The UK government has today welcomed the comprehensive ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’, published today by the British Film Commission and produced as part of wider BFI Screen Sector COVID-19 Task Force recovery initiatives. The support from UK government for this industry-led guidance signals confidence in the UK screen sector to safely restart production and help support UK economic recovery.

Publication of the guidance follows detailed industry consultation – possibly the most comprehensive conducted on COVID-19 recovery guidelines in the sector – reflecting the views of UK and US organisations involved in the full gamut of production, from large international franchises to independent production; studios; streamers; unions; and UK-wide industry bodies.

The close cooperation and input from lead production industry bodies such as Pact and the Production Guild, and unions such as BECTU, have been central to the shaping of the guidance. BECTU alone represents the views of 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. They also provided additional expertise and co-ordination in formulating the guidance on location filming. ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for the UK’s screen industries, participated and also provided secretariat support for the production of the Guidance.

UK Screen Alliance has also today published its COVID-19 Guidance for safe working for the Visual Effects (VFX) and Post-Production community, documenting best working practices already in use, as Post and VFX have remained open for business during the pandemic. This guidance aims to provide a framework for companies as they transition back to on-premises working, whilst ensuring the safety of their employees, contractors and clients.

Applying the guidance. The ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’ guidance has been developed to help the physical production industry to protect crew and cast by adopting a safe working environment and practices in light of COVID-19 related risks, as well as the latest government advice; and to be able to factor in changes to their current health and safety assessments to achieve this.

It includes considerations for filmmakers at every level of budget, and is intended to be scalable, allowing each production to apply the guidance to their specific project’s needs.

Further support to apply the guidance will be provided in coming weeks. 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.

The work is being supported by the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund, with contributions from high-end television productions, and the BFI through its National Lottery-funded Future Film Skills strategy.

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI, said:

Our film and TV industry has been growing faster than other any other sector, generating over £7.9bn a year in GVA to the UK economy and employing 166,200 people — so creating scaleable guidance to help restart film and high- end TV production as safely and as quickly as possible has been paramount. There is still work to done to address the cost of recovery and business insurance as a result of COVID-19, but Government support has been crucial in getting us to this point.