Feds offer $50-million fund to film, TV productions struggling to get insurance

The federal government has announced a temporary new fund to help struggling Canadian film and television productions held up by a lack of COVID-19 insurance.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says the $50-million fund is a short-term measure that will be managed through Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund.

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The fund will offer productions a maximum compensation of $1.5 million in the case of a temporary interruption and $3 million in the case of a complete shutdown of production.

Guilbeault says a production company would need to meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for the fund.

"It would have to be a production owned and controlled by Canadians regarding Canadian production," Guilbeault said Friday in a conference call with reporters.

"The company would have to have a COVID security plan. It would have to be an independent production company, so not affiliated with a broadcaster."

Telefilm will announce more information on the implementation of the new fund in the coming weeks, he added, noting the ministry is "literally running to put this together and get this in operation as soon as possible."

"We will be looking at the evolution of the situation very closely and if we need to do more to help the sector, as we have throughout the sector, we will continue to do that."

The announcement comes after the Canadian Media Producers Association and the Association quebecoise de la production mediatique pushed for a fund, where producers would pay premiums to access COVID-19 coverage and the government would offer a $100-million backstop if money generated though the sale of the policies was insufficient to cover the claims made.

The crisis arose during the pandemic when some insurance companies that service the film and TV industry started excluding from their new production policies any coverage for COVID-19 on a go-forward basis.

That meant a large number of Canadian productions that didn't have insurance policies in place before COVID-19 couldn't take the financial risk of starting up only to have the virus shut down the project.

The organizations said last week that they have identified 214 camera-ready film and TV projects, 19,560 jobs and $1 billion in production volume that have stalled because insurers aren't offering COVID-19 coverage.

Friday's announcement falls short of the funding the groups were asking for, but Guilbeault suggested the government is willing to increase the fund if necessary.

"If we realized that $50 million dollars is not enough and more is required to help the audiovisual sector, we will certainly adjust this measure accordingly."

The performers' union ACTRA and the industry consortium FilmOntario were among the film and TV organizations that praised Friday's news on social media.

CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin thanked the government in a statement, noting the funding "will help hundreds of camera-ready Canadian film and TV projects move forward after months of uncertainty."

"The swift implementation of a workable program is now mission critical, to safeguard thousands of jobs in jeopardy."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 25, 2020.

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