No COVID Insurance Means Independent Movies Are Harder, More Expensive To Make – The Hollywood Reporter


The volume and variety of new projects available at the Cannes Film Market this year is proof that COVID-19 has not shut down the independent film industry.

As the pandemic has shut down theaters, upended distribution models, and added multiple layers of complications to film shoots – from tests and masks to social distancing and quarantine protocols on set – the independents have found a way to do it. their films.

“At the start of the pandemic, we thought the real challenge would be a massive shortage of films, but everything has gone pretty well,” said Jen Gorton, executive vice president of Sierra / Affinity (who had one of the biggest sales successes of last year – Cannes virtual market at Lee Daniels The United States vs. Billie Holiday): “At the start of the fall, we were able to relaunch production and continue to deliver films.”

Others agree. “We put more films into production in 2020 than in any other year,” notes Thorsten Schumacher of Rocket Science, whose upcoming feature films include the Robbie Williams biopic. Better man of The greatest showman director Michael Gracey, a headline pre-sale on the Berlin Virtual Market in February. “Making films under COVID always costs more and it always takes longer, but producers are doing it. It really made me appreciate the independent market – all those self-taught buccaneer entrepreneurs, distributors, producers and financiers – they don’t take no for an answer.

The only group that India has failed to conquer, however, is the insurance industry. After being battered by claims from productions forced to delay or shut down due to the pandemic, major insurance companies initially refused to offer COVID-19 insurance. That is changing, but the cost of COVID coverage is still prohibitive for most independent films.

“I received a quote of £ 100,000 [$140,000] for £ 1million to £ 2million [$1.4 million-2.8 million] in COVID coverage in case a key member of the film – the director or the main cast – is positive and may not be working, ”said Andrew Lowe, producer and co-founder of Ireland’s Element Pictures, whose feature film directed by Joanna Hogg The Remembrance Part II premieres in Cannes on Thursday. “It’s prohibitive for most independents. “

Element has instead relied on government-backed COVID insurance plans, like those in the UK, Australia or Germany – in which the state acts as the insurer of last resort, committing to reimburse producers for some of their losses caused by COVID-19. Other independents are just rolling the dice, making sure and praying that an epidemic doesn’t disrupt the shoot.

“We’ve done a lot of self-insurance and it’s scary as it is, but we’re trying to make our way through,” said Jonathan Deckter, president of Voltage Pictures, whose Cannes Market lineup includes the actor directed by Renny Harlin. The shelter. “I can’t wait to see the end of the COVID line on my production budgets. “

And David Garrett of Mister Smith Entertainment said, “We have created our own small private COVID insurance fund with the producers and the filmmaker deferring some of their fees to put money together and box our films to compensate. lack of insurance. But insurance remains a major issue. It’s obviously a lot easier for big streamers and studios as they can just self-insure and cover losses. “

For Poor things, the new film by The favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos, slated to start production later this year, Element Pictures has relied on the deep pockets of Disney-owned Searchlight and Film4’s safe bank in the UK to cover COVID risks .

“Running a film with funding outside of the studio system is always very difficult,” says producer Lowe.

There are few signs that will change anytime soon. If anything, insurance companies are doubling down, as evidenced by the recent $ 10 million lawsuit by Fireman’s Fund Insurance against Walt Disney Company disputing some of the COVID-19 claims made for production delays on films Second wave and Hiatu Holidays. Independent producers suffered another blow on July 2 when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed a $ 150 million lawsuit brought by United Talent Agency against Vigilant and federal insurance companies who alleged that insurers had broken contracts by denying COVID-19 coverage.

Instead of relying on insurance companies to back them up, independent producers hope the problem will go away, as lower infection rates, increased vaccinations, and even better safety protocols reduce the risk of infection. COVID at a minimum.



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