The UK Government has welcomed the comprehensive ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’ published on Monday 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 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.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden said: “The UK is recognised around the globe as a brilliant place to make films, and is home to the world’s best film and high-end TV talent. We’ve worked hard to support the industry through these difficult times, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree this step forward towards getting the cameras rolling safely again.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said: “We believe this to be the most comprehensive, extensively-consulted on COVID-19 recovery production guidance in the world. It reflects a phenomenal collective effort, for which we must thank the British Film Commission Recovery Group and BFC staff team, alongside the BFI, DCMS and the whole range of organisations, public and private, who contributed.

“The industry is extremely keen to restart production as soon as possible, but not without a comprehensive road map for how to do it safely while the threat of COVID-19 still looms large. Today’s Guidance provides that reassurance, reflecting the latest Government, technical and medical advice available. We will also update it on a regular basis, giving clarity on the latest measures recommended to ensure a safe shoot for cast, crew and the wider public.

“This is a vital step to getting our world class film and high-end TV sector back up and running, giving the world confidence we have the most rigorous safety measures in place, and signaling that our sector is ready to return to full strength, and to making its important contribution to the UK Exchequer.”

Iain Smith OBE, Chair of British Film Commission Advisory Board, and Producer (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Killing Fields, Children of Men, The Fifth Element) said: “This Guidance represents the most comprehensive assessment of methodologies that industry will need to apply. It’s been an ambitious and large-scale operation to gather, synthesise and publish the range of views from across our industry. I believe this guidance will be a helpful, practical framework as we prepare our risk assessments and schedules to restart suspended production.”

Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI, said: “Our film and TV industry has been growing faster than other any other sector, generating over £7.9 billion 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.”

Neil Hatton, Chief Executive of the UK Screen Alliance, said: “The combined launch of two sets of detailed guidance for filming and for post-production is a significant indication that the UK’s film and TV industry is proactively making itself open for business; in fact, post and VFX never closed. The UK Screen Alliance guidance will be a living document that draws inspiration from the resourcefulness of our post and VFX companies in finding innovative solutions, which is a strength the UK is renowned for.”

Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive of ScreenSkills, said: “It will be important that this guidance is understood at every level of film and high-end television and ScreenSkills is committed to supporting industry to interpret the guidance clearly and effectively for all scales of production.

“We are working with expert input to develop basic training so that film and TV workers know how to keep themselves, their colleagues and their equipment and environment safer and sanitised in the context of Covid-19. We will also do everything we can to work with practitioners as well as the BFC and BFI on making the guidance itself accessible and useful so productions can tailor it to their own needs.”

The Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance has been drawn together by the British Film Commission’s Inward Investment Recovery Group, as a partner in the BFI-led COVID-19 Screen Sector Task Force. The recommendations will be incorporated into the BFI COVID-19 Taskforce’s Sector-wide recommendations to Government.

Both the BFC’s Production Guidance and the guidance from UK Screen Alliance complement the current UK Broadcasters’ Television Production Guidelines coordinated by the UK’s leading broadcasters and Pact, and published last week.

The ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’ guidance can be found here.