The film and TV industry has been devastated by COVID-19, with many productions halted, leaving people out of work.
This means a change not only to what is on our screens right now, but also what we can expect to see in the future.
Film producer Rebecca O’Brien told Sky News the pandemic was “a hugely significant cultural moment”.
O’Brien runs a production company with director Ken Loach making “socially realistic films which are contemporary stories”.
They were due to make a movie employing 50-60 people later this year, but it will now need to be re-written before shooting starts in 2021.
She said: “The world has changed, so our stories will need to reflect that change…the film script we were going to make is no longer quite relevant in the way it was.
“It’s quite difficult to tell a contemporary story about now without including something on the pandemic – it’s effecting all our lives and it will do for many years to come.”
O’Brien said the most pressing issue for the industry was the plight of its workforce, the majority of whom are freelance and have seen livelihoods disappear overnight.
“There are a lot of people who are choosing between buying food and paying their rent and that’s certainly the case for a lot of people in the film industry.”
However, not all production has been cancelled, and some TV shows are continuing.
The Graham Norton Show is back on air, albeit without an audience and with Norton using zoom to interview celebrities in their own homes.
Executive producer of the show and managing director of So TV, Graham Stuart, told Sky News they feel incredibly lucky to be able to continue when the COVID-19 crisis has had such a colossal impact on the industry.
“The main issue is staffing, because the revenue stops and you’ve got to cut staff and that is happening at a huge rate.”
He said the other major factor in the industry crisis was the fall in advertising revenue meaning that broadcasters were being forced to slash their broadcasting budgets.
Stuart said: “It’s an issue which is going to affect us for a very long time.”
He predicted that in the short term, we will see a very different TV landscape, particularly in the second half of 2020.
With no sport, big entertainment shows or dramas being made right now, there will be gaps in the schedules.
These types of programmes will also take time to bring back into production.
As a result, TV commissioners are now on the lookout for shows which can be made now or which can be turned around quickly when the lockdown ends.
Stuart said: “There’s been a natural surge doing what we’ve been doing with Graham Norton which is using technology to bring people in and of course having hosts and presenters working from their own homes.
“There has been a lot of that pitched and I think quite a lot of that has been commissioned so you will be seeing more lo-fi programming in the near future.”
Record-breaking audiences of over 24 million viewers tuned in to watch the Queen broadcast live, something Stuart said has proved “the value of public service broadcasting to bind us all together”.
He said: “The fascinating aspect about where we are now is that we were reaching a point where the BBC as a public service broadcaster, as the jewel in the crown of British cultural society, was under a considerable amount of fire.
“There were many questions from certain areas about the value of the BBC, ‘did we need the BBC?’ This situation has proved that there is the need for public service broadcasting. A communal activity that people like to be together to share.
“That’s definitely true in crisis but also post-crisis people will enjoy things like sport again, and large-scale entertainment and the big dramas that bind us together.”
CEO of the Film and TV Charity, Alex Pumfrey, is concerned with the present, and the plight of those working in the industry who are falling through the cracks, ineligible for government aid.
“We think there are about 100,000 freelancers working within the sector, 93% of them won’t be working anymore and three out of four of them won’t be eligible for any kind of government support.”
Pumfrey told Sky News that people “are feeling desperate, anxious, concerned, forgotten and abandoned”. She said she already knew of individuals who will be forced to leave the sector for economic reasons.
“We worry particularly about the young workforce, the diverse workforce. As an industry, we’ve worked hard over the last few years to make it more dynamic. There will be some people who will be less able to manage this and I fear that will set us back enormously.”
The Film and TV charity have set up an emergency fund with the BFI to help those most in need which is open for applications until 22 April.
Money has been donated from organisations including the BFI, Netflix, BBC, Sky and WarnerMedia.
The plight of freelancers who fall through the gaps of the government’s financial schemes has been highlighted by an online video campaign Forgotten Freelancers.
It features pictures of thousands of people who work in the industry and are affected, with a clear message.
“Our work life is precarious. We’re not the stars of the screen. We’re not highly paid. And now all our work has stopped. We are some of the thousands not eligible for any government schemes. We have no money coming in. Without urgent government help, this will be the end of the story for us.”
Jane Merrick, who is behind the campaign, said she felt compelled to help “people who are in a really dire situation and bring attention to those who feel forgotten”.
Marrick said: “Boris Johnson wanted parity for all workers and that has not happened because around 70% have fallen through the government schemes and I want to highlight that.”
Freelancers not eligible for government schemes include those who are recently self-employed and do not have a full year of accounts, as well as many employed on PAYE fixed-term contracts or through limited liability companies.
Source : Sky News