consultation has reflected the views and input of hundreds of UK and US organisations working across production from big inward investment productions to independent productions including producers, heads of production, studios and streamers. The close cooperation and input from unions such as BECTU and trade bodies such as Pact and the Production Guild has been central to the shaping of the Guidance. BECTU alone represents over 20,000 screen sector employees.

Senior representatives from the UK’s National and Regional Screen Agencies – Creative England, Film London, Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland and Creative Wales, part of Welsh Government — played a crucial role in promoting and managing the consultation in every part of the UK.

6. How can the guidance work for productions which may film in different parts of the UK, in different regions which may have different rules for working environments, social distancing, etc?

Producers plan filming taking into account a whole range of different local conditions as a matter of course.  The guidance will support those in the devolved nations in resuming production as quickly and safely as possible after lockdown is relaxed.

7. The guidance may be practically helpful but if productions cannot get insurance that covers COVID-19 risks, how can production feasibility restart?

There is still work to be done regarding the recovery costs for production and for cinemas and insurance.   Proper insurance cover for COVID-19 is an issue for the industry and could be a barrier returning to work.  It has been acknowledged by Government and a specialist insurance sub group is looking at potential solutions to this problem (led by PACT as part of the TV and Broadcasting group).  The Screen Sector Task Force is working hard to ensure that DCMS understands the scale of the problem and that the sector is represented on any wider insurance conversations across Whitehall.

8. The impact of COVID-19 for all industries is that costs will rise as a result of putting additional safeguarding in place. How is that going to be covered across film and TV production?

The BFI Screen Sector COVID-19 Task Force working groups are looking at the additional cost to production of implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures (as well as the COVID-19 impact costs for cinemas).    This will allow us to understand the financial viability of a return to work for productions and exhibitors of all sizes and will inform Task Force discussions with Government regarding potential mitigations to help meet these costs.

9. Other countries have already resumed production, why has the UK taken so long to develop guidance and can we be confident in using it?

The COVID-19 crisis has obviously affected different parts of the world at different times and to different degrees, with a global shutdown in production. Every country is looking to resume production as quickly as possible which requires robust and comprehensive safety guidelines to be put in place. Production taking place anywhere in the world requires that cast, and crew are protected. 

The BFC’s guidance for film and high-end television production which has been endorsed by central Government is the most detailed and comprehensive guidance developed globally.  It has been developed at pace by the industry with the support of Government and health and safety authorities and it is complemented by guidance developed by the UK Broadcaster and TV sector working with Pact and the VFX and Post-Production guidance developed by UK Screen Alliance.  We are confident that the UK’s guidance will enable production in the UK to resume as safely as possible.

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